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RPG demon Cortyn has fallen for a roguelike. This article reveals why Rogue Lords is a clear must-buy.

Since there is currently a bit of a content slump in World of Warcraft, I finally had enough time to devote myself more intensively to some other games. Last weekend it was "Rogue Lords".

As the name suggests, this is a rogue-like game, but it does have some pretty ingenious tricks and tweaks. Because in order to win in Rogue Lords, you have to cheat - that's an integral part of the game mechanics.

What is Rogue Lords?

Rogue Lords throws you into a medieval fantasy setting. You are the devil and were vanquished years ago by humans and their demon hunters. After years in Hell, you are now ready to strike terror into the mortal world once more. To prepare for your arrival, you send out servants, called Eleven, to advance your agenda and acquire powerful artifacts.

The Eleven are well-known legendary and scary figures. This includes:

  • Dracula
  • The Bloody Marie (“Bloody Mary”)
  • The Headless Horseman
  • The White Woman
  • Lilith
  • Baron Samedi
  • Hekate
  • dr Frankenstein and his monster

Each character plays completely differently and even has different playstyles themselves. After all, each trainee has 18 different skills and spells, of which a maximum of 8 can be used at the same time.

In addition, each character has its own values, like in a classic pen & paper RPG. seduction, terror, occultism, deceit, and stealth.

How is the gameplay going?

Group three of these characters together and send them off to master a Rogue Lords “story”. A story is a coherent map and tells the search for one of the artifacts.

On the map you work your way from station to station, can always make decisions and experience different adventures. Often there are junctions and you have to choose one of the paths. Would you rather take the left path that leads to a quest, a trader, but also an elite fight? Or do you take the right path, where there are only 3 simple but quite safe fights?

Battles are just one of the events you can encounter.

There are "story events" in which you send one of your eleven players as an actor on a short intermediate mission. There, a social quest must be mastered, the chance of success of which depends on character stats, such as "occultism", "seduction" or "stealth":

  • Should Lilith try to seduce the merchant into making a pact with the devil (seduction)?
  • Do I rather send Hekate trying to curse the merchant's goods to cause long-term damage to the demon hunters (occultism)?

Depending on which character I send and what skills he has, the events can end differently.

If Lilith the Merchant seduces, he gives me a powerful artifact that increases Lilith's damage the more souls I have - a bonus that counts immediately.

If Hekate curses the goods, this creates special "dread" effects, as the fear of the devil and his eleven grows in the world. These are bonuses such as additional souls, more diabolical essence or easier social tests, but only active a few fields away.

Depending on how you proceed, your group members will also react to what is happening. For example, the White Lady thinks it's great that Lilith was successful in seducing her and praises her - this gives both of them a small bonus to life points.

Hekate, on the other hand, believes that anyone could have done that - it makes her look vain and takes a penalty on seduction.

We choose our route on the map.
We choose our route on the map.

Other fields include:

  • "The Grim Reaper" who sells you skills and relics for souls.
  • Sacrifice Altars, where you permanently sacrifice one of your skills to discover a new one and be able to have more skills at the same time.
  • Sources of Styx that grant diabolic essence or cleanse negative traits.
  • Battles where you earn souls, abilities, or a horror effect.
  • Elite battles where you can get powerful relics.
  • Book chapters that advance the story.
There is often a second, optional activity per station. It can be a saving Styx fountain, a small side quest, or a demanding elite fight.

Diabolical Power - License to cheat

But now we come to the special mechanics of Rogue Lords. Since we're playing like the devil himself, we've got quite a few tricks and tricks up our sleeve.

Our students may do the dirty work, but we wouldn't be the devil if we couldn't occasionally intervene in the fortunes of the world to change reality and solve seemingly insurmountable problems for our charges.

The devil's power is represented in Rogue Lords by Diabolic Essence. This is a resource that we can use in almost all game content. It doesn't matter if it's fighting, passing social tests or just jumping on the map.

Diabolic Essence allows us to cheat.

Diabolic Essence costs vary depending on how severe the change is. For example, opening a portal to another location costs 6 essences, while moving a buff or debuff costs 5 essences. Increasing the probability of succeeding in a social test by 30% also costs 5 essences.

The Headless Horseman is designed to scare someone - as a devil we increase the chance from 80% to 100% to guarantee victory.
The Headless Horseman is designed to scare someone - as a devil we increase the chance from 80% to 100% to guarantee victory.

The essence can be partially refilled at certain stations - the Styx springs.

The highlight of this cheating, however, is: diabolical essence is also the life force of the devil. If it ever reaches 0, the journey ends in defeat—and instantly. After that, you have to start the whole current story from the beginning.

