Title: Pylon: Rogue
Genre: Action, Indie, RPG
Developer: QuantumSquid Interactive
Publisher: QuantumSquid Interactive
Release Date: Sep 21, 2017
Pylon: Rogue is a game that feels firmly rooted in the PC games of the past. This action-RPG leans more heavily on the action side of the aisle, with some standard RPG character progression tossed in to spice things up. But while I really dig this sort of game, you really need to know what you are getting yourself into before going all in on this title. Pylon: Rogue is a game created by a group of passionate developers, and because of this it’s designed for a very thin slice of the gaming market.
The game is set up like a classic roguelike, so if that isn’t your bag of tea you have already stopped reading this review. Because of the genre, Pylon: Rogue loves killing you and death will become your closest companion. Hell, the games loading screen straight out tells you that death is coming. Just understand that your life is precious in the game, and you can really only refill your HP in the store before entering each level. Well, you can if you have the money for it. That’s not to say that health pickups don’t show up, but they are so rare that you never really expect them when they do show up, making for a nice surprise.
Pylon: Rogue is laid out like a sort of board game when you dive into it. You move across the stage (think of how Super Mario Bros. 3 does it) and enter sub-stages to clear them out of enemies. Before entering each sub-stage, the menu lets you know how many doors your can expect within. These sub-stages are themselves split up by doors you have to enter. Once inside a door you are presented with a goal you must accomplish before you can open another door. Well, one goal really, and that’s killing every enemy inside. But the challenge comes from these areas having enemies set up in waves. So, some doors might lead to a single wave that easy to clear, while other toss multiple waves at you.
It’s all a bit of good fun the first few times, but you’ll quickly find out that Pylon: Rogue isn’t some joke. Each time you clear an area you unlock another door, but you also get a chest filled with goodies. Playing with the beginner characters these chests will reward you with money and the odd health power up. Using harder to use characters will cause better items and sub-weapons to drop for you to use to get through the multiple areas. Once you clear enough rooms an exit will show up and you can leave the area, marking it complete. If you are feeling lucky you can finish each room and earn yourself an uber chest for your trouble. Just know that healing is not an option, so you better way your odds (I usually bailed as I was always near death).
Once you complete a stage a lock from the final area is broken, and when you complete enough stages you can tackle the end level and move on to the next world. It all seems so easy, but the game is always looking for was your screw you over, and does so very early. It took me far longer than intended simply to beat the first world I was dropped into, even on the beginner level. Strangely enough, I had better luck on the upper level difficulty because Pylon: Rogue sets difficulty by the character you select. This is one big shortcoming for me as I feel like characters shouldn’t be locked off from players that simply want to enjoy them.
The Diablo series has all sorts of classes, and while some are harder to use than others, using one won’t keep you from enjoying the game, at least not in the early stages. And I’ll go back to the statement earlier about doing better with upper level characters. You see, if you choose the beginner character, you are going to be going with the melee knight. He’s a cool enough character with two weapon options available to choose from (each character has multiple that require unlocking), but he is at a disadvantage. In fact, most melee characters are at a disadvantage in Pylon: Rogue.
Enemies are all over the place in terms of design and power. I mean, you are going to be fighting dinosaurs at the same time as winged demons while Medusa snake things are around the corner. I love all of those things, but I do feel like each should have their own dedicated world. Anyways, the issue is that a lot of enemies fire projectile, which is par for the course. Problems come up with enemies that you really can’t deal with in a melee fashion without taking damage (I’m looking at you sandworms and poison spitters). This wouldn’t be bad in something like Diablo, but in Pylon: Rogue you don’t get health powerups thrown your way all that often, with me going through entire stages without even seeing one.
This means that you are going to almost have to take damage and this means you are going to die far quicker with a slow melee character. Sure, they have some abilities to help with this, but there are still enemies programmed that you can’t avoid unless you are MLG pro status. This makes the game hard not because of the difficulty, but because of the design. Being a hard game is just fine, but the player should feel like they are in control and should be able to figure out how best to deal with enemies. The easiest option shouldn’t be to just play as a different class. The range characters fare much better in the enemy department, so I suggest going with the archer for the most fun.
Visually, Pylon: Rogue looks fine for what it is, but the stages often feel a bit too busy for my liking. The engine works well, but the character models are far too similar to the word around them that it’s really easy to lose you place in the action. Enemies are often really small and this makes it nearly impossible to see them in the jungle level if they aren’t firing a projectile. Again, because you don’t get much health, this means you are going to take damage that simply doesn’t feel fair at all. Pylon: Rogue is a hard game, but so much of that difficulty feels cheap rather than challenging. And, for whatever reason, everything tends to look dull when in motion. I’m pretty sure it’s an issue with the engine that the team used as the included screenshots here show.
Combat is at least pretty rewarding. Everything is really smooth and combat is a satisfying affair. You have three buttons/keys to play with: a standard attack, a defensive move, and a special move that requires scrolls to use. Like the health pickups, theses scrolls are pretty rare, so you are going to have pick your battles well. But like the health, you can restock these scrolls in-between stages in the store. It’s a very simply combat system, but one that works fine within the larger experience.
Where the combat gets spiced up is with the games combo system. It’s all and arcade hack-n-slash, but the standard attacks can be chained with special and defensive attacks. But you can also simply one-button combo to take on larger groups of enemies. You hit three times and on the fourth hit hold the attack button and you can unleash a more powerful attack. Likewise, you can charge your standard shot for a more powerful attack that might cause a status effect along with it on enemies. But, again, you’ll find that ranged characters have the upper hand in combat.
I have a lot of issues with how the difficulty in the game is handled, as well as the drop rate, especially early in the game, for health pickups, but there is still something about Pylon: Rogue that kept me coming back. It helps so much that each run you make is going to be different (this includes being dropped into an entirely different world) because of the roguelike nature. It also helps that the game s built for short play sessions. And once you get comfortable with how that game works and start stacking items and gaining levels, things start to get fairly addicting. I just wish that difficulty wall wasn’t so high right from the get go.
At the end of the day Pylon: Rogue is a game for fans of the genre only. I would not recommend this one if it’s going to be your first roguelike, but if you’ve been around the block a few times then you are probably going to have a lot of fun with this indie title. Just be ready to get to know death very, very well.
“Pylon: Rogue is unforgiving in its difficulty and only for hardcore fans of the roguelike genre”
A copy was provided for this review