Bard Rock Cafe Valentine Special: Toxic Love
Previous Bard Rock Cafe Episode 23: Friend Like Me
I’m back with a new episode of The Indie Corner! There’s some cool stuff here, as well as a more…disappointing release which needs to be discussed.
Drox Operative 2
This game was in early access until late last year, releasing in 1.0 around October. I didn’t get to play much of it until over Christmas, which is the reason I did not cover it during my GOTY series. That’s a shame, because there’s a great game in here and it’s joined my list of ‘games to boot up and romp’ whenever I’m in the mood.
Drox Op is an action space RPG in an ever evolving universe. It’s relatively simple in concept: you don’t seize control of colonies, manage settlements or anything like that. It’s not a 4X title. Instead you play as a mercenary ship adventuring inside a 4X universe, only it’s one you have no control over. The AI plays that game. You’re just the grunt, and it plays pretty damn well for that. Space Diablo is a nice way to describe it. There’s diplomacy and missions you can carry out, tons of upgrades and items, and the movement is just a lot of fun to play. I’ve racked up about 30 hours in my first couple of playthroughs and I’ve only just started to get a handle on how to play it.
It’s a streamlined, well controlled experience. The screen is always filled with action and ships to attack, with plenty of random events. Doing jobs for some factions will lower relations with other factions. Being a mercenary, that’s all good for you, and there’s plenty of ways to assure victory with economic and military options. The way to play it is entirely up to you, and Drox Operative 2’s flexibility is great in that regard. With all the randomization of the world state and different events, every playthrough will be different.
It’s not a perfect experience, of course. The game runs weirdly laggy on a laptop and I saw plenty of frame drops in my experience, and the game itself doesn’t progress too far from its basic loop. Once you’ve played a few hours, it won’t surprise you much further. That doesn’t stop Drox 2 from being a compelling, addictive action RPG that is well worth its modest 20$ price tag.
Streets of Rogue
I wanted to make a little review on this fantastic gem sooner, but life got in the way. With an open-world sequel in the works, it’s as good a time as any to talk about it.
I love this game. It’s a wonderful, bonkers mix of bullet hell gameplay with mechanics that go deeper than its skin. Streets of Rogue cracked my Top 5 in 2019 when it fully released, and it’s one of the best indie games ever made. That massive resource spreadsheet I’ll be working on? You can bet Streets of Rogue is part of it, and it punches well above its weight class.
The plot? You are part of a rebellion to defeat the corrupt government, all in a cute art style and wrapped with addicting and fast gameplay. It’s tough, deeply enjoyable and there’s a ton of options to play. This is a delicious mix of 2D Deus Ex and Grand Theft Auto, using the art style/gameplay loop of something like Hotline Miami or Nuclear Throne.
You get randomly generated levels to clear with randomized objectives. How you do them is completely up to you. Steal from NPCS, kill everything, hack, free gorillas, there’s a ton of different choices, helped through a diverse cast of characters. There’s little mini missions which provide chicken nuggets which unlock more items for future runs. Yes, it’s a roguelike and there’s tons of these on the market, but it’s one of the most unique and impressive ones on the market.
Every character has its own personal quirks as well as its own quest to carry out on each mission. For example, the Zombie can infect others into friendly undead or turn them into undead followers who can do your bidding. It’s weak and slow and can’t use guns. The vampire can heal itself, the Jock can smash through walls and buildings with the click of a button. The Hacker can mess with the level systems in many different ways, sacrificing strength for versatility. Or you can play as the Gorilla, a superpowerful character whose job is to free other gorillas from the evil scientists and go Planet of the Apes style on the world!
That’s just four of twenty characters available in the game, and there’s even custom character support. Combined with a level editor and Steam Workshop intergration, there’s an awful lot of toys to play with.
Streets of Rogue is something I can recommend to almost anyone. It’s enjoyable to play, works well with controller or keypad, has a lot of variety and replayability and above all, carries a great price tag. It’s one of the few games I feel is charging too little money for what it offers.
Oh, boy. It pains me to talk about this one. Yeah, I hope this gets fixed and it has a ton of potential, but the launch version of this game did not meet any of my expectations. I talked about it before in Early Access Corner, a prelude to this series so I won’t go into too much detail here.
It’s such a shame, because when I played this game in alpha, it is oozing with potential. It’s more of a spiritual successor to Dragon Age, developed by a bunch of old Bioware developers. It released in Early Access in June 2020, making a full release 2nd February, 2022. It launched in a pretty rough state, with little content, broken and missing cutscenes everywhere and a lot of bugs, but I could see the charm oozing from every orifice. While I enjoyed a lot of what I played, calling it playable was being kind. There’s the embyro of a good game wrapped in an excuse of ‘Early Access’, all for the steep price tag of £29.99. For such an early development title, it was a lot to ask for. However, I thought it carried a lot of potential regarding it fixed its issues.
If only the full release did any of that. Alas, it didn’t. I tried it and gave it a solid go, but I found myself facing the same issues which plagued the early access. Broken and missing cutscenes everywhere, game breaking bugs and glitches abound. Those fun characters and dialogue seemed to have worsened in quality since when I last played it. It felt rather cringy, and because of the disjointed prologue, I couldn’t care for any characters at all. The dialogue felt too cheesy like it was a budget version of Immortals Fenyx Rising, which at least did something right in it didn’t take itself seriously. Waylanders…man. It hurts to think about.
I suspect that the developers ran out of time and money, and that they pushed the full release out for financial reasons. It’s understandable if it’s true (I don’t know if it is or not, just speculating), but it’s broken releases like this which jades people against the gaming industry and the Early Access model as a whole, and it’s painful seeing it time and time again. This game should never have left Early Access. It’s just not ready for that.
I hope they can fix the issues because despite all of these problems, I still believe there’s a good game in here. The mythology and world design is fascinating and even with all the frustrations I was able to enjoy myself. The developers have pledged to fix these problems and I’m all for giving them the time and chance to do that. In an industry when there’s plenty of broken promises however, actions will always speak louder than words. I can’t recommend The Waylanders yet. Maybe soon.