Developer: Exe Create Inc.
Reviewed On: PlayStation 5
Also Available For: PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X
When I started playing Overrogue, a deck-building roguelite with a spooky underworld theme, my immediate first thought was “this is just Slay the Spire but horny.” Certainly, there are many things it does very similarly, such as negating damage with shields that disappear on the next turn and gathering relics to grant yourself current-run-only bonuses (the relics even display in a line starting from the top left of the screen), but as I got further in I started to see more and more ways it differentiates itself – some good, others not, but all of them adding up to equal a game with its own personality distinct from the thing that very obviously inspired it. Honestly, it’s not even that horny – if anything, Slay the Spire might be the hornier of the two.
The protagonist of Overrogue is Sael, the vampiric son of the 444th Overlord of the underworld – but not exactly the prince of the underworld, as the story centers around the “Overlord Selection Battle,” a competition designed by the current Overlord to pick a successor. After an eventful first foray into one of the dungeons designed by his father for the Selection Battle, Sael winds up engaged to a doll demon and working alongside an excitable wolf girl who both help him fight through the various dungeons standing between him and the crown.
The doll and wolf girl create the biggest difference between Overrogue and other deck-building roguelike-slash-lites I’ve played, which is having a party of characters as opposed to a singular one. Each character has slightly different stats – Narba the wolf girl is faster but more fragile while Elize is slower and tankier with Sael as the middle-ground between them – and starts each dungeon with a unique relic that affects only them. The party is arranged at any given moment into a front-middle-back formation which determines who takes damage – unless an enemy’s attack targets everyone, only the frontline will be hit. The formation can be rotated at any time for the cost of one energy, which minorly heals the character moving from the front to the back (with diminishing returns per turn) and can change how certain cards behave.
The need to balance keeping the party healthy with making sure you have enough energy to actually use the cards in your hand creates an extra layer of strategy not present in Slay the Spire or other single-character deck-builders, and I’m pleased to say it works quite well. Aside from that, the basic game flow is very familiar. The player selects a “theme” for their deck at the start of most runs that dictates the card pool, which in turn dictates what sorts of decks can be built on that run (luck permitting). Synergizing card picks is of course vital to successful runs, as is being able to adapt well when you don’t get the perfect picks, but for the most part, you don’t need to get your deck together just to succeed. It’s the same story for artifacts; the starting set and pool (mostly) changes with each theme, and occasionally you will get unlucky enough that you’re just kind of screwed, but most runs are salvageable. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
That said, the game’s balance does seem to be designed in a way that, as with many KEMCO-produced titles, encourages the player to cave to microtransactions which will speed along the grinding process. Completing runs awards the player with both “blightstones” and “demon coins”, which allow the purchase of “Sagan Gacha” roles and certain permanent boosts to the party. The Sagan Gacha is how new cards and relics are added to the various themes, as well as how the player acquires stickers that give either permanent boosts to the characters or even allow cards to start out at upgraded tiers when acquired during runs. Personally, I didn’t think the grind of saving up for rolls using entirely in-game means was that bad, but I have unusual patience so it still counts as a point.
Overrogue’s story is nothing too special, but it’s charming enough. As stated earlier, I initially thought the writing was going to be weird and vaguely horny in a particularly anime kind of way which was largely due to the presence of certain tropes. The writing, fortunately, swerved away from that, however, and in fact, ends up being actually pretty funny and heartwarming. I found the descriptions for relics, which are all items from the human realm brought to the demon realm by a magic hole, to be especially amusing in how the demon society misinterprets things about them. While the characters aren’t the most memorable in the world, both their antics and more serious moments alike are entertaining enough for as long as the story lasts, only growing more so further and further in… even if the effect is somewhat hindered by the game’s limited visuals.
I do feel the need to mention a couple of flaws in the game’s presentation, most notably in the game’s slightly awkward translation. Normally I wouldn’t bother mentioning this except in passing, because unless something is translated so genuinely poorly that you can’t follow what’s going on at all pointing it out feels pedantic and mean-spirited, but in this case, there are actual gameplay ramifications. It doesn’t happen often, but I’ve run into a couple of cards and artifacts whose effects weren’t totally clear thanks to the language in their description, and it ended up ruining that run. Of much lower-order concern is the music being extremely simplistic and repetitive to the point of aggravation, particularly in the town areas. It’s a simple enough fix, of course, you just have to mute your game (something I frequently do with roguelikes anyway to listen to podcasts or music while I play), but I would still be remiss not to tell you that you will want to play with the volume off.
A final note on an odd aspect I discovered largely by accident: there does not seem to be an option for suspending the game mid-dungeon within the game itself, but closing the application allows the player to circumvent this. The application crashed quite a few times on my PlayStation 5 while I played through, but fortunately, the autosave is such that I never lost much progress. Make of that what you will.
Though Overrogue is by no means the next groundbreaking, genre-shaking deck-builder to hit the scene, it’s certainly better than average and would make a fine addition to any enthusiast of the genre’s collection. If you’re one such gamer, add this one to your pile and draw it on a rainy day.
Overrogue shuffles the cards around just enough to make it worth playing amidst a genre stacked with excellent titles.