Rogue Company is a new 4v4 shooter that's just about to enter closed beta, and ahead of that milestone, we had a chance to talk with its creators at First Watch Games (in particular, brand director Bart Koenigsberg) about the kind of experience that players can expect to encounter. Interestingly, it's not quite as straightforward as I imagined it would be after initially perusing the game's store listing, and I'll be diving in to try the beta and will update this article with hands-on impressions once I've played a few rounds of this class-based third-person shooter. Before that, however, let me tell you a bit about the demo I watched over Discord last week.
The action starts in a dropship. Two teams stand, waiting in the belly of their own aerial beast, ready to dive into action, in this instance with each merc wearing a glider on their back. It's quite the breathless start, and the demo showed two experienced teams that didn't mess about when it came to moving on their respective objectives. A nice touch, at least in the level that we saw that was set on top of a skyscraper in Dubai, sees you and your comrades leave a trail of smoke behind you, carving your intended path to combat through the skies. Then again, you can see the same trail left by your opponents, and this feels like it could form the basis of a fun meta-game that could see teams try and convince the enemy where they're going, or not as the case may be. There's no smoke without fire... or something like that.
Picking from a roster of 12 characters or 'rogues' (you get a small selection to choose from at the start, the rest are unlocked as you play), it's quickly clear that this isn't a hero shooter in the traditional sense. In that vein, during the presentation, it was explained how Rogue Company is an action game first and foremost, but tactical combat is also at the heart of its design. That has me intrigued and, based on the limited footage I saw, it looks a very achievable blend of gameplay elements.
Objective-based modes are the order of the day and don't expect a straight-up team deathmatch mode to be added to upcoming beta anytime soon. For example, in Demolition, one team of four is trying to drop off the bomb, while the other team is on the defensive and works to stop them. You've seen it before. You know the score. In Rogue Company, the action takes place over a series of rounds (it was best of 13 in the footage I was watching), and in-between each round you can spend money earned in-game on new equipment. This gear then persists over the course of a match, and it can be upgraded in much the same way.
You can unlock two mains (although you can only take one in with you per round), as well as secondary and melee weapons, gadgets, and there's a series of perks to choose from. Characters take kits into battle and these kits lean them in a certain direction (dueling, breaching, and area control), and it looks like team composition will be dictated not only by the arena you're fighting in but also based on whether you're attacking or defending. Whether it's setting traps, gathering intel on the enemy's position, or keeping your opponents away from a target, you'll have options.
If you take down an opponent, there's still a chance that they can be revived, but once a downed player is hit a few more times, they'll temporarily exit the action while the round concludes. That being the case, cooperation and teamwork are going to be all the more important as isolated players will be much easier to pick off. The team in the gameplay demo I was watching won their match comfortably, with the players working in tandem whenever possible, flanking opponents, and throwing down traps as they looked to outmanoeuvre the opposing team.
Update: Having just spent the evening playing Rogue Company, it's time for that update I promised you at the start of this preview. I've played a number of games and tried out a bunch of the eponymous rogues, and I had a jolly good time. It wasn't a flawless experience and there were a fair few bugs, I spent a bit of time queueing to get into the servers, and half of my games were hampered by people dropping out early. Apart from that though, it was all fun and games.
The more casual of the two game modes currently playable is Strikeout, which is a simple objective-based mode whereby two teams play a best-of-five contest, pushing on an objective and holding it until the time counts down or everyone on the other team is dead. There are respawns but the number is finite, so the games don't drag out. In fact, the action across both modes is really pacey, with punchy rounds that rarely outstay their welcome.
The other mode is called Demolition, and it's potentially longer as it can extend to 13 rounds if it goes down to the wire. Most games won't go that far, but even if they do, the rounds are typically quite short as there are no respawns. That leads to some tense encounters, with two teams edging around each other, prodding and probing, looking for the moment to strike. At times like that teamwork is key, and a well-oiled unit will have the upper hand more often than not. Just as important, however, is the careful use of your abilities. Some are more obvious and impactful than others, but they can be a lot of fun and very useful if timed just right.
The solid gunplay and