So the trick is to use and manage the Diabolic Essence in such a targeted manner that you can get the best out of the situation with a few "cheats" without getting into the danger zone of defeat.

However, this also allows a lot of tactical depth and planning, which makes the whole thing exciting.

Seeing a difficult social rehearsal right in front of a Styx spring? No problem, increase Lilith's stealth in the social test with Diabolic Essence to the maximum so that she is guaranteed and then heals you at the source.

On the right path is a lucrative trader, but right after too tough an elite fight? Nothing is easier than that for the devil. Go to the merchant on the right and then open a portal to the left path to bypass the elite battle.

However, this cheating becomes even more important in the fights. Because there the devil can not only happily move buffs and debuffs back and forth, but also simply fill up or empty the life points or soul points as you wish.

The fights - Complex tactics for brain acrobats

Despite all the different fields and activities, the heart of Rogue Lords is combat. Pretty much all deeds and actions are aimed at making your Eleven deadlier in battle - because at the end of a story there is almost always a pretty tough boss fight waiting.

The battles are turn-based and during your turn, you can already see the intention of the enemies. You see who they want to attack or heal, how much damage that will do.

You only have a certain amount of action points (AP) per round, which you have to distribute to all fighters. When they are used up, it is the enemy's turn and carry out his actions.

In addition, (almost) all abilities can only be used once before you have to recharge them with a special action - which usually also costs AP.

If you click together the abilities rather randomly in the fights, you will be overwhelmed by the enemies relatively quickly. Because Rogue Lords not only has a fairly crisp level of difficulty but also requires - at least in the fights - a lot of thought and tactical planning.

You can already see beforehand what the enemies are planning and can still intervene.
You can already see beforehand what the enemies are planning and can still intervene.

As a small example, a combat situation I experienced yesterday:

The life points (HP) of my troop are all clearly damaged, each is below 10. However, my fighters each still have more than 40 soul points (SP).

In the planning, we can already see that the enemy boss is preparing a powerful attack that will inflict 2×20 HP on all my fighters and also has lifestyle - that would be the instant defeat if the attack hits like that.

I could now use all my resources to heal up my squad to withstand the attack - but that would only delay my downfall. So I choose another way.

First, I put the Split Mind effect on the enemy - this makes the damage dealt and taken by the boss both affect SP and not HP.

After that, I put one of Hecate's spells on the enemy into the "Zombie" state. This will cause healing on the boss to be converted to damage instead.

Lastly, I use my Diabolic Essence to take the boss's Aegis buff, which reduces damage taken - I just shift the effect to one of the other, lesser enemies.

The end result is now: The boss casts his attack and deals 120 SP of damage to my squad. That's a lot, but not deadly. Lifesteal heals the boss for around 120 SP at the same time, but Zombie reverses that healing into damage, causing the boss to take a whopping 120 damage, killing himself.

Sometimes cheating helps - just set the enemy's SP to 0. Thanks to a special bonus even once without essence costs.
Sometimes cheating helps - just set the enemy's SP to 0. Thanks to a special bonus even once without essence costs.

Such methods of "rethinking" are needed again and again in Rogue Lords. Every fight raises the question again: How can I get the most out of the fight with my resources? How can I "cheat" with Diabolic Essence to turn the situation in my favor? What skills can I combine to get one step ahead of my enemy?

The combat is for tacticians, reminiscent of smaller and larger puzzles that prove immensely satisfying to master.

The fights work according to the "all or nothing" principle. You can dig up your resources (apart from the diabolical essence) completely freely. If you survive the fight, then HP and SP will be refilled and you will start the next battle with full energy.

However, if you fail, the journey ends and the whole book is considered a failure. Like left in a roguelike, you'll then have to start a new journey from the beginning.

Genre weaknesses, but overall more than convincing

Of course, Rogue Lords also "sicks" a bit of the weakness that other rogue-like titles sometimes bring with them. So the random factor is sometimes just not on the side of the player devil and if the relics only offer scrap or just don't want to show up the right skill that you need for the combo, then it can be a little frustrating.

So far, though, Rogue Lords has always made me want to try again, or keep pushing through and maybe discover a new combo that I hadn't even thought of before.

Because even a defeat still grants experience points and brings me closer to the next level-up, which unlocks new skills or relics that you can then earn in the course of a chapter. At least that motivates me immensely and ensures that I start a new journey even after the 7th failed run through chapter 6.

Rogue Lords is fun, mixes Rogue-Like with role-playing elements, extremely tactical battles, and a cheat mechanism I've never seen before. I can only recommend the game to anyone who has just 25 euros to spare and is looking for a game where you often think "Just one more run, then I'll go to bed" and only turn off the PC at 7:00 a.m. - I can only recommend the game to you.