Title: Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike Released On: April 8, 2020 Genre: Roguelike/Strategy Reviewed On: PS4 Developer: Convoy Games Publisher: Triangle Studios MSRP: $14.99 USD/$19.99 CAD
Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike states very plainly exactly what it is: a tactical strategy game with rogue-like elements. After enjoying a few years of play on PC, this game has now hit all three major consoles. Although the enticing gameplay mix might sound fun for fans of some of this game’s predecessors, this title is mired with tiresome core gameplay made more difficult on console. There’s an experience to enjoy here, but despite the cool concept, it is hard to recommend for players outside of the hardcore in this sub-genre.
The game’s reason for being is this: after a solar flare in space, the crew of your ship, the Mercury, crash-lands on a planet called Omek Prime. To re-enable flight after the crash, you have to search for new parts for your ship like compression coils, flux capacitors and hyperdrive stabilizers.
In the game world, you are surrounded by groups that want to have you killed. The Privateers are bounty hunters that enforce the law on the planet. The Raiders are gun-toting psychopaths that have been infected with a micro-organism causing them to have enhanced senses and erratic behaviour at the same time. Finally, the T.O.R.V.A.K. are the game’s cult that praises technology and admire artificial intelligence above all else. Each of these factions controls a part of the map and running through their territory while searching for parts may lead to verbal exchanges or physical altercations.
The Core Loop
The game is split into two main types of gameplay: navigating the wastelands of Omek Prime and battles with rebel groups on the planet’s surface.
Adventuring on Omek Prime
As mentioned from the top, each one of your runs will have you chasing after a different set of parts. The game map can take several minutes (and gas tanks) to traverse from your spaceship to one end of the planet and the hex-based map is controlled in different areas by one of the three factions. On the map, you will find encounter beacons that provide you with opportunities to speak with the factions, fight them or run into some of the other chance encounter types. Traversing the open-world takes up gas, which is one of the two resources that you have to keep track of in the game.
There is a small set of critical parts to chase, which means that your core missions will start very quickly to repeat themselves (dialogue and all). Fortunately, there is more side content to find and other random encounters (some funny). This part of the game is tense because some encounters are marked on the map while others can happen randomly at any time. This part of the game serves its purpose and works well (minus the repeating content).
The trouble comes with the game’s active battle sequences. In these Mad Max-inspired vehicle battles, you are charged with protecting your Main Convoy Vehicle (or MCV for short). This vehicle in the center can’t change positions on the grid-based battlefield. This vehicle isn’t helpless though, as it comes with one weapon out of the gate with the ability to add up to three more (like mine throwers or EMPs). If its health hits zero, it’s game over for you. To protect it, you will need to rely on your team’s escort vehicles to protect it. These vehicles can move to any position around the battlefield and can ram and shoot other attacking vehicles.
Everything is upgradable: from your ships’ health and armour to the handling of your vehicles and their protection against mines. You can even buy or acquire new vehicles and weapons. However, this whole phase of gameplay is clunky, especially on console platforms. You can pause the action at any time, but moving your units around isn’t simple with a controller and is made worse by mapping movement exclusively to the left stick (d-pad movement would be simpler). Not only that, but I found that units didn’t always perform the action I wanted despite not getting a flag or warning indicating that I could not complete the desired action. Once the movement was confirmed, these actions couldn’t be cancelled. Additionally, if an enemy was in the process of moving between “squares” on the invisible grid, it caused complications for your units. A faint grid with indications as to where units were moving would have been beneficial.
Not Great on Console
This brings me to a very important point about the game: the port of this game is lazy for console systems. Beyond controls being sub-optimal on a controller, the UI for a large television is bad. Text is incredibly small most of the time and some of the controls (like moving around and purchasing items in the shop) were cumbersome. This game was released originally on PC in 2015 and I assume that some of these issues wouldn’t exist on PC because of mouse and keyboard controls and resolution adjustments.
Punishing With Little Tutorialization
This game is difficult for casual fans of roguelikes even on the “Easy” difficulty. Instead of slowly ramping the difficulty of encounters across each run, you will sometimes be faced with random encounters that spike in difficulty leaving you with little to no chance of defeating with your current loadout. The game does very little in the way of making your mistakes actionable, like many other roguelikes; a lot of the game’s progression comes down to chance. Even in battles on the lowest difficultly, you can lose one of your scouts instantly by keeping them in the wrong position as large debris passes by.
Furthermore, this game has a very simple tutorial that doesn’t show some gameplay elements like ramming very well. I’m not ashamed to admit that I played for hours without realizing that ramming vehicles were essential despite the critical nature of this action. The game doesn’t even have a “controls” menu.
Graphics and Sound
Graphically, this game provides serviceable pixel graphics. There’s nothing pretty with these 16-bit era graphics, but a few of the larger boss vehicles do look pretty cool. It’s a toss-up, however, because other elements on-screen could have benefitted from more work (like the ugly parts in the game’s UI, for instance).
From a sound perspective, a small set of low fidelity chiptune tracks accompany the action in the game. Also, vehicle battles are paired with a limited number of sound effects and lines of low fidelity spoken dialogue for grunts and tactical declarations. After a few hours of play, you will be listening to a podcast or music while you play.
Verdict for Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike
Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike sets a very small Venn diagram centre for its ideal player base due to cumbersome battles and repetitive gameplay, a tough difficulty curve and controls that are not meant for consoles. If you can move past all of these issues and are constantly on the lookout for new roguelike strategy games, you may enjoy this one, but know that there are better experiences in the genre that will be more rewarding than this title.
Final Score: 6.5/10
Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike is hard to recommend to fans outside of the roguelike strategy genre, especially on console.
The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.