REVIEW – Roguebook combines thrilling exploration and exhilarating battles


Are you ready for the challenge?

Roguelikes need to be crafted carefully to provide incentive for multiple runs after you lose most of your progress. It’s here that Roguebook certainly succeeds. Accompanied by wonderful visuals, Roguebook presents a fantastic roguelike deck-builder where every run will have you itching for another, thanks to its great challenge and myriad of customization options.

A whole new world to explore.

A whole new world to explore.

Set in the world of Faeria (another great card game on the Switch from the same developers), you find yourself trapped in the Roguebook; a cursed book. To break free you must explore the land, harvesting ink to open up new paths while facing many monsters in turn-based battles.

You need to gather a lot of brushes and ink to uncover most of the map.

You need to gather a lot of brushes and ink to uncover most of the map.

The world is divided into hexagons and only some of them are visible at first. You must use your magical brush, alongside the ink you get from battles and exploration, to access more hexagons. In each hexagon you may find gold, items, characters, events or battles. You will spend your time exploring and battling, and both activities are extremely exciting.

Finding a powerful card can change your whole strategy.

Finding a powerful card can change your whole strategy.

Exploration is exhilarating because you never know what you will find, but it’s always something that will help you shape your strategy in battle. For example, finding a new vault will let you buy one out of three cards. Having a great variety of cards is encouraged, as after reaching a certain number of them, you unlock new abilities. Later, you may use cards to craft more powerful ones using gems that you found, which will give them a new, powerful effect. Similarly, you’ll stumble upon treasure that will grant you new abilities, which helps you battle enemies in fresh ways. You’ll even happen upon narratives, which are small events where your actions determine the reward.

Each narrative lets you choose what type of award you get.

Each narrative lets you choose what type of award you get.

The above-mentioned content would certainly be enough on its own, but it’s not even close to detailing everything you can find in a hexagon. Some of them house Faeria wells that allow you to use more cards in battle, or an Alchemist that will give you extra abilities in exchange for destroying a card of your choice. Other instances will uncover a Golden Fairy or a Thief for more gold and treasures, or a panel that will open up large portions of the map. There are even hexagons with Hearts in them to up your health, or pages of the Roguebook that grant you permanent upgrades known as Embellishments.

Finding a Faeria well is one the best things that could happen.

Finding a Faeria well is one the best things that could happen.

All of these options make exploring in Roguebook extremely unique and compelling, as no two runs are alike. In my various runs, I kept changing strategies and it was quite fun. I focused on combo attacks for one run, but in another I found so much gold and treasure that I bought expensive upgrades that made my attacks hit like a train. In another still, I found so many defensive cards that I became pretty much unstoppable. The ever-changing nature of what you can find makes every run feel so fresh. You enjoy every single pass through the game, all while unlocking Embellishments to make you stronger and better prepared for bosses.

So many Embellishments to find...

So many Embellishments to find…

In order to beat the game, you need to take down the Boss of each of the adventure’s three chapters. While beating three bosses seems straightforward, in reality it’s anything but. Just like everything else in the game, bosses are randomized, so you find different baddies on different runs. You also have to fight regular enemies, which dish out gold and ink, and elite enemies, which give you brushes, pages, and better items.

Little did I know how tricky this Boss was going to be.

Little did I know how tricky this Boss was going to be.

Just like in Breath of the Wild, you can go face a boss right from the get-go, but your cards and abilities will be so poor that you’ll likely meet your end very quickly. Instead, you should explore as much as you can to be ready for the intense fights. Once you have a litany of upgrades, you can go into battle considerably more confident.

My favourite card with my favourite gem in my winning run.

My favourite card with my favourite gem in my winning run.

In battle, a small number of cards from your deck are dealt, and you can choose a limited number of actions from there. You may attack to cause damage or block to increase your shield, all while applying buffs or debuffs. If the attacks from the enemy cause damage less than or equal than the value of your shield, your health doesn’t decrease. The choice of whether to attack or block is key, since there are no straightforward ways to heal in battle, but you also need to attack to beat the enemies. If both of your two team members are incapacitated, the run is over and you must start anew.

All the information is given to you to provide a fair challenge.

All the information is given to you to provide a fair challenge.

Although every turn will give you a random assortment of the cards from your deck, once your hand is dealt, you have all the necessary information to make the best choice. You know how much damage enemies will do, so you can prepare and block in advance. Also, the game will inform you if enemies will buff, debuff or defend, along with any special abilities they have active. Finally, by selecting a card, you may preview how much damage or defense will occur to each participant after the game accounts for extra effects.

Even regular encounters are quite fun.

Even regular encounters are quite fun.

You’ll be on the edge of your seat while battling, as every turn can lead to a wildly different outcome. Boss and elite battles certainly provide the most excitement, but even regular encounters can be extremely engaging. Seeing your team on the verge of losing, only to recover with the right combination of cards and then dishing out a powerful string of attacks that destroys the enemy is always unbelievably satisfying.

The moment you have upgraded your strongest card and use it is so satisfying.

The moment you have upgraded your strongest card and use it is so satisfying.

Runs can go for a couple of hours, which is definitely a decent chunk of time. That said, the fact that you’re constantly unlocking new abilities, coupled with the sheer amount of cards, gems, and treasures, means you’ll find it hard not to dive right back in for another run after the last one wraps. Even your heroes gain experience as you play, gaining you new cards to work with. Further still, you can unlock two more heroes later on, which gives you 6 different combinations of heroes to utilize.

The moment you lose your strongest card for the rest of the battle against the final boss of the game is so sad.

The moment you lose your strongest card for the rest of the battle against the final boss of the game is so sad.

I was able to beat Roguebook in around 15 hours, which is when I learned of New Run Plus. This lets you take on a more challenging version of the game weighted to specific factors, such as Wealth, Exploration or Heroism. You’ll also take on stronger enemies who have more health, but you’ll get more pages in return. As you can see, there is so much to tackle and unlock once you beat the main game, making for incredible replay value.

The amount of extra content once you beat the game is incredible.

The amount of extra content once you beat the game is incredible.

In terms of accessibility, the game has a nice font size in battles, but menus for card-selecting can be very hard to read, especially when playing docked. In the shop, for example, you will need to select a card first in order to properly read its effect, but if you accidentally select it again, your purchase is completed. If the font was bigger, you wouldn’t need to select a card to enlarge the text, thus eliminating any accidental purchases. Also, just to be clear, all purchases are made with in-game money.

Reading the description in the shop can be tricky.

Reading the description in the shop can be tricky.

On the glitches and bugs side of things, I had one peculiar instance worth mentioning. After putting my Switch to sleep in handheld mode, opening the game later presented me with something that looked like a debug screen. I had to restart the game at this point, but didn’t lose any progress beyond the battle I was in when I activated sleep mode. In terms of general performance, the further you advance in the game, the more you’ll experience slowdown in battles. Once you play a card, many effects can take place at once. This includes attack, block, activate a treasure, activate a gem, and so on. This only takes about an extra second of waiting, and it honestly didn’t matter to me, as battles are extremely tactical, so I used the time to consider my next move.

I hope you can lend your strength to the heroes... you will enjoy a thrilling adventure.

I hope you can lend your strength to the heroes… you will enjoy a thrilling adventure.

Summary

Just as the Roguebook pulled heroes inside its pages, any player that starts adventuring will be drawn inside this game’s world. Fantastic visuals, challenging battles, and an ever-changing land to explore will keep you enthralled for hours and hours. Even after you succeed, you’ll keep coming back to see what else is hidden in your next attempt. If you love card games and turn-based battles, don’t let Roguebook pass you by.

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