February 14, 2018
Can love truly bloom on the battlefield?
Roguemance, developed by Lucas Molina, presents itself as a “roguelike with romance,” utilizing simple, 8-bit like graphics and a playful premise to provide lovers of RPGs and other similar genres a good time.
A heart-shaped island splits in half and it is up to the player and the allies they recruit along the way to put it back together by completing randomly generated battles in addition to making non-combat-related decisions that can aid your quest.
Players create a character and customize their appearance with the limited options offered, in addition to choosing a “class” that provides an initially fixed set of skills to use in combat. Over time, players will be able to recruit allies, or rather, “partners,” to aid them on their quest to fix the island.
Much of the game is riddled with and based upon double-entendres and jokes alluding to dating. For instance, the pun within the game’s own title and the symbolism of the heart-shaped island being a broken heart is obvious. Battles are referred to as “dates,” and a particular healing skill is visualized as blowing a “kiss.”
The player is often led into moments of decision, even when simply walking along a stage. Allies may walk towards choices they prefer, which can either mean the option of getting a random item or engaging in combat, which can boost one ally’s feelings towards you at the cost of another one’s. Ultimately, the heart of the game comes from building relationships with these allies over the aspect of combat itself. It is through combat that the player should work with allies which may inevitably boost or hurt this bond. The player is constantly reminded that choices such as these do matter, and such choices may not appease everyone.
At first glance, it is easy to paint the combat system as similar to the likes of the time-based, hectic nature of Crypt of the NecroDancer and the aesthetics of a rhythm game like Dance Dance Revolution. However, Roguemance’s combat is honestly more similar to a waiting system present in many turn-based role-playing games.
Players and enemies choose moves along a rotating wheel, and they do not enter into action until they are selected. These moves occur all at the same time for that round. Everyone’s moves can be seen in the combat screen, symbolized through icons, so timing and thinking ahead is a necessary aspect to winning.
For instance, choosing an action when an enemy might be expected to jump next turn can easily mean accidentally healing an enemy or hurting an ally if you don’t play your cards right. Combat and strategizing can get even more complex when enemies later on are capable of doing attacks that move in real time in contrast to the turn-based system. More is at stake when it comes to making choices more quickly.
At the end of each battle, you are given the options to either show mercy to the enemies by letting them live, or to cast your final blows and end them in exchange for gold. What you choose can be influential to the liking of your ally. Completing and winning the final battle at the end of each stage cuts away to a brief scene showing the island halves slowly moving back together a small increment each time.
On completing a whole run of the game, a loop triggers. After beating the final boss, you choose an ally to become your committed partner and essentially “have a child:” this new character is a merge of your respective appearances and skills, and you play this character through the loop when the heart-shaped island breaks apart once again. It is assumed this loop repeats with every completion of the game, until the player decides to start new game from a blank slate.
There is something poetic about the game endlessly looping despite what appears to be the triumph of putting the island back together. It unfortunately splits apart again when the first “child” becomes of age to adventure just as their parents did, insinuating this cyclical pattern of heartbreak is doomed to repeat. The highs and lows of meeting new people and facing losses is made out to be a universal experience.
Despite how fleeting my time was with some allies, their deaths have definitely saddened me. Given how there is little to no dialogue, Roguemance manages to achieve the same feeling of attachment through its battles that brief encounters can grant us in real life.
Ultimately, Roguemance is a fun, brief experience for anyone who wants a quick test of patience and an aspect of puzzle-solving. It is certainly not a full-blown RPG that can provide an arduous journey with a deep storyline, but it is definitely a worthwhile adventure that can provide a brief, titillating experience with a few giggles.
Roguemance isn’t just entirely about the double entendres and sexy jokes: what comes with the game is a gentle reminder of both the pleasantness and pain found in forming relationships, as temporary as they may be. It doesn’t necessarily take finding new love to mend a heart back together, it’s the choices made to survive the journey that help us get there.
Elvie is an animator by day and tries too hard to be everything else by nightfall. Feel free to join her in screaming about anime and animals as she puts off what she should be really doing at @lvmaeparian.