The Serpent Rogue takes place in a medieval world in which terrible corruption has set in and threatens to destroy all. A mysterious group of beings, known as Wardens, are dispatched to make things right while helping humans with their requests.
You’re the latest Warden sent down to stop the corruption and save this world, mainly through the use of your alchemical skills. Those potions you’re so good at crafting are worth far more than any sword or axe. Part survival crafting game, part action-adventure exploration title, and part Rogue-lite, The Serpent Rogue packs a variety of systems and gameplay elements into one small package.
Sengi Games have opted for a no hand-holding approach to The Serpent Rogue. Apart from some small explanations on how certain things work, there is no actual tutorial to get you used to the game’s gameplay loop or in-depth explanations for the mechanics. What exactly do potions do, how do you recruit help and, most importantly, how do you cleanse an area – the concepts are all left for you to decipher. This approach makes the game both harder and tedious than it should be at times, but also allows you to play it at your own pace and, mostly, your own way.
The crafting/survival mechanics of the game come in the form of harvesting components from the world around you, cooking, brewing potions, and building items. Components need to be researched before you can use them and while there are recipes you can find, it’s best to just start throwing things together to see what they do. There’s a risk/rewards system to this approach as items that don’t combine can be lost, but it can also be quite some time before you find the recipe you’re looking for.
Potions have a variety of uses beyond simply healing yourself. You can age yourself or other creatures, purify or damage creatures, or turn yourself into other creatures to aid in exploration and resource scrounging.
Cooking plays a major role in the game. Well, eating does at any rate since your stamina bar is governed by your food bar. Actions, such as fighting, sprinting and healing, are essentially governed by how much food you’ve consumed. The bar depletes over time, especially with more complex actions – like using combos in fights or sleeping to pass the time – so you’re almost always going to have to be feeding your Warden. Not eating won’t kill you but it will mean that you can’t chain combos in fights or heal when injured. Additionally, you’ll have to listen to your Warden’s poor, poor stomach growling in distress.
The Serpent Rogue‘s world isn’t entirely empty. Apart from the corrupted life forms looking to kill you on sight, it’s also full of randomised NPCs and animal life, most of which you can recruit and tame. Before you can do that you do have to research the wildlife as well, which I thought was a nice touch that let you figure out their favourite foods and what items they carried. Humans tend to be easier to recruit because money talks even at the end of the world. Be warned though, while your pets and followers can join you in combat, they have a nasty habit of dying easily.
Combat is simplistic and one of the game’s weak points. You can lock onto enemies, but can’t dodge or strafe around them. You can block but it can be broken, which staggers you, and gives your opponent more time to damage you. The easiest way to fight, I found, was to equip a long-range weapon, attack, run back, attack, run back, and repeat until dead. It’s an awkward system at best, even when you take into account that you should be using your potions in the fight for their various properties.
Death is followed by a quick respawn at your camp. The price is that you’ll have dropped everything you were carrying where you died and, if you don’t recover the items before you die again, they’ll be gone forever.
Where the game does suffer though, is in its randomisation mechanic that affects pacing. Certain resources will always be in the same place – usually those reserved for base health and damage potions – but other resources and placements are randomised. You can be either very lucky and pick up those six raw fish you need in a couple of minutes, or you can be waiting hours to find even one. Resources that really affect how fast or slow you progress tend to be scarcer. For instance, in six hours of playtime, I encountered butterflies once, even though they’re part of the important Vivify (a.k.a. resurrection) potion.
Money, which you need to hire followers, is also in very short supply. The most effective way to rack up that cash is through selling potions or straight up stealing it from the random NPCs. The price on potions starts off great but drops very quickly to the point where you’re only been paid one coin per potion, whereas most NPCs carry maybe five or six coins on them. Money buys you followers, who you can’t progress without, but also buys you the purification containers you need to cure an area of corruption. And at one hundred coins a container, they aren’t cheap. Nor is the hired help. Purification containers can also be broken for purification potions, which you can’t make. So, if you want to be prepared to purify the world, you need spend a lot of time grinding for cash.
Complicating things further, corrupted areas are on a timer. A corruption storm sweeps in every couple of minutes and wipes the area, resetting everything. With that randomisation in play, it means you can either get lucky or have to wait yet again for another reset to see if you can get what you need. Because of this, I spent a lot of time running around like a headless chicken waiting for my luck to improve. This, I found, to be the game’s most frustrating mechanic. Even more so than the lack of hand-holding, you can always figure out through trial and error what you need to do, but it will cost you valuable resources and time.
Visually, The Serpent Rogue is a gorgeous looking game. The game sports stylised visuals replete with mostly flat shaded textures and black outlines that give the game a look somewhere between cartoon and graphic novel. The game also sports a truly stunning, soundtrack full of melancholic tunes and atmosphere inducing benders. The game’s Gothic sensibilities and atmosphere are excellent.
In conclusion, even with its frustrating and tedious moments, The Serpent Rogue manages to be an enthralling and encompassing adventure that drew me into the world the more I understood its mechanics. Eventually, I adjusted to the game’s languid pace and enjoyed the atmosphere as I continued to explore – with a growing desire to cleanse this world’s heart of its corruption.
A Review code for The Serpent Rogue was provided to Gameblur by the Publisher.
Visuals8/10 Very Good
Story8/10 Very Good
- Excellent soundtrack
- Wonderful visuals
- Melancholic atmosphere
- Randomisation of items can be tedious
- Lack of explanation is initially frustrating
- Combat is weak