Rogue Spirit Early Access Impressions – A lifeless, repetitive slog

Gare – Friday, September 24, 2021 4:59 PM
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Appearances can be deceiving, and I believe we have all been in a situation where a game looked amazing on screenshots and even the trailer seemed convincing enough… and then we actually played the thing. That’s when the mask falls off. Rogue Spirit is one such example, evoking the illusion of a fun and fast-paced roguelike action-adventure where you, in the form of a spirit, possess all kinds of different characters for hilarious results. Reality, however, paints a harsher picture, and it soon becomes apparent that there’s very little of actual substance beneath the somewhat pretty veneer. Here are my quick first impressions.

Soulless spirits

As implied above, your main character in Rogue Spirit is, well… a rogue spirit, I guess. Yes, you’re a ghost, and as such, you’re unable to directly attack anyone – but you may possess someone who can. Granted, the death of your host body also means the end of your current run, but don’t let that discourage you; through skillful body hopping and a clever use of the fact that some of your HP is restored when you possess a new body, you can continue to extend your runs and make it to the end of the level with relative ease. Along the way, you’ll find various bonuses to improve your stats, collect currency to buy permanent upgrades with, and acquire blueprints that make it possible to develop additional weapons, such as grenades, mines, protective shields and so on. In theory, everything seems to be in order for a fun, body-swapping roguelike experience – emphasis on “in theory”, because when you actually start up a run, you’re faced with an uncomfortable state of affairs: that the gameplay is simply not polished enough to offer even a modicum of fun.

By far the biggest offender here is the combat system, which tries to make it so that every body you possess fights differently… but ends up devolving into mindless button-mashing. There’s a Batman: Arkham Asylum-esque parry system where you have to press the parry button just as the icon above the enemy’s head turns red, allowing you to completely nullify their attack – however, whereas in Batman, this resulted in flashy, acrobatic takedowns, in Rogue Spirit, you’re… just pressing buttons and watching enemies keel over. The entire combat system essentially boils down to “attack, attack, parry, attack, attack, parry”, which is exciting for about… a total of five minutes, maybe. And I’m being generous here. After that, each run turns into a repetitive, mindless slog through visually appealing but woefully samey environments as you keep mashing and parrying your way to victory. It’s absolutely dreadful. It really is.

Tedium ad infinitum

And I’ve yet to even mention the fact that the controls feel stiff, and that the game’s idea of difficulty is throwing hordes of enemies at you at the same time. The AI is not clever, nor does it fight strategically – they rely only on their numbers, so if you’re careful enough to only draw the attention of a few enemies at a given time, you’ll be fine. Other than that, you can also sneak past them in spirit form, but it’s honestly a safer bet to just kill everything in your path. And no, the stealth system isn’t cleverly implemented, either – you’re just dodging the areas on the ground that represent an enemy’s line of sight, and that’s about it. As for the game’s signature body-swapping feature… well, let’s just say that all bodies were created equal, but some were created more equal than others. In other words, the system feels oddly imbalanced in favor of quick, melee attackers. Speed and efficiency is key, so whenever I possessed a guy who wielded a sword or a staff, killing enemies took little to no effort, but God have mercy on your soul if you ever find yourself having to use a ranged character.

The importance of first impressions

If you need a game that makes the flow of time seemingly slow to a crawl, look no further than Rogue Spirit. I spent a little over two hours with it, but they felt like twenty; despite the appealingly colorful visuals, the gameplay – specifically the combat system – is both clunky and tedious with little to no depth to it, turning every single run into a genuine test of patience. Some might argue that two hours aren’t enough to properly judge a game and all its potential merits, and to them, I have this to say: Rogue Spirit gave me one of the most soul-crushingly boring two hours of my life, so you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t give it the benefit of the doubt.


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