Video Game Review: Streets of Rogue


Streets of Rogue is the rogue-lite that mixes the action style of the old school Grand Theft Auto with a much more outrageous environment. From developer Matt Dabrowski and publisher tinyBuild comes a game where you wield infinite chaos. From characters such as the Killer Robot, to the Gorilla, to the Demolitionist, the game packs a wide variety of unique characters to tackle dungeon runs, each with their own special objective to accomplish. Do you want to sneak in like an assassin or blow holes in walls to accomplish your objectives? The choice is yours.

For those unacquainted with the recently blossoming genre of roguelikes, a roguelike or rogue-lite (based on the 1980s classic, “Rogue”) is a game that normally features procedurally generated levels, permanent character death, repetition, and noticeable character growth.

The game, which was released on March 10, 2017, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting where chicken nuggets are the currency of the underground and the Mayor rules the 5 boroughs (levels) with an iron fist atop the mafia, enhanced cops, and his own set of robotic enforcers. The main goal of this game is to reach the Mayor’s Village on the 6th level, relieve him of his sacred hat in whatever way you see fit, then put it on and give your victory speech. There are so many different ways the game can play out with use of mutators and unlockables, you will be hooked on this one for quite a while.

Mutators are essentially mods that make the game easier or more challenging, all while not diminishing the rewards you get in the runs (AKA the chicken nuggets). The chicken nuggets are the currency used to purchase new items and traits that will appear in your run and you can find these by either leveling up while playing or doing nugget missions.

Encompassed by the music works of Craig Barnes and the artistic vision of environmental artist Matthew Weekes, you find yourself starting in the hub of the resistance, where you choose either an existing unlocked rebel or your own creation to navigate the levels of the game’s near-open world city and rise to the top. The objectives are random and some may be interrupted by the craziness of the world you are put in. This game had me sometimes running for my life, whether it be from flesh eating goo or a killer robot.

The game starts you out with six characters, and nearly 30 more to unlock through various achievements and another 6 if you pay for the $5.99 character pack. Each character has their own special abilities, traits, and things to do around the levels. For example, the Gorilla must free all of their brethren from the imposing scientists, while the courier has to make deliveries at a breakneck pace on their roller skates. It doesn’t stop there though as you can create your own character with the maker, and you can even use that character to make progress!

Streets of Rogue has a beautiful co-op mode that switches from split-screen to solo screen depending how close you are to your pal. Choose similar characters and similar builds to synergize and maximize your run efficiency. One of my favorite builds to use with friends or alone  involves using the Robot’s sap ability to get health from generators, all while being aligned with the boys in blue so they can’t stop me.

Not only did I get plenty of hours of fun out of this title but it remains in the category of games that I could always return to. There is no feeling in gaming like when you are just having pure, unadulterated fun. There are so many games now that make demands of us to show up daily or invest long sessions of time. It truly is a relief when we can sit down and just goof off for a few hours especially with a teammate at your side.

The game currently sits at a base price of $19.99, which I think is a price worth paying, but luckily the game constantly sees itself in sales, with the base game usually being $9.99 or $11.49 bundled with the character pack. My sentiment is to always wait for digital sales, because with no production cost, it’s just pure revenue for the developers we cherish.

What Matt Dabrowski really did here was take the fun that is the sense of accomplishment you get normally from rogue-lite games, and he mixed it with a chaotic and carefree sentiment. You’ll notice I had next to nothing bad to say about this game and that’s because it accomplishes everything and more of what it should have. I absolutely recommend this game to even the most casual players.

Score: 95/100

I was given the chance to ask Matt a few questions about his game.

The interview with Head Developer Matt Dabrowski:

Anthony: Did you have any inspirations from other games when developing a rogue-lite specifically?

Matt: My primary inspirations weren’t actually rogue-lites.  In fact, the motivation for doing a game like Streets of Rogue was that there weren’t other rogue-lites like it.  That said, the structure of the game, of doing runs and earning currency to unlock new characters, traits and items is pretty standard for the genre, and was inspired by games like Enter the Gungeon and Crypt of the Necrodancer.  My bigger inspirations came in the form of immersive sims like Deus Ex, RPGs like the early Fallouts, and open-world chaos simulators like Grand Theft Auto.

Anthony: What influence did Taco Bell have on the creation of Streets of Rogue?

Matt: Back in 2015, I entered my game into a Taco Bell-sponsored competition called Indie Game Garage.  It ended up being one of 20 winners, and as part of this, I won $500 worth of Taco Bell gift cards.  (In case you’re curious, I just recently spent the last of it.)  I also got some extra exposure and a chance to go to TwitchCon. On the negative side, I lost a sizable amount of development time to extended bathroom breaks.

Anthony: Were the responses to the game to your liking or were you expecting something different?

Matt: I really couldn’t have asked for a much better response.  In my head, I didn’t doubt that I had something cool on my hands, so honestly I kind of expected a positive reaction.  But as of right now, the game is in the top 250 rated games on the entirety of Steam.  That’s something I don’t think anyone could ever predict about a game they’re releasing.

Anthony: What were your intended levels of difficulty for the project overall?

Matt: I didn’t want the game to necessarily be as “hardcore” as certain roguelikes.  Certain characters are definitely easier to play than others, and I realized early on that because of the complexity of the interactions between different game systems, someone was always going to find a way to cheese the game, regardless of how hard I tried to balance it.  I did want to encourage people to put thought into their actions if they want to have a chance of finishing.

Anthony: Why is “Power Sap” and “Above The Law” such an overpowered combo? Is this commentary on the Blue State in America and the monopoly of the Electric Companies?

Matt: I mean, sure, if you want it to be, I guess?  I actually tried to shy away from overt social/political commentary, but if anyone wants to attribute meaning to all the ridiculous crap in this game, then go for it!

Anthony: Are there any fun or interesting tidbits from the creation of this game that people don’t know about?

Matt: The game was primarily developed on a single monitor that only went up to 1600×900.  To any professional game developers who just read that, I apologize for the coffee that has inevitably found its way from your mouth to your monitor.

Anthony: I have beaten the game 4 times using only characters that I had created. Does this earn me a spot on your development team?

Matt: At the very least I’m sure you’d make a bang-up QA tester.  Balance issues were (and continue to be) a constant battle in the world of Streets of Rogue!

Anthony: Lastly, thank you for the amazing time and this opportunity to talk with you. Has the success of the game in the indie market influenced your next step as a developer in game making? What is next?

Matt: The success of SoR has most definitely influenced my next step as a developer, because my next step is a sequel! It’s been in development for about a year. The only major concrete things that I’ve said about it publicly up to this point are that it’s going to be open world, and it will feature vehicles. I’m really excited about the project, but don’t expect any major news on it anytime soon. I’m keeping relatively mum until I have something really cool to show off.