Pylon: Rogue – A Review

When I initially saw the screenshots for Pylon: Rogue it was Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom for the PS3 that immediately sprang to mind.  An early game for the platform that was a simple ARPG that focused more on the action than the RPG.  Despite some fairly mediocre reviews I personally enjoyed the game so I was looking forward to sinking some hours into Pylon: Rogue.

I should have realised though from the name alone that Pylon: Rogue isn’t an ARPG but instead a rogue-like / rogue-lite title with plenty of hack-n-slash thrown in.  Much like my recent foray with STRAFE which I thought was going to be a straight up Quake Clone but instead turned out to be a challenging rogue-like first person shooter.

That doesn’t immediately make this a bad game, it just requires me to change my attitude and expectations before I settle in to a serious session with the game.

The map where you’ll move from zone to zone or enter the shop.

After choosing your hero you are taken to a map style screen, a bit like the Mario Brothers games that sees you moving from node to node.  From here you are also able to enter the store to refill health and buy new equipment. At various nodes you’ll find either a treasure chest or a play zone.  Each play zone is divided into a number of rooms and you’ll need to clear a number of these rooms to be able to exit the zone.  Finish all the rooms for extra loot.  Once you’ve beaten enough play zones you’ll unlock the boss fight.  Be good enough to defeat that boss and you’ll move on to the next map.  There are three maps in total with a boss at the end of each.

Initially you’ll be able to choose from three different heroes, with a fourth available once you’ve beaten the game. Each hero also has a number of different builds, some will require you to unlock them, others aren’t available in the game yet and will likely unlock soon with a patch.  Two of the characters use melee based combat, a large stone golem and a knight in shining armour and while both output some serious damage I found them harder to make any good progress with.  The third character is an archer and with her I was almost able to defeat the first (of three) maps.

Being a rogue-like means that health is at a premium; once you are dead that’s it.  The melee based characters due to the very nature of their proximity in combat take an awful lot of damage.  They do have defensive moves to negate all damage but they are limited.  With either of these two I wasn’t able to finish much more than one play zone.

The archer on the other hand has a defensive move that is unlimited and spammable.  While her damage output is vastly lower than her melee counterparts the very fact that she can kill from afar makes her (in my opinion) much easier to progress with provided you have a little patience.

The archer. Arguably the easiest character to begin with.

Over the course of play you will unlock items that can be found or purchased from the store and you’ll also find gear that your character will equip.  The longer you live the more loot you will find and (arguably) the easier the game will become.  Bear in mind though that this isn’t an ARPG and so when I say loot I don’t mean you’ll be picking up gear like Diablo III.  You wont have a multitude of weapons drop each room for you to mull over which one works best.  For the most part you’ll pick up an item and receive a passive boost.

As much as gear ‘unlocks’ are neat I would like to have seen something more carry over between deaths, whether it be some form of XP or perhaps some gems (the games currency).  Something more than simply ‘thanks for playing see you next time’ would have kept me coming back for more.

I was unable to get my Joytech Xbox 360 controller to work with the game, so controls were limited to keyboard and mouse for me.  It took a little getting used to but after an hour or so I felt fine with them.  My only gripe was that I felt at times I was fighting the camera, having to manually swing it around.  This was particularly apparent when playing the archer.

Combat is reasonably satisfying with plenty of ‘whack’ and ‘thock’.  If you are playing a melee based character you’ll have access to more than one special move. You’ll definitely want to practice these in the first room of a play zone (as it has no enemies).  You can hold attack, quick attack (press button) once then hold, quick attack twice then hold or attack thrice and hold.  Each move will unleash a different kind of special and it’s worth putting in the few minutes it will take to get the hang of these because they really will help you in combat significantly.

Each character has a defensive move, as I mentioned earlier I believe the archer’s to be the best. She simply leaps and tumbles out of the way, a move that can be repeated infinitely without any penalty.  It’s also faster to move around that way so really you should never not be using it.  The stone golem turns into a ball and rolls around, immune to damage while he does so, but it’s timed and you can only remain in this form for a very short time.  Likewise the knight can turn golden and be immune to all damage for as long as you hold the button down, like our large stone friend though the time available on this is very limited so timing will be absolutely paramount.

Expect to see this screen A LOT.

Lastly, each character has a special move that requires the use of a scroll to implement.  You begin the game with four scrolls and can replenish uses by picking them up from chests or broken containers, or by purchasing them at the store.  These super attacks will deal a large amount of damage to a broad area and are really handy for those moments when you are surrounded and about to get squished.

If you survive long enough you might also acquire a shield; this isn’t something you start with but will give you another line of damage defense.

In terms of audio and visual the game does perfectly fine in both departments.  It may have been a setting on my machine but at times the game looked a little ‘out of focus’, probably a depth of field setting I missed.  Lighting, shadows, foliage, animation are all well done and in terms of presentation on par with any ARPG you care to mention.

The biggest topic of discussion though is difficulty.  Rogue games are notoriously hard, some more than others.  Balance is absolutely critical.  Progression is important.  Titles like Ziggurat have gotten the balance down exceptionally well.  Others, like STRAFE, burst on the scene a little too hard for a lot of players and have to be dialed back post release.  I feel Pylon: Rogue falls into the latter category, and from my readings on the Steam forums others are enjoying the game but finding it a little too unforgiving.  Thankfully the developers are listening and I spotted this response –


Pylon: Rogue is not an ‘Early Access’ title however with a few features yet to be added and a clear need for some balancing of the difficulty I feel that it’s still one or two patches away from perfection.  As someone who isn’t particularly fond of the rogue genre (dead and thanks for playing) I still really enjoyed my time with Pylon: Rogue and for anyone looking for a fantasy hack-n-slash challenge at a reasonably budget price, definitely give the game a look.  I’ll certainly be taking another long look once those first few patches with balanced difficulty roll out.

Anyone looking for a Diablo III, Grim Dawn or maybe even Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom ARPG experience should look elsewhere though.

For those who enjoy rogue-like or rogue-lite titles this is definitely one to add to your collection.

Pylon: Rogue is available now on Steam – http://store.steampowered.com/app/386100/Pylon_Rogue/

Review PC: Intel i7 6700k, Nvidia 1070GTX, 32GB DDR4

To see the game in action and perhaps get a better feel for it, check out my gameplay video below –

 

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