Saturday, October 8, 2011

Review: Rock of Ages

Time for some reviews of stuff I've played recently.  I think I'll start with a long overdue Rock of Ages review.

Rock of Ages

Good:

The concept is brilliant, and the execution superb.  Seriously, this is like one of the most amazing, original, and fun games I've played.

Basically you have a timer that counts down to when your next rock will be built, and play tower defense for this time period.  Once you're ready to roll, you swap into a Monkey Ball like rolling game to roll down your opponents side of the field, and hopefully smash their gate. Money is earned in this mode for smashing into other things as well, but your boulder will take damage and shrink, lowering your total damage done to the enemy gate.  The money is then used in between boulder runs to build more of your own defenses.

The resulting gameplay is a very potent mix of action and strategy that proves time and again to be very entertaining.  The balance between getting enough money to literally buy yourself more time through defensive layouts, and racing to break your opponent's gate before he/she/it breaks yours is the core of the game.  This simple but super complex concept is what sells me on Rock of Ages, it's so simple you can tell your friend in a minute how to play, yet it can take weeks of play to figure out the "ideal" defensive layout for each stage.

Thanks to very good balance between all the game elements, and plenty of stages, the game manages to be all around a very fun experience.  The single player story mode is especially random and wacky all the way through, and well worth the price of the game.

The team is still around, fixing and making the already great game even better.  Meaning a lot of bugs have been fixed so far and some new balancing features are added/tweaked every now and then to polish the game even more.

The game has the simple joy of finally breaking open a gate and watching your enemy scream in girly terror before you squish them with a boulder that's 20 times their height in a very anti-climatic fashion.  The spike of joy this hilarious cartoon joke brings will simply never get old. 

Bad: 

No offline mode save support.  Edit: This issue was fixed in a patch since my last play of the game, and no longer is an issue.  Game plays offline just fine now.

PC multiplayer is a bit of a pain.  Internet multiplayer is no problem, but you will need a steam account with a copy of the game for both players.  (You can't just play in offline mode, it will not connect to itself even over a LAN.  We tried.)  The game does have split screen like the console version, but currently you will need 2 wired X-box 360 controllers due to the game's use of the UT3 engine's control schemes.  Other controllers do not work, unless you use a third party emulator software to turn them into X-box360 input, which can be a pain to set up depending on how your controllers are connected and what buttons they have.  Because of these issues, I have yet to actually play a multiplayer game myself.

The AI is sometimes...well, not the brightest of players.  It's saying something when on one particular stage, I won the game by making them stuck on a series of fans rolling up the same hill again and again forever.  Thankfully this type of stage/stupidity isn't the common reaction for the AI, and requires quite a bit of out of the box thinking to set up usually.  Still, it's quite obvious that the AI pretty much never takes any shortcuts or tries anything special to get through your defenses.  Place a fan along their favorite route, and they will pretty much always run directly into it no matter how visible it is to them.

In fact, the way the later stages get "harder" is by giving the AI better preset defensive layouts to start with, while you start with nothing, of course.  The fact this makes it an even fight for a skilled player should tell you pretty much what to expect from the AI.

Good and Bad:

The boss fights.  The bosses themselves are basically a giant puzzle, which in principle tests your skills and timing with rock control, but in reality just feels like filler content when actually played (especially the second boss, which boils down to a tiny timing minigame with a lot of ground to climb up in between timing tries).  It's especially jarring that the gameplay for the boss fights are so generic when the rest of the game has so much creativity and inventiveness in it.

It should be noted I am only berating the actual gameplay of the boss fights, not the bosses themselves.  The artistic side of the bosses is easily one of the best parts of the game.  This is why I am split 50/50 on this issue, because while I didn't enjoy most of the time "fighting" the bosses, it wasn't exactly boring to play either, and if they were removed I would surely miss them.

Conclusion:

Even without the multiplayer, I still think Rock of Ages is well worth the very reasonable price of only $10.00 USD.  You can grab it for Steam, or if you hate steam with a passion or want easier split screen play, it's also on the Xbox360 Live marketplace.  (I don't know if the Xbox360 marketplace version will have the updates from the team since I don't have experience with that market.)  

Here's a handy link straight to the steam store page, which has three very entertaining trailers that might run the risk of being less entertaining then the game simply because of their short length(especally the rock beats everything trailer):


Till next post, Gawain signing off.

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