Books are pretty spooky, right? All those words, all that dust, sometimes they don’t even have pictures! I’m as horrified as you are. You’ll be extra horrified, though, by the Roguebook. It’s a living, malicious book known for trapping adventurers. The only way to get out once you’re inside is to journey through the fantastical lands within. Naturally, it’s also full of monsters, so you’ll want to steel your mettle before setting out – but if you need an advantage, a little bit of art here and there might provide just the boost you need.
I don’t know if I’d call Roguebook a clone of Slay the Spire, but let’s just say the serial number is missing and there was a suspicious file found nearby. You’ve still got a deck that you build over time by collecting new cards and trimming out cards that don’t work for you. Victory is still all about paying attention to enemies’ intentions and adjusting your own moves to match.
Conserving health is the order of the day as always, since healing is rare and precious. If you’ve played any of the millions of deckbuilders that have come out in recent years, you’ll know what to expect here.
That’s not to say Roguebook doesn’t do anything unique. The most interesting feature is that you’re not just playing as one character, you’ve actually got a duo that you form before you start your run. Both party members have their own health value and cards, though in practice you’ll have a hand composed of both characters’ cards at once. Since damage can be split between party members, it’s to your benefit to distribute pain in such a way as to keep your guys alive for as long as possible. One character falling in battle is a big problem, but it’s possible, though difficult, to survive this and revive your fallen hero.
Forming a synergistic team can make your run much easier – naturally, a tank and a damage-dealer will do especially well = but it’s also fun to try combinations that aren’t as obviously compatible. Try the mage and damage-dealer, for instance, if you want a rewarding challenge, or put the two tanky characters together to absolutely stomp the game flat. Balance is a bit of a concern from that perspective, but the developers are being responsive and adjusting things.
Creating decks is also more interesting given the customizability of your party, enabling more complex archetypes than would be possible if you were playing only one of these characters, and it’s even possible to customize your cards a little bit and tweak them to your liking. Magic: The Gathering creator Richard Garfield had a hand in the mechanics of this one and it shows.
Oh, and yes, Monster Train basically did this same two-classes idea back in May of last year. We’ll let it slide.
Along with this, there’s the actual exploration mechanics to consider. By default, each area of the Roguebook is a straight line to the boss with a couple fights here and there. If you just charge ahead you’re going to get stomped because you weren’t able to upgrade your deck. That’s where Ink comes in, allowing you to paint in your own path around the map. By using Ink to reveal chunks of the map, you can find cards, gear and items that’ll give you the edge. Ink’s a limited resource, though, and carefully planning which parts of the map to fill in is one of the keys to success.
If you’ve played Faeria you might recognize Roguebook’s style and even some of the characters and monsters. That’s a nice touch, but given that game’s relative obscurity much of what players encounter might seem new. That’s totally fine, of course. Roguebook’s presentation has a whimsical and appealing thread running through it that lends even the less interesting monster designs a little bit of pizazz. It also runs exactly as you’d expect a card game to run, which is pretty much perfect.
Card games are a dime a dozen these days, but players looking for a booster pack could do worse then opening up the Roguebook. The two-character system lends this deckbuilder a lot of replayability and there’s plenty of reasons to go back. Coming up with just the right card combo to devastate your enemies is as satisfying as it ever was. If you’re itching for that very specific scratch that only comes from triumphantly activating your trap card, Roguebook might be for you.