The way science is able to break down materials into their bare essence through complex research and experimentation is fascinating. The Serpent Rogue by Sengi Games takes this idea to the next level by embracing alchemy and opening up the door to fantastic combinations of powerful potions.
You are The Warden, a hero destined to save the realm from the corrupted clutches of The Serpent Rogue. After taking a carriage ride out of the darkness, you’re acquainted with the controls and your humble base of operations, where you’re introduced to the alchemy and cooking systems by learning a few basic recipes. This all quickly balloons in depth and importance, introducing a new forging system shortly afterward, then an entirely new outpost.
This new outpost makes for a sort of second, larger base and renders the tutorial a bit confusing. That said, there is a ton of freedom to be had from the beginning in The Serpent Rogue and you can start making powerful weapons or alchemic concoctions rather early. Unfortunately, this makes the game give off a bit of a sink or swim attitude since you’ll need to have one of these systems click with you if you want to survive its roguelite world.
While these crafting systems are the heart of The Serpent Rogue and keep the game going, you’ll need to brave the corrupted world to get what you need. This often means being prepared with a way to deal good amounts of damage, heal effectively and ideally doing so while traveling under your character’s 40 lb weight limit. It can make the early game feel a bit rough, especially since you drop your inventory wherever you die in the world.
This makes survival key to your success. If you die, you’ll need to be able to account for the weight of what you lost, which makes light travel an even bigger priority. When coupled with a stamina bar that’s tied to attacking and dashing, things can get a bit troublesome. Especially since the only thing that refills it is eating, with better quality food giving larger energy amounts. Areas of the world prone to corruption storms will also reset once the storm is over, which you can track by using an icon in the middle of the screen when you’re in said areas.
When an area resets, it will keep the same layout and mechanics but reset the denizens and treasure within it. This puts an emphasis on the “lite” part of roguelite, as certain mechanics are reliably repeatable. Finding moonstones or crafting lockpicks to open chests after storms can be a great way to get tons of loot and crafting materials, which makes it easy to bounce back from a big loss or define your playstyle.
One of the most unique ideas The Serpent Rogue brings is the freedom in the crafting systems. Once you understand the logic behind how something is made in alchemy or forging, there’s little that won’t yield a good result. Powerful potions merely need a stronger base value ingredient, while some require a bit more complex formulas. From healing potions to aging potions, to polymorph potions that can turn enemies hit by it into chickens, alchemy allows for some unique and fun interactions.
This also goes for crafting weapons and tools with punch, as well. You’re able to upgrade swords and other tools you may find at a forge, giving them special properties that act like magic enchantments, ranging from adding elemental effects to removing wounds. You’re always free to experiment in any crafting system to discover your own combos as well, though it may result in wasted crafting materials, which may be tough to find early on. You can also find messages in bottles or scour the world of recipes. Lucky for you, though, alchemy is made a bit easier by following the bounty board for some quick cash.
Money is important in The Serpent Rogue as it’s your only way to obtain methods of purification to combat the corruption spread by the titular threat. This power comes from large concentrations of energy that erupts from a well in your camp after the Warden drops 100 coins into it. Your character will take this energy and contain it within a large vessel. You can either take the entire vessel to specific areas in the world to purify a large space, which usually opens up entirely new areas to explore, or you shatter the vessel after making it for potions. These flasks may be thrown at corrupted beings or growths in the world to purify them. This could net you a reward if you purify a human who is grateful to return to normal. If it’s an animal, you’ll have a chance to feed and tame it. Using a vessel to purify an area will require help, which is another thing money can buy.
Once you open up the pier, you’ll be able to purchase souls from the ghost ship. For a small fee, you can bind wayward souls to your Warden, who will help you whenever you need it. From combat to carrying vessels, humanoid companions become an invaluable asset while traversing the cursed world.
When all of these elements come together, The Serpent Rogue offers a unique gameplay loop that’s easy to get lost in. The gray and somber fantasy aesthetic gives the world an enticing edge, with a soundtrack that springs to life in combat and other tense situations. With the follower system, it’s not uncommon to have a small army out in the field with you if you need to get through a particularly dangerous area, especially if a vessel needs to get there.
However, these systems can all be a bit overwhelming at first and the burden of learning how prepared you must be for every situation lies on the players’ shoulders. If one of the crafting systems doesn’t click, you may find the game to be slow or even frustrating at times. While each storm randomizes loot in an area to a certain degree, it could be easy to find running through them again and again repetitive. Especially since each area will always retain its aesthetic and just resets after a while.
However, the roguelite gameplay loop offered by The Serpent Rogue feels fresh and engaging. Collectibles often have multiple uses, whether they are used for alchemy or not, and offer a palpable sense of progression to make the grind feel rewarding. The world itself is fun to explore and offers unique ways to explore it, with small puzzles littered about to give the player shortcuts around its deceptively large areas. These make moments of danger and strife feel worth it in the end, which sees The Serpent Rogue as a must play for roguelite fans and the perfect choice for someone looking for an experience that feels like their own.
A PC key was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
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