Have you ever played that game you liked but no one else did? A title that scored badly or all your friends hate, but you secretly enjoy? Even if you can see every flaw, you just can’t get enough of it? It’s so divisive just to bring up that you kinda keep quiet about it? Well, Rollers of the Realm is going to be that game for someone. I want that to be clear now before we get started.
Rollers of the Realm is the kind of game I’d expect to be free on Kongregate. The sort of game that ends up on iOS/Android at some point as a quirky idea thrown out a bit hastily. This is not what I’d expect as an Atlus published, PS4/PC/PS Vita game. Granted, it’s still a small downloadable game, but the final product just doesn’t fit. I wouldn’t expect this kind of game to come about this way. It would be like Ubisoft launching with a polished, unbuggy open world game, or Activision releasing DLC for free.
“So it must defy expectation in a good way, riiiight?” Oh hypothetical gamer reading this review voice, you’re so wonderfully optimistic, and here I am to shatter your conceptions again. No, Rollers of the Realm is not a good game. It was bad enough that I couldn’t see the point in beating it. The gameplay is genuinely so repetitive and frustrating that I don’t see how it could get better, so as a result, this is a First Impressions Review. Please bare in mind, two of our staff attempted to play the game for review, and I lasted longest.
Rollers of the Realm is a pinball game/RPG. No, you didn’t misread that. A Pinball/RPG hybrid. It is a novel concept, and I love the idea. However, the final execution is so-so at best. The RPG elements feel throwaway. You have different b**** that are different members of your party, and they each get one unique ability. Except that ability usually is either “make b**** not be dead or prevent death somehow” or “make more b**** for a limited time.”
This is further hampered by the entire party drawing from the same mana pool (and draining it fully, regardless of how much mana you actually need to activate an ability), and each party member having different sizes, shapes, and materials. This means you could end up in a situation that recommends the Rogue be the main ball, but the Knight is the one the game wants you to use. Doesn’t matter if he’s five times harder to manipulate, either the plot or level design demands you use him. There’s this whole idea of remote controlling the b**** and swapping them mid-motion, but both rarely work right.
It’s akin to two different people giving contradicting orders to a dog. He keeps going back and forth, uncertain who to listen to, and ends up lying down with his head between his legs. There’s no degree of polish for these mechanics to lean on, so they fall over the second you try to use them outside of the most specific levels set up to train you how to use them.
Speaking of the level design, while I realize I don’t play a ton of pinball, I’ve played much better tables than what’s shown here. I understand the need to produce a wide variety of them to try and be, well, varied; but if it comes at the cost of making the levels fun then there’s no point to it. Combine dodgy physics with the lackluster table design, and you’ll be cursing at the game more than entranced by it.
Also failing on the RPG front is the progression system, if you could call it that. The game goes for a grind-for-gold approach so you can buy new items, but said items appear to have minimal, if any, impact. We’re talking over 10% increase/decrease to certain attributes, and I could hardly notice a change. Items also are just unlocked permanently. No choosing between different upgrades, it’s just unlock until you are (in theory) unstoppable.
The story even falls flat, with an intro so bored with itself I’m just left here wondering why the developers tried to make a Pinball/RPG hybrid. You could make a drinking game out of how many times the intro basically says “Well of course”. “Well of course” the kingdom is in trouble now. “Well of course” our village was attacked. If you were aware of how dully our intro was, why still include it? You clearly had time to do better. The rest of the narrative is just as dull, full of tropes and archetypical characters so obvious a six year old could put together a better story. An animated TV show in the 80’s had more complexity than what’s going on here; which is saying something, since they even have that era’s customary annoyingly happy pet character along for the ride here too.
I wanted to have something nice to say about Rollers of the Realm, but we don’t always get what we want in life. The graphics are rubbish, looking like something made for the original Unity engine. The hand drawn art assets are passable, certainly better than everything else in the game, but follow this weird art direction that feels like a misguided attempt at modernizing Blizzard’s Vikings games. The music was so without uniqueness I cannot remember a single aspect about it other than that a renaissance fair probably has better songs.
I hate giving a game a thrashing like this but I cannot emphasize enough: do not waste your time with Rollers of the Realm. I know there are going to be a select few who will enjoy this, and if you are curious, then do download the game’s demo. If however you have a limited time in your gaming schedule and a backlog on Steam, I see no reason to pick this up. Spend your time and money elsewhere.
What does your purchase net you?
See previous paragraph.
The Bottom Line
Rollers of the Realm is a lesson: “Original” does not always mean “better”.
Moment of Artistry
That moment never really came.
+ Controls are decent
+ There weren’t any notable crashes or bugs
+ Definitely something different
– Progression system
– Level design
– Sound design
– Voice acting
– I could have been playing a better game during the time it took me to play this and write this review
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This review was conducted with a copy of the game provided by the game’s publisher.
Rollers of the Realm can be purchased on Steam, and PSN.