Streets Of Rogue Review: The King Of Player Agency

Streets of Rogue is available on Steam, Playstation 4, Xbox One including gamepass, and Nintendo Switch. Joseph Pugh conducted this review on a Standard Xbox One console.

Overview

On the cover, Streets of Rogue claims to be a hybrid of genres, mashing together sneaky stealth, shooter action, and old school brawling wrapped up in a rogue-lite package. Hence the name.

Streets of Rogue backs these claims up in style, by pretty much being a true combination of Deus Ex, meets old school Grand Theft Auto with the DNA of several other games mixed in that should absolutely not work together. Yet by some form of incompressible voodoo, they do.

You explore randomly generated districts on a quest to overthrow the mayor. Each level is brimming with the lives of NPCs and businesses. How they relate to you is dependent on who you are and how you play. You might play a soldier who kicks in doors guns blazing, an assassin who backstabs, or a thief that steals.

Vampire, Thief, Jock, Zombie. The choice is yours.

If that’s too plain for you, get in tune with your inner Edward Cullen as a vampire or join Team Jacob as a werewolf. Eat people as a cannibal, unleash the horde as a zombie or fuel your drug addiction as an investment banker. Those are just a few playable characters you will find in Streets of Rogue and you have the option of creating more by mixing and matching gear, traits, and abilities.

You can also go rogue together with some friends in up to four-player co-op, split-screen or online. Mixing and match the strengths and weaknesses of different characters together for all sorts of mayhem.

Going Rogue

Streets of Rogue offers absolute freedom in how you play in a way that few other games even come close to matching. Each character has an overarching quest they need to complete on every floor of the city and other objectives placed within the randomly generated levels.

A soldier must blow up a certain amount of generators while a Thief needs to break in and steal from several chests or safes. At the same time, you may also need to rescue prisoners, neutralize some folks or retrieve specific items. Each objective grants you items, money, and XP.

The game is a complete sandbox full of expected and unexpected interactions. You have complete freedom in how you complete objectives. If you need access to a safe in a hideout, you might go in guns blazing, hire some goons, hack the security computer, or blow up a wall.

An assassin sneaks in a prison and releases captives using a computer in Streets of Rogue.
Setting Prisoners free is a good distraction and might earn you some allies.

If someone has an item you need, you might bribe, threaten them or take them out. What you can do is only limited by the current environment, your items, and your character’s abilities.

For example, most characters can do a few things with computers, but a hacker can do it remotely and has far more options. They can turn up the volume of a television as a distraction or even blow it up. They can even hack a refrigerator and send it crashing through the environments very destructible walls.

It’s even more entertaining if you have a friend playing a Comedian at the same time. They can knock on the door and tell the owner a joke. just pretend they asked if their refrigerator was running, because thanks to the Hacker it totally is now.

If you need a place vacated, use the air filtration system and put something in it, Nicotine will chase them out, but use Cyanide and everyone inside will explode and die.

In addition to starting items and abilities, different characters also have various stats and alignments. A wimpy scientist might have crappy melee, but that’s nothing a freeze ray and sledgehammer cant remedy. The cop starts aligned with every other cop on the map, meaning you have ally’s if crap hits the fan. Assuming they don’t see you do something illegal first.

An assasin uses a free ray then shatters a frozen enemy in Streets Of Rogue.
Items such as the free ray can open up new opportunities.

This extends to the NPCs as well. Most of them have alignments with each other and those can change and be manipulated. Get two rival gangs to meet and they will fight, trick someone into hitting someone else and you can start a brawl.

Assuming your character is one of the likable ones, you can hire others to help you. Get a Thief to pick a lock for you, or get some poor Slum Dweller to cause a ruckus and distract nearby NPCs.

Many games claim to give the player complete freedom, Streets of Rogue put most of them to shame. The world is your oyster. You choose to steal from it, shoot it, punch it, blow it up, or offer it drinks laced with poison as a skeevy bartender.

Making The City Great Again

The goal of Streets Of Rogue is to traverse 16 floors and deal with the corrupt mayor of the city. The stages are broken into five districts, The Slums, Industrial, Park, Downtown and Uptown. Each district has three floors.

While most districts have various businesses and houses, they are also very unique. The industrial district has flammable oil spills, minecarts, and all kinds of hazards. The park is where cannibals hide in bushes and vampires prey on people.

Downtown on the otherhand might feature super cops and mobsters. The businesses themselves can vary too. Downtown features clubs and fighting rings for example, while the park usually has science centers with carnivorous plants. In nearly every respect from characters, to playstyles to environments. Streets Of Rogue bursts at the seams with variety.

A hacker blows up a TV catching NPCs in the blast in Streets Of Rogue.
Watching Television is bad for your health, play video games instead.

Despite its sandbox nature, Streets Of Rogue is a challenging game. Planning your actions out is the most effective and rewarding way to play, even as more aggressive characters. Health is not easy to recover and all fights can be dangerous. If you die, that run is over but you carry over chicken nuggets between playthroughs.

