Developer: Nuke Nine
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Platformer, Multiplayer, Roguelike
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Also available on PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 27/01/22
A code was provided for review purposes
Over the last few years the rogue genre (and its many offshoots) has seen a mass influx of titles. From heavy-hitters such as Hades and The Binding of Issac, to an abundance of lesser known indie titles, there’s been no better time to be a rogue-like-lite fan. One such game that’s attempting its own spin on the formula is Vagante.
Developed by indie developer Nuke Nine, Vagante has been the team’s labour of love over the last ten years. While long development times are nothing new, does Vagante do enough to keep itself from being swallowed up by the crowd?
Set within a dark fantasy world, Vagante is filled with plenty of dangers. Everything from bandits, monsters, and demons roam its environments and it’s common place for would-be adventurers to simply disappear. A rumour soon speads that an uncharted cave lies just beyond the edge of a dark wood. Ladened with untold treasure, this cave has attracted many treasure hunters who are looking for fame and riches.
Plenty of adventurers have attempted to travel through the cave, yet none have returned. Now the next would-be hero steps into the cave’s dark entrance. And that person is you!
Fans of the genre will know that for most rogue titles, the narrative is often thin on the ground. Whilst some will expand their story via in-game lore, a title scrawl, or even character dialogue, Vagante offers none. There is a semblance of “plot” which is told via an in-game item, yet it’s so vague you’re left to your own interpretation.
This lack of explanation also bleeds into the gameplay as Vagante offers plenty to do, yet doesn’t tell you how to do it. As a whole, the game plays much like any other 2-D roguelike platformer. Before each journey you’re able to select your character’s class. While there’s only a couple available at the start, the rest of these classes unlock as you play. In traditional RPG style each class also has its own strengths and weaknesses, as well as various stats and starting load outs.
Once you have decided on what class you want to be, you then enter the ominous cave. Once inside your goal is to reach a locked door that signifies the end of that level. Along the way you’ll be able to loot various chests and battle plenty of monsters. Each floor also has its own shop which allows you to buy equipment. And to top this off there’s a boss character too. Once you’ve managed to get through the mystical locked door, you’re then treated to a Dark Souls style bonfire to restore some of your lost health. Then it’s off to repeat everything again.
To stop you from simply speeding through each level, Nuke Nine have placed plenty of enemies and chests to encourage you to explore. Thoroughly exploring each floor will net you with a fair amount of weapons, armour, and other goodies. Each level also features a store which allows you to buy some over priced gear. The down side to this is that you’re only rewarded a meager amount of gold per kill, and (as far as I’m aware) there’s no way to sell your unwanted gear. However considering Vagante‘s style of character progression this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Character progression isn’t as straight forward as other rogue titles. Whereas others allow you to keep any acquired currency, Vagante offers something different. Upon your character’s eventual death everything they had on them is lost. The only thing that carries over between each run is the experience points that the particular class has earned. This experience in turn allows you to unlock other character classes as well as a few permanent perks for your character. Personally, I would have liked to see a percentage of your earnings carried over between each run. Having to constantly start with the same default armour and weapons did get repetitive very quickly. Giving the option to at least kit yourself out during the first floor could have eliminated this monotony.
Upon first loading Vagante, the pixel style world offers for some gorgeous visuals. Each biome features a unique style which fits into their respective environments. Underground mines are littered with nervous looking stalactites and hastily built platforms. To contrast this the forest biome offers for some superb tree-top visuals that’s mixed with plenty of dark, brooding shadows of the underbrush. While everything may look well presented – much like the gameplay loop – it all becomes repetitive very quickly.
The problem with Vagante‘s world is that where it may seem vast, in reality it’s incredibly compact. The adventure is made up of four distinct locations. Each location also features three sub-stages with all featuring the same style of layout. This means that you’ll see the same drab environment of the opening location each and everytime you restart. Again, this repetitiveness is nothing new to seasoned rogue veterans, but when coupled with the harsh, repetitive gameplay it loses any sense of enjoyment.
Is Vagante an accessible game? The short answer is a resounding no. The lack of any handholding – aside from a very brief tutorial – means that a lot of the mechanics get lost in translation. Even something as simple as changing character meant a quick trip to a well known search engine to see how it’s done.
The game’s difficulty is at times unfairly harsh. Everything can, and will, kill you incredibly quickly. Even the most basic enemy can cause issues which often cuts a run short. There’s also an unnecessary knock-back effect which will knock you into other idle mods, or on a couple of occasions straight into an instant kill trap.
For those looking for an easier time, Vagante can be experienced via online and local co-op. This allows up to four would-be heroes to tackle the adventure together. When it comes to co-op the game is quite fun. Each team member compliments each other and having three players as the Knight, Rogue, and Mage works incredibly well. The only downside? It makes the single player experience that ever more lacking. If anything Vagante feels like it should be played with others. It doesn’t necessarily make the game easier, but does offset the monotony.
When it’s said and done, Vagante isn’t a terrible game. It’s clear that Nuke Nine have put a lot of work into crafting this experience. Yet where it gets a lot of its formula right, it equally gets a lot wrong. The general lack of any in-depth tutorial, and punishing degree of difficulty will certainly push the average gamer quickly onto another game. However, if you’re a fan of the rogue genre then there is a lot here to like, just don’t get attached to your character.
Rapid Reviews Rating
2.5 out of 5
Vagante is available now and can be purchased via the Nintendo Switch eShop by clicking here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.