A Tale as Old as Time

It doesn’t take long to find that (pardon the pun) “magic” feeling from Roguebook; and that is of course because it’s father also brought us the world and game of the still evolving Magic: The Gathering. Developer Abrakam Entertainment managed to entice the card game creator Richard Garfield with their first game Faeria and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a match made in heaven.

The story of Roguebook isn’t deep, in fact it’s quite shallow; with the characters all being trapped inside the pages of an evil book with no hope for escape. When the books latest victims are closed within its pages, they are aided by a wise shopkeeper who has seen some things. He explains the dire situation and since they appear to be the adventuring types bids them to explore the book and fight the evil within in hopes to free them. As I said it’s pretty shallow but one of the reasons, I love it is how much it felt like I was, in a way, living in the world of the 1994 classic film; The Pagemaster. In that movie Macaulay Culkin plays a boy who through a series of unfortunate events, ends up sucked into literary classics where he has to battle the likes of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde among others. Just like young Mac had to do in Pagemaster, so it will be in Roguebook, where players will have to battle their own bosses and enemies to escape the books clutches.

MSRP: $29.99
Platforms: Xbox (reviewed), PlayStation, Switch
Price I’d Pay: $29.99

Right away I was taken with the art style for Roguebook again reminding me of my youth and The Pagemaster. The bright colors and varied terrain of the 3 lands that players will explore all wow’ed me. The character and creature designs are awesome, and while players will see some enemies more often than others due to the random nature of the game; it never gets old going up against the Devil Drummer. Some of them are super cute and I hated having to put them down. There are what I think is supposed to be baby wolves, but they look like the Werewolves kids from the Hotel Transylvania series. And my wife happened to walk in while I was fighting them and she almost hit me with some thing because she thought I was fighting those kids.
They are NOT the kids from Hotel Transylvania…just in case anyone needed that.

But there are some enemies who are on the other side of the spectrum, which is to say they are twisted and not cute. One monster who has an endless hunger and will consume any enemy defeated thus gaining their power; looked like the monster from The Thing but mid transformation, not nice basically. But again, just like the art on Magic cards are in most cases the best part, the style that Abrakam used for Roguebook is awesome and helps really bring the world to life. Monsters and creatures will differ from level to level and even run to run. The varied styles and types were cool to see, my only real issue is the spike in difficulty from stage 2 to stage 3 is intense and players should make sure they are equipped with lots of relics and cards before taking the plunge.

A typical run in Roguebook will being with players choosing their characters. The game allows for two party members to adventure together, which allows for a lot of replayability and synergy. Each of the characters kind of operate the same way mana colors do in Magic: The Gathering. So Seifer who in Roguebook is a rat with a cursed arm has cards that are red and black in color. Which the abilities match many of the same functions that red and black give in MTG. Seifer gains rage for attacks he takes and his cards will usually work by damaging himself to dish out bigger damage to enemies. The other side of that is an elf, Sharra whose cards are white and just as in MTG she works by giving the group defense and counterattacking.

Success can be found in Roguebook by blending these abilities together by way of the players deck of cards. Each ability be it an attack, or a defend will correspond to a card and each card cost courage (or mana) points which players will receive at the start of each turn. Unlike in most TCG’s the mana points do not carry over to the next turn (unless you find a relic that enables that ability) so it will behoove players to spend all of it each turn if they are able. Reason being is there are some creatures that will do things if players leave courage available at the end of each turn, conversely there are some that will do the same if players use too many cards. All of the active debuffs are displayed and indicated on screen for easy access for players thankfully.

As players move from battle to battle, they will be rewarding with various tools to help them on their quest. One of the most important is vials of ink, which will come in many varieties. Since players are trapped within a book that randomly rewrites its story each run, the world is hidden away. Players will use the ink to uncover the hexagonal world and reveal more of the map for them to progress. While uncovering players will find all kinds of goodies to aid them in their quest, things like vaults that will give them an option to choose from 3 cards to add to their deck. Or the all-important relics that I mentioned above; these bad boys are fantastic and do things like the aforementioned allow you to keep courage at the end of each turn to healing each character at the end of every battle. More often than not these will turn the tide of most fights, and can literally mean the difference between a successful long run to a quick one and done. It will only benefit the player to explore as much of an area as they can as the more cards and relics they find will only help them in the long run.

Combat in Roguebook is a pretty simple, but very vibrant affair, while abilities like attack, and defend and a whole host of various moves will come from playing cards. These can range from combo cards, where players must play one of the other heroes’ cards first to cards that will switch hero positions on the field. This allows the hero in the front to take damage while the one in the back can attack from a ranged position. The hero characters are displayed on the left side of the screen with enemies being on the right. Animations are all pretty simple side scrolling events, a sword swipe there, a kick flip there; nothing crazy but it’s still cool to watch. One of the nicer aspects I liked about Roguebook, was the ability to be able to tweak my deck mid match. One of the other items players will find as they explore the world are gems and these crystals vary in color and rarity but they all do something different when attached to cards. The rarer variety can add triple damage to a card, where the more common can ensure you 5 shield to protect players from damage, or allow them to draw 2 cards when played. While players are free to upgrade their cards while exploring the overworld; I found it extremely helpful to be able to add these gems to cards during fights. More often than not I was almost out, but had a triple damage gem and a card attack that would hit for 25 damage that would end up saving my bacon and winning the fight. All of the tools for success are available, it will just take players figuring out how to mix it all up into a delicious victory cake.

Roguebook is essentially a roguelike- deckbuilder game, with the cards, gems and relics being the loot that players will have to blend into a perfect strategy to escape. While each of the characters will start with a default deck that will be upgraded as they level up; most upgrades players receive will be lost upon death. These games depend on having a tight replay, fun and consistent replay loop and with Roguebook, Abrakam has succeeded here. They managed to make one of the sometimes-boring aspects of these games being the exploration, a really compelling part of the adventure. The most important part really, because it allows the player to explore the map in whatever direction they want and really take ownership of the adventure; making the narrative their own. There is a tremendous amount of replayability despite there only being three areas to visit. With the endgame being completing “Epilogues” which sees the book add extra modifiers to various things to make it more difficult for players I continue to have a great time with Roguebook, often getting sucked into that “one more turn” situation where an intended quick 20-minute session has turned into an hour and a half and I can think of no higher praise to give a game than to be THAT immersive.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • Great colorful art style
  • Characters are fun
  • Tons of strategy and options
  • Replayability for days and weeks
  • Difficulty spike from stage 3 to 4 is intense
Written by
Terrence spends his time going where no one has gone before mostly. But when not planning to take over the galaxy, he spends his time raising Chocobo and trying to figure out just how the sarlaac could pull Boba Fett’s ship with its engines firing FULL BLAST into it’s maw with relative ease; yet it struggled with Han Solo who was gripping *checks notes* SAND!