Whether you are new to my designer journals or a returning reader, I am happy to know that you have stopped by to learn a bit more about Rogue Angels, a new sci-fi adventure crawler coming to Kickstarter later this year :)
I was initially going to talk some more in-depth about the moving parts of my game, until a friend of mine stopped me and asked: "What about doing a general overview, where you connect all the dots for potential players out there?"
So today I will present Rogue Angels more as a whole and provide you with both thoughts and overview :)
Rogue Angels can be summarized in many ways, and it depends a lot on the emphasis you put on each of its qualities and how much space you have available. Like I have mentioned in a previous post, this could be as short as "imagine Mass Effect as a board game" ;)
For this post I will be dissecting the phrase I used on my Kickstarter "notify me on launch"-page:
"A cooperative (1-4) sci-fi adventure crawler with multiple paths, player-driven solutions, evolving characters and intertwined stories."
Rogue Angels is a true/full cooperative experience where players try to achieve the game's objectives and fight AI-driven adversaries. Player characters have their own origins and reasons for joining the team, but they ultimately all work together for greater goals than themselves. The characters are so diverse, that if you want to play solo, you must play two-handed to successfully complete the missions.
You will find co-ops where it is possible for players to wander off and groom their own agendas/goals. This is not possible for Rogue Angels as I have created most missions with some sort of narrative-driven time pressure. More enemies are coming, facilities go on lockdown, fire spreads, or your cover is blown.
- In practice this means that mission success hangs in the balance of proper cooperation, table-talk, and utilization of each character's strengths within a plan of execution.
Rogue Angels takes part in a fleshed out universe/future where humans and aliens have colonized large parts of the galaxy. A lot of history already exists and both new and old struggles are portrayed through various story beats.
- In practice this means that the sci-fi world-building is a big part of the game's experience.
The sci-fi setting has affected how I decided to tell the story, its atmosphere, and how it is woven into the design of both game play and story mechanics through technology, struggles, reasoning, and stakes (previous post on world-building).
Rogue Angels manifests its experience in two arenas - The campaign book (the adventure part) and The map book (the crawler part). When fused together it creates a blend of both, where the game never goes full RPG/story or full hack'n'slash/crawler.
- In practice this means that neither the story nor the action takes over in such a way that you forget about the other.
What happens in the campaign will be represented on the maps, and what happens on the maps will be honored through consequences in the campaign (the dance of the three design pillars).
To provide a smooth experience all maps are presented in a book to ease the setup. To avoid longwinded breaks in gameplay, you are ever only presented with one page at a time in the campaign book. Players only have to focus on what is in front of them, at any given time (1 campaign page & 1 map), and never go back and forth between pages, temporary rule changes, or setup.
When it comes to the "crawler" aspect of Rogue Angels, it has several similarities with games like Gloomhaven, Imperial Assault, Stars of Akarios, Descent, Shadows of Brimstone etc.
- In practice this means that characters are represented on the map with different combat, move, and interaction abilities that allow players to fight enemies, solve puzzles, and complete other objectives.
You control your character by playing action cards into a cooldown track below the character sheet. This action management mechanic has been merged with a damage system that enrichens the decision space for each player while also providing a deep layer of satisfying planning and execution.
Like other co-ops, the enemies are controlled by the game's AI, providing different types of enemies and behaviors. Where Rogue Angels differ a bit is in how it utilizes a more nuanced context-driven AI, to give players more thematic and realistic adversaries.
To best facilitate cooperative table-talk with balanced player actions and inputs, a mission unfolding, and an interfering enemy force, the play sequence of Rogue Angels is a continued three-step cycle, where things can potentially evolve after each player turn.
I have designed Rogue Angels to tell an epic tale of bravery, adventure, and intergalactic struggles. Just like the Mass Effect games, Rogue Angels presents players with influence, and gives them agency to choose where and how they want to approach this tale.
- In practice this means players have a say in many aspects of how to approach the plot.
Rogue Angels is not a sandbox and the plot is the focus point of the whole experience, but it is still open enough to provide incentives to explore elements and choices aligned with the players' agency and performance.
For scale I have placed a flowchart of the campaign's first two chapters below (no spoilers).
While the goal of Rogue Angels is straight forward: "Complete the story with your characters.", the game still presents several layers of player agency. As previously mentioned, you will find lots of choices on the campaign book level: "Where should we go?", "Who do we save?", but the choices extend all the way down to the mission and map level.
- In practice this means many of the missions can be solved in more than one way, and most missions have moveable parts or several ways to approach the same challenges.
I have incorporated mission-based rule changes, NPCs, companions, and environment that may present clever ways to defeat or trick enemies, rewarding player ingenuity, and encourage repeated play-throughs.
As the game works with a fail forward system, there are no do-overs beyond the first segment of each mission, meaning you will have to live with all your choices, big and small. Your story is forged and sealed with each step forward.
Rogue Angels is a legacy game at heart, where the choices and consequences of your actions stay with you. Both your choices and performance will determine which missions are available, who you might encounter, how the plot moves forward, and ultimately who your character will shape up to be.
- In practice the legacy elements are split into both adventure and crawler parts of the game.
Some elements mostly refer to events and choices made through the campaign like "legacy dots", while others define the relationships you create with NPCs and factions through choices. Scars are mostly a representation of your performance, while card upgrades are largely direct player inputs.
To synthesize the consequences of choices and performance, the campaign does not adhere to a strict approach. This is to try to avoid players "gaming the system" or min-maxing their character in a specific way.
- In practice this means that I try to keep things unknown, that missions do not follow an exact pattern, and that some NPC encounters and events happen randomly within the plot.
Just like the blend between adventure/story and crawler/combat, I try to strike a balance between direct and indirect consequences in Rogue Angels. Sometimes you are given more explicit information, other times I spread hints within the dialogue.
- In practice the game provides more gray areas. Allowing the players to explore their own thoughts, instead of the plot telling them what to think. Players can stay true to their mission, character, and/or morality.
All of the components can be reset, if you would like to replay an old character in a new campaign.
Each character in the game comes with its own baggage, and the legacy folder was created to guide players through their character's personal struggle and story.
- In practice this means that the legacy folder will slowly unwrap a unique story for the player's character.
This will open up a few upgrades and personality traits. A personal mission will also be available, which will require the player to bring the rest of the team with them on a tailormade sidequest.
Some companions and NPCs also have personal quests that may be unlocked through the campaign, depending on the players' allegiance and choices. Once you have completed Rogue Angels, your mosaic of stories and achievements will be unique to your play-through and be an experience worth talking about :)
Angels can both rise and fall...
To summarize Rogue Angels
Thanks again for taking part in my journey :)
Now I hope you will share your thoughts on how I described Rogue Angels. What do you think is the most appealing aspect of the game? and what do you expect to experience once it is available?
You can also read what other reviewers and play testers think here.
Thank you for your support :)
Best regards Emil