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‘Monument Valley’ studio returns with a cerebral and sporty roguelike, ‘Desta’

Ustwo, the studio behind Monument Valley and Alba: A Wildlife Adventure, is working on a new game called Desta: The Memories Between. It features a blend of roguelike, turn-based and sports-game mechanics, and it’s in development for multiple platforms — though exactly which remains a mystery, as does the game’s release date. The studio promises to share more information in the coming months.

Desta

ustwo

Desta takes place in two worlds, reality and a limbo made up of the protagonist’s memories, and its main gameplay mechanic involves throwing around a blue ball. The story follows Desta, a person in their 20s who returns home after leaving their loved ones in chaos a while back. Desta’s dad has died, and when they find his treasured blue ball, they’re transported to a dreamlike world where they can confront their past and speak with the people they left behind. Solving physics and spatial puzzles with the ball unlocks dialogue with Desta’s friends and family members, and helps them find the necessary words to move forward.

The game is fully voice acted, and ustwo developers are pulling inspiration from games like Hades and Into the Breach for its mechanics.

Desta

ustwo

Desta is the deepest, most ambitious and most replayable title from ustwo games yet, but with all the heart and approachability that the London studio is known for,” according to ustwo.

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Game

Deck-building roguelike Monster Train heads to Switch this month

Roguelikes are some of the most popular indie games around at the moment, and as the genre becomes more crowded, we’ve seen several different sub-genres sprout up. One sub-genre that’s proven to be very popular is the deck-building roguelike, the success of which was spearheaded by games like Slay the Spire. Today, we learned that one of the best deck-building roguelikes, Monster Train, is coming to Nintendo Switch.

Even better is the fact that the Switch version of Monster Train is just around the corner, with developer Shiny Shoe Games announcing a release date of August 19th today. Monster Train: First Class will run $29.99, which is five dollars more than the base game costs on Steam. It’s worth noting, however, that Monster Train: First Class comes with The Last Divinity DLC, so actually, you’re paying a little less on Switch than you would for the base game and DLC on PC.

That’s good news, as oftentimes we’ll see games get a little price hike when coming to the Switch, so it’s nice to see that’s not happening with Monster Train. In any case, Shiny Shoe Games confirmed today that the Switch version will feature cross-play between the PC and Xbox versions of the game, but unfortunately, there won’t be support for cross-saves.

In addition, Switch players will be able to play through the Community and Daily Challenges and generate and share their own challenges. Monster Train is a game about reclaiming Hell from the forces of Heaven, and you’ll do that by building decks of cards containing all different kinds of minions and monsters.

For those who enjoyed Slay the Spire, Monster Train is well worth checking out because the two titles strike similar notes while still feeling very distinct. The eShop listing for Monster Train is already live, so feel free to peruse that, but otherwise, look for the game to land on Switch on August 19th.

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Tech News

Roguebook is the most polished roguelike deckbuilder I’ve played

Roguebook is a delightful little deckbuilding roguelike from developer Abrakim Entertainment SA, the makers of Faeria.

While the genre’s become a bit saturated over the last few years, Roguebook has a lot going for it. For starters, legendary game developer Richard Garfield – the creator of Magic: The Gathering – was involved in the creation and development of the game.

What really caught my eye, however, was the fact that this is one of the few games that’s had its release date moved up. It was originally slated for release later this year, but it’ll be available on 17 July.

Up front

Roguebook takes the roguelike premise (you die a lot and have to start over often, but you gain experience with each playthrough that aids in your overall progress) and combines it with card collecting and turn-based combat.

Game play involves traversing an occluded hexagonal map to collect various items and power-ups on your way to confronting a big, bad, boss. Combat is engaged by approaching an icon where you’ll be transported to a battle screen.

You play entirely at your own pace, there’s never a countdown timer or short window of opportunity to react. In that way, it plays a bit more like a card scrapper than your average roguelike, but we’ve seen this formula before in similar independent games.

What sets Roguebook apart is its polish. This is a game that plays smart and rewards players of all skill levels. What I like most about it is that literally everything you do (or don’t do) matters.

The great

Few games nail learning curve like Roguebook does. There were a few tense moments in the beginning where I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to be doing, but the game does a great job of letting you fail your way to understanding.

This is an incredibly easy game to play, but with each successive defeat I felt like I’d exponentially increased my strategic knowledge. There are depths to Roguebook’s gameplay that will take dozens of hours to truly discover.

And, like most roguelikes, this one has incredible replay value.

The dev team has set the bar perfectly when it comes to challenge as I found myself cheering over close-fought victories more than a few times during my first full play-through and eager to dive back in after each defeat.

A screenshot from the game Roguebook

The good

Sound values are great and the story is intriguing. The basic premise is that you’re stuck in a book and you have to fight your way out. But this particular book is a special one. It exists in the same game universe as Faeria so players familiar with the previous title will enjoy the continuation.

Make no mistake however, you don’t have to play one to enjoy the other. Where Faeria was mostly a multiplayer showdown game, Roguebook is a single player experience.

I was also intrigued by the character mechanics. You choose a team of two heroes from a team of four distinct characters. Each one is very nuanced in both their gameplay and overall lore and attitude. The voice acting is limited to battlefield shouts, but they’re well executed and enjoyable.

A screenshot from the game Roguebook

The not so good

Roguebook is too short. I know it’s a roguelike and beating it over and over is sort of the point, but I dashed through in about an hour and a half on my first play through. And by the time I’d unlocked all the characters, I was already wishing there were more.

I like almost everything about Roguebook, I just wish there were more of it. The levels are a bit sparse and there isn’t much in the way of build up. Most of the mileage you’ll get from this game comes from the joy of becoming powerful in different ways. But there needs to be more levels and bosses to wield that power at, and more allies to dress up with gear and items.

I was also unimpressed by the graphics. They’re a bit… mobile-friendly… for my taste. I will say they stand out as bright and super easy to read. But without looking at a screenshot right now, I honestly can’t remember exactly what most of the game looks like. Nothing really stood out except the enemy designs (top marks for whoever drew those up).

A screenshot from the game Roguebook

The bottom line

Roguebook’s a pretty good game right now and well worth the purchase. If it gets post launch support and additional content it’ll be a must-play. I can’t think of a more polished roguelike than this one. The one time my game crashed, I was able to continue where it left off. 

From the moment you click “new run,” almost nothing gets in the way of you having fun. It plays fast and fun and it had me saying “just one more run and I’ll write the review” for hours.

Roguebook launches on Steam and all major consoles on 17 June.

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