In my early days with the Nintendo Switch, I had an obsession with a particular type of indie game — Metroidvanias. More specifically, metroidvania platformers. Some of the most notable ones were Hollow Knight, Steamworld Dig (Parts I & II), The Messenger, Guacamelee 1 & 2, Ori (Parts I & II) and many more.
In recent years, I continue to play metroidvanias when I can find them, but another genre has risen to one of my top ones. Today, I’m very interested in Roguelikes and Roguelites. While many of the metroidvania platformers were very similar in style and gameplay, I’ve already seen all styles of roguelikes and roguelites.
Over the past few years I’ve seen roguelikes (and lites) take the form of first-person shooters (Deathloop), top-down dungeon crawlers (The Binding of Isaac), third-person shooter (Returnal), isometric action RPG (Hades) and even turn-based tactical games (Defend the Rook).
It’s fun to see where else game developers can take this idea of starting over after each death. Even within those parameters, you have games that allow you to add new abilities and upgrades each run. Others only allow you to take your new knowledge on your next run.
There have been times where I’m playing a game for a couple of hours before I even realize that it’s a roguelike (or lite). I’ve seen the game genre disguised in many different ways.
*To be clear, a Roguelike is a game which follows the basic structure of the game Rogue (1980).
A Roguelite is a game that may use some of the same principles, but not all.
Defending the Rook
Another game genre I’ve been interested in lately is the slower turn-based, tactical games. Defend the Rook is a roguelike tactical tower defense game where heroes must protect their kingdom against enemy invaders.
The turn-based combat takes place on a chessboard with waves of invading enemies. The story features two creatures playing a tactical tabletop game against each other where you control the heroes and have the ability to set different types of traps and obstructions.
Defend the Rook features five different levels (or worlds): The Mountains, The Icelands, Mushroom Glade, The Desert, and Volcanic Peak. So far I’ve only made it to the second level before dying, but the first two levels featured five waves of enemies.
The game allows both permanent and temporary hero, ability and item upgrades. There are a few ways to slowly build your team and defenses. You also gain a small upgrade after each completed enemy wave. I have mostly used these quick upgrades to resurrect a hero from the dead.
One of the many reasons I love roguelikes and games that have me start from the beginning after each death is that they are easy to jump in and out of. I like having these games as my “side pieces.” As I attempt to make my way through a big story game (like Elden Ring or Cyberpunk 2077) I always have some repetitive or online games on deck (Overwatch, Gran Turismo 7), and a buttload of roguelikes/lites.
Starting a game from the very beginning each time means there’s not much to remember. Even if you don’t remember what you’re doing, that’s ok, because it is now the beginning. I can attempt a run in Hades tonight and quickly remember how to play, because each time I’m starting over from the very beginning (I learn about my new upgrades as I collect them). The same can be said for Defend the Rook.
Another similar game I’ve been playing for about a year (on and off), is Evertried. It’s very similar to Defend the Rook in look and feel, but there is one huge difference. Both games take place on a chess-style board, but since the camera angle is a corner view of the board that means your hero is moving in a diagonal direction. What got confusing is that even though the two layouts look the same, the movement is the complete opposite.
In Evertried, pressing left or right on the D-pad will move your character side to side. In Defend the Rook, left and right mean forward and back. I sort of got used to this pretty quick, but I know if I go back to Evertried soon, the movement is going to mess with me.
Win Streak: 0
Another thing about roguelike/lite games is that I’m pretty sure I’ve never really beaten one. I do keep these games around for a long time. Many of them forever. You never know when you’ll only have a short amount of gaming time, so you may need to jump into a Roguelike/lite for a quick run.
The main problem I’ve had with many turn-based/slower games is that I sometimes try to make my choices too quickly and end up losing. I become very impatient and just want to get to the action. It’s called a turn-based strategy game for a reason — strategy. I also enjoy when a game tells you your next upgrade, or gives you a small amount of choices. When there are too many choices I just pick a random one and move on.
Overall, Defend the Rook is a pretty fun game and I plan to continue playing it. I do hope to beat all five levels/worlds one day, but if I don’t make it that far I will still have a good time with it.
Defend the Rook is out now on the Nintendo Switch eShop. It was released on Steam in October 2021.
*myVGBC.com was provided with a review code for Defend the Rook from the publisher.