Rogue Lords offers roguelike, strategy gameplay for an experience that will test your wits.

Rogue Lords Hands-On Preview: Darkest Dungeon Meets Classic Horror

Rogue Lords offers roguelike, strategy gameplay for an experience that will test your wits.

Between the indie hit Darkest Dungeon and the dozens of similar strategy titles available on platforms like Steam, there is no shortage of difficult turn-based RPGs on the market. But for those looking to play something akin to Red Hook’s popular title with a classic horror movie filter, Rogue Lords from Cyanide Studio (Styx, Call of Cthulhu) could be something to sink your teeth into.

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While it’s true that difficulty is often relative and can be either a positive or negative factor based on whoever’s playing, Rogue Lords looks to find a balance between difficulty and accessibility. With a cartoony art style and unique mechanics, its gameplay so far, thoroughly enjoyable and noteworthy despite some difficult sections. 

I was able to go hands-on with the recent Rogue Lords beta build on PC ahead of the game’s fall release, and here’s what I think of it so far. 

Rogue Lords Hands-On Preview: Darkest Dungeon Meets Classic Horror

Lilith, Baron Samedi, and The Headless Horseman fighting two privateers.

Rogue Lords casts you as the Devil. After being driven into the depths of Hell from whence you came, you find yourself atop the black throne poised to incur payback and justice on the demon hunters of Van Helsing. To do so, you’ll fight through the forces of good with a variety of classic horror movie monsters and fairy tale villains at your command.

The beta I played consisted of two levels: the prologue and a section set several hours into the game. The prologue unsurprisingly gets you up to speed, letting you familiarizing yourself with the map and movement. Your posse of monsters moves through foggy areas, discovering various paths and locations in the game’s procedurally generated levels. These ultimately lead to a boss encounter at the end of each location which featured stringer enemies than normal.

As you move about the world, you’ll engage in combat, buy abilities and health from vendors, and interact with classic horror characters like Dr. Frankenstein in narrative portions, all of which build up your characters’ attacks and powers while leading you on your very own path towards world domination. 

With your pre-selected team of three, you’ll fight your way through enemy units to learn new abilities or gain additional aid on your journey. For this pre-release playthrough, we were given the ability to try out three of what appears to be several available team members: Dracule, Bloody Mary, and the Headless Horseman. Each character has its own set of abilities and attacks, each embodies your standard archetype of tank, healer, etc.

A gaunt Dr. Frankenstein in a black cloak alongside dialog choices.

Combat consists of turn-based attacks where you spend action points to perform moves and abilities. Actions for opposing units are displayed to help you plan moves ahead or use abilities that negate some of the incoming damage or avoid attacks altogether, for example.

After a character’s abilities have been used, they can’t use them again unless they take the time to reset with a separate power-up. It’s a mechanic that adds to the strategy as you use up some of your character’s abilities while potentially saving others for later. 

While most of this type of gameplay can be found elsewhere, the unique thing about Rogue Lords is that you have the ability to cheat, just as the Devil would. You can lower the health of enemies, change the odds of passing certain checks, and even heal party members in exchange for your own health.

See, your team of three playable characters can never perish; instead, they get incapacitated. Once this happens, you, as the Devil, take damage directly. Deciding whether to use your precious health resources to increase your success is your call, but it could spell potential disaster down the road. 

Overall, Rogue Lords looks to be the type of experience those who liked Darkest Dungeon or similar experiences will want to check out. The featured characters from classic horror make it a unique one, and the additional Devil mechanics totally change up the strategy on offer. 

Rogue Lords will release later this year with all of its horror trope goodness with releases on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch. 

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