A young girl in the year 2700, just trying to scavenge and survive, discovers an abandoned robot. Reactivating it, the two set out to explore the nearby area, only to chance upon an incredible secret...and hundreds of murderous bots looking to stop them! Take control of the Guardian, as you boom and blast your way through the enemies that bar your path in Roboquest, a fast-paced FPS with roguelike elements.
Release Date: August 20th, 2020 (Early Access), November 7th, 2023 (official)
Available Systems: Xbox One, Xbox Series X & S, Microsoft Windows (current at time of writing)
Bustin' (Bots) Makes Me Feel Good
I know as soon as you say the word "roguelike", some people groan and immediately head for the exit. But that would be a great disservice to a cool action game such as this! Every high-octane playthrough of Roboquest ends up different, as the Guardian finds new pathways to travel, uncovers secrets, and unlocks new toys to play with. With each run you begin to piece together the story of what happened to this place...or not, if you'd prefer to ignore the light narrative and just shoot robots in the face. And that's perfectly okay: Roboquest knows what it is, which is a streamlined experience focusing on fun above all else.
The game very much takes after the Doom franchise, with fast movement, swarms of enemies, and very satisfying weapons to deal with them. The game can be punishing at times if you don't scale back the difficulty, with a limited healing system and dangerous robots that can be rather aggressive. But that comes with the territory of being a roguelike: you die, you learn from your mistakes, and you go back out there and try again! As you proceed, you'll obtain Wrenches that can be used back at camp to buy permanent upgrades, so it's not a complete waste of time should you fail to reach the Victory screen. Eventually these boosts, learning the patterns of the robots, and finding the right class for your playstyle can lead to greater success and a run that gets closer and closer to the end, until you finally break through and feel that rush of accomplishment.
You're also very much rewarded for exploration, drip-feeding you unlockables that can have an actual effect on the gameplay. For example, let's say you're about to enter the Quarry level: outside the door is a set of numbers that looks like a code. If you were to remember this code and bring it with you to the Quarry, you may find a keypad blocking the entrance to a stash of goodies. This secret area contains another side-level - which is not immediately accessible - a couple bonus lore items, and the Shovel, which can be used to unearth secret spots in the ground. Just by paying attention to a set of numbers sitting by a doorway, you've set yourself down a whole 'nother road of secrets! How do I reach the door to the side-level? What can I find with the Shovel? All of this is sandwiched around the gun-toting action, the details making the areas feel less like empty, uninspired gladiatorial arenas.
Oh, and did I forget to mention the game has co-op? Two players can get together (including cross-platform) to battle the baddies together. It is unfortunate that I have no friends, as a game like this must be doubly awesome when experienced with a "brobot" buddy.
Fire When Ready
Of course in a roguelike game, you'll need a build that'll take you the distance. This means choosing a class that's right for you, and being smart about selecting passive bonuses you find or earn along the way.
As seen in the screenshot above, there are six classes currently present, although only the Guardian is initially available. They can be summarized thusly:
- Guardian (Yellow) - Has a protective shield bubble, general well-rounded class.
- Commando (Orange) - Can fire a missile, grows stronger with every enemy defeated.
- Ranger (Green) - Can turn invisible and chuck spears, strong if you're good at dodging.
- Recon (Purple) - Attacks with a super-powered knife and can teleport, great for speed runs.
- Engineer (Blue) - Summons drones to support, and stack elemental effects.
- Elementalist (Red) - Basically a "mage" equivalent, dealing burn, frost, or shock damage.
Besides changing the color of your Bumblebee-lookalike, each one plays very differently, with a unique collection of attainable Perks that set them apart. Defeating bots earns you experience (XP) towards the next level, and leveling up nets you an upgrade choice. Perks might boost your burn damage, or make it so you fire two missiles at a time, or an explosion occurs when you reappear from being invisible - they are tailored to their class, but you shouldn't just pick them willy-nilly. Synergy is very important: deciding on Perks that work together in harmony for maximum output is the key to victory. You can overcome a poor build with knowledge and sheer skill in gunplay, but having a great loadout will definitely ease the burden of the robotic hordes. Naturally, should you die you'll have to restart from square one...so try your best not to let that happen!
I found the classes to be well varied, with a lot of fun directions you can take them in. Over my 50+ runs I have developed a personal preference towards the Guardian and Engineer - I tend to take hits, so having an "oh crap!" bubble is a godsend, while the Engineer can summon drones to take the attention away from me. Alas I am not able enough to rocket-jump and dash around with abandon, as I imagine the Ranger and Recon are especially enjoyable to those with the "skillz". That said my first victory was with a Recon, so maybe I'm doin' something right.
The last thing that can change your build is the guns themselves, with a system that takes after Borderlands or other looter-shooters. Guns have a level and a rarity, with higher rarities having more affixes that affect how the weapon operates. Maybe it has a chance to fire twice, or it deals shock damage, or it comes with a scope - it's not just a question of "which guns do I like?", but rather "which guns do I like and are they better than what I currently have equipped?" You can use Power Cells to upgrade a preferred gun, but that can be expensive when they are also used to buy passive bonuses; sometimes it's better to just ditch a weapon for a better one as you find them. Even in my most successful runs where I found an amazing weapon early on, I would eventually swap through 3-5 guns by game's end, due to their level differences and the like.
Beats to Blast By
Put together by someone going by the name of "Noisecream", the soundtrack in this game is outstanding. I am drawn to video games that can capture the feeling of a boss fight or intense period of action and pull you back to that moment whenever you hear it. Bottling those memories for future enjoyment, getting the blood rushing again from sound alone: that's the magic of music! Roboquest does this very well, with dynamic tracks that scale based on the current level of violence happening on-screen. Exploring the map in-between fights? The music will simmer in the background, ready to pop off at a moment's notice. Once you're engaging in ballistic activity again, the beats blast at you just as heavily as the bullets aimed at your enemies. Here's one such example, from a stage near the middle of the game:
Roboquest is, simply put, an awesome game. I fully recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in the genre. It is welcoming to newcomers, while still able to be a challenge for those with experience in FPSs. There's a lot to see and do (and kill), without becoming stale by the end like a more-traditional linear adventure might. The different classes and the Perk roguelike system offer replayability, where each run is a fully different experience. I found Roboquest to be an absolute delight, and it played well both on PC and on my Steam Deck.
With additional updates coming throughout 2024, Roboquest is only going to get better and better. Play it alone or with a brobot, and start blasting!
Have you played Roboquest before? What did you think of it? Does this genre appeal to you? Let us know in the comments below!