The nug life is a tough one and you can spend them to unlock new items and traits to add to a random pool. You are rewarded with items during a run when completing objectives. These can be from simple lockpicks to an urn that allows you to unleash ghosts on someone’s premises. The game features a huge variety of weapons and items ranging from the mundane to the hilarious.

There are numerous traits to unlock.

You also get to choose from three random traits at the end of every floor that you gained a level on. You gain XP from nearly every action you take during the game. These traits can make you aligned with certain people, make your bullets light things on fire, or even make people flee from your ugly mug more often. They are all useful in some way depending on your playstyle.

The combat and shooting is basic, yet they don’t feel shallow. Button mashing, for example, will get you slaughtered and it pays to enter combat on your terms, with an advantage. Timing your swings is important to deflecting attacks and you can use the destructibility of the environments to your advantage.

A soldier places a landmin in Streets Of Rogue and watchs as an NPC steps on it.
A little planning can help even aggressive characters, like the soldier.

While the game encourages planning, the third stage of each district will throw a wrench into your carefully laid schemes. These are disaster levels and you have to complete your objectives with something nasty going on.

A killer robot might be hunting you, the police may have locked down the district, bombs might be falling or a zombie apocalypse could be nigh. These levels test your mastery of the system as you have to execute your careful planning quickly or get caught up in the chaos.

Do you know how difficult it is to serve people drinks as a bartender or to tell jokes as a comedian when zombies are chewing on people’s faces? On the other hand, if you are playing a Zombie you will welcome your brethren with open arms.

Streets of Replayability

From top to bottom Streets of Rogue is highly replayable. The game features 24 very distinct characters and a gigaton of items and traits all of which affect how you play the game and interact with the world. The game uses the concept of random generation to an absolute advantage in creating these sandbox worlds for you to engage with.

Adding more players ups the chaos but also the potential for various tactics. Players can work together as different characters to pull off stunts that would be impossible alone.

The Shapeshifter can hijack people and bring them to a discrete place for the Vampire to feed. A Slavemaster can tase folks while the Officer arrests them. The Thief and Hacker can make a great team for epic heists.

In splitscreen two players accidently lead an NPC into getting hit by a train.
Co-op opens up a lot of neat tactics. You can also laugh or cry together when stuff like this happens.

You can also create your own characters with a robust creation system allowing you to choose a character’s stats, abilities, starting items, and traits using a balanced point system. Alternatively you may simply toss the balance aside and make whatever overpowered monstrosity you wish, you just can’t obtain achievements or chicken nuggets with them.

Streets of Rogue also features a bunch of mutators you can activate to spice things up. This can range from mixing up districts, which hybrid features normally specific to certain districts into each other. Increase or decrease enemy health, give everyone rocket launchers, and more.

Streets of Rogue puts the choice of how you want to play into your hands, both in the game and during set up. Don’t like a certain disaster? Disable it. Don’t like a certain district? Disable that too. The level of freedom within the game is nearly unparalleled.

Verdict

Streets of Rogue is pretty much a unicorn of gaming in the fact that it delivers on all of its claims. This is super impressive because if you watch its marketing trailers or read the store pages its claims are incredibly outlandish, yet it nails each and every one.

I reviewed the game on Xbox One and pretty much my sole complaint boils down to the asymmetrical nature of updates. The console version is a great deal behind the PC version which includes a few characters and even a DLC. It’s okay to be a little behind, given the nature of game development, but they should really never be more than a month away from feature parity.

An oil slick bursts into flames during a Streets Of Rogue fun fight.
The environment can hurt you and your foes. Use it to your advantage.

In fairness. I would have never guessed the console version was behind if I were a normal consumer, the game is far to fun and packed with content to care. I only know because I’m a critic and do my due diligence. This isn’t significant enough to affect my verdict. But I know developers read these reviews, especially indie developers. So, Matt Dabrowski, this is me waggling my finger at you.

The fact of the matter is Streets of Rogue is an incredible game. It offers a degree of player freedom and agency that outmatches most other games that attempt it. The game is highly replayable and most importantly, it is a complete blast to play.

How many games allow you to assassinate people as a Ninja, throw toilets at people as a Wrestler, and chloroform people as a Doctor in the same game? Just one, and it does so in complete expert fashion. At full price, the game is just $20, which is an absolute steal.

If you made it this far you might be interested in my other reviews such as Mortal Glory. Want to help out the site, check out my Kofi page. If you are monetarily challenged, you can simply share my content with others!

Pros

  • Freedom to approach objectives any way you wish
  • Distinct cast of characters and robust character creation system
  • Massive amount of unlockable items, traits, and mutators
  • Five distinct districts
  • Massively fun emergent gameplay
  • Extreme replay value
  • Split-screen co-op
  • Tight and easy to learn controls

Cons

  • Some tongue in cheek content may be uncomfortable to some due to the current climate, such as slave masters and abusive police.
  • Consoles are far behind in updates relative to the PC version, even lacking a DLC character pack.

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