> # Welcome to GameGrinOS v1.01 > # How can I help you? > # Press ` again to close
Hello… | Log in or sign up
Roguebook Review

Roguebook Review

“Roguelike”, “deckbuilder”, and “card battler” are hardly exciting buzz words when describing a newly released videogame. With games such as Griftlands and Slay the Spire already providing perfect experiences of the genre, it can be very difficult for new ones to leave a lasting impression. Enter Roguebook, the second game from developers Abrakam, who have this time partnered with the legendary Richard Garfield (prolific game designer and inventor of Magic: The Gathering!) to create a roguelike deckbuilder that isn’t afraid to try new ideas. Whilst the game may seem daunting at first, with enough cards, enemies, and loot to overwhelm players, is this (rogue) book a page turner that’s hard to put down, or is it destined to get lost in the shuffle?


Each hero plays differently and brings their own advantages

We start with our first player character Sharra awakening in a world unbeknownst to her, alongside a mysterious cat-like humanoid named Naddim, who explains that they are trapped within the Roguebook. The pages of the book are blank and our heroes are unable to venture outside of the small hexagonal spaces they stand on. Our furry friend gives Sharra a paintbrush that, when used, uses magical ink to fill in the surrounding spaces. Revealing more of the map, we find the half-ogre Sorocco, who joins Sharra in attempting to escape the Roguebook. After a brief tutorial battle, Naddim tells us that to finish the story, creatures that guard portals to other worlds must be defeated, in the hopes that one of the portals will let them escape.

With Roguebook being a deckbuilder, the story is far from deep and engrossing. However, there is just enough here to keep players wanting to push forward, and fans of Abrakam’s first game Faeria will recognise the characters, as Roguebook is based within the same universe. It’s worth noting that as someone who has never played Faeria, I definitely didn’t get the sense that I was missing out on some crucial lore or important character backstories; it simply isn’t that sort of meaningful adventure.

Speaking of characters, along the way you’ll come across another two party members, bringing the total number of playable heroes to four (or five if you drop some money on the extra character DLC), each with their own unique deck of cards and abilities. It was fun to experiment with which two I wanted to try and tackle each run with, and all of them were varied enough that they all felt like worthy members of my party.


Each world is randomised, but don't expect much of a change of scenery

The world of Roguebook is awash with colour, and exudes charm; from the uniqueness of each character or enemy, to the gorgeous-looking backgrounds in combat and flashy animations seen when a card is played. Everything has a nice level of detail to it, with my personal favourite being the first recruitable character, Seifer; an anthropomorphic rat clad in heavy steel armour, wielding two swords and with a glowing red, demonic-looking, right arm. Seifer is just one of the many fascinating designs in Roguebook; even the cards you collect all feature their own gorgeous individual art!

What is a bit of a letdown though is the lack of environments to explore; a total of three worlds is all Roguebook offers, and although the hexagon-based pages of the world are procedurally generated, there is very little difference besides item and enemy placement. And since you’ll be repeatedly travelling through these locations on every run, it very quickly gets stale.

It has to be said though that Roguebook is just high fantasy through and through. If the game was to be adapted into a comic or TV series, I’d happily get lost in such a beautiful world. The audio is equally fitting for this genre, with satisfying attack sounds that draw you into a battle, combined with an orchestral musical track that’s fantastic both in combat and when exploring. A special mention has to go to the victory screen theme; the clashing cymbals and rolling snares are just perfect after a hard fought battle.


The roguelike elements tie in perfectly with deck building!

I’ll say this right away, I loved the gameplay in Roguebook. It’s rare I find a game that I stay up late to play, thinking “just one more battle and I’ll stop” before ignoring that completely and pushing on with my current run. However it’s also great for a quick 10-minute burst if you want to explore your surroundings and try to uncover more of the map, with short loading times helping out greatly for jumping into a run instantly.

Exploring the map is very simple. The pages of the book are blank and cannot be walked across; luckily you have paintbrushes and inks to fill in these empty spaces, which will create more terrain to travel across, as well as reveal potential battles, items such as pages of the Roguebook (which are used as upgrade points to unlock permanent skills or buffs), and other special tiles. Some of these tiles, when interacted with, let you purchase a random card for either of the heroes you have with you at the time, whilst others will let you engage in a battle, acquire a useful item for your party, or a whole host of other things to discover. It’s a fun gameplay loop that always had me thinking where the best spot to place my limited supply of inks would be, and I never became desensitised to the joy of uncovering a particularly rare item that would drastically help me out in battles to come.

Once you’ve managed to defeat the boss of the third world for the first time, you unlock the epilogue challenges. This is where the real game begins, as these are essentially gameplay variants that can both help and hinder your progress. Each epilogue can drastically alter gameplay and mix things up enough that you’ll want to try each of the dozen or so on offer. These challenges are stackable too for those who’ve levelled up their characters, and gained permanent cards and bonuses, and want the difficulty turning up to 11 (or 15 in this case).


Seifer doing what he does best, attacking for massive damage!

The battles are where the heart of the gameplay lies. It may look very overwhelming, but thanks to every keyword having a small text box to describe what that action does, it’s really easy to learn as you progress. Your deck consists of the unique cards available to the two heroes you selected, with each having a small amount of fairly basic ones at the beginning of each run. It won’t take long for you to amass a deck full of varied cards that do more than just attack or defend, providing a good amount of strategy; essential for those later epilogue runs.
Another layer of strategy comes in the form of gems. Gems are vital items that can be embedded into any card, turning even the most basic “attack for 6 damage” card into something like “attack for 6 damage, ignore enemy block, and inflict 6 bleed damage”. This leads to some incredibly useful cards by the end of a run, and I was almost sad that they weren’t transferable between runs.

Strategic planning is something you’ll need each turn during battles. At the start of your turn, you draw five cards. Some of these cards can swap the position of your characters, and some gain buffs depending on if they are at the front or rear. For example, swapping a character who has a defensive boost to the back would then negate that effect as it only applies when they are up front. This adds an additional layer of strategy to the basic card mechanics, which work much like every other game in the genre.

You have a set amount of ability points per turn, and each card can cost one, two, or more of these points to activate. Every move I made I had to think three steps ahead. Would this card I played have an effect on my rear character's special ability, and if so, would it be worth the potential damage my front party member would take? Sadly I made the wrong call many times, leading to my run being cut short, but those moments when you absolutely decimate a foe with some well played cards? Oh wow, those felt good.

This review took much longer than anticipated to write, and that's all down to the fact that I could not put the controller down and start writing. Whilst on the surface Roguebook may look like another generic deckbuilder title with little variety, aside from the lack of different environments, this could not be more wrong. Even if you’ve never played a roguelike deckbuilder videogame, Roguebook is definitely one to check out.

8.00/10 8

Roguebook (Reviewed on PlayStation 5)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

In a genre of some truly fantastic games, Roguebook stands up there with the best of them. Whilst the story is minimalistic and the lack of world variety is disappointing , the engaging combat makes this easily one of the most polished deckbuilders I’ve played.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Mike Crewe

Mike Crewe

Staff Writer

Bought a PS5 and won't stop talking about it

Share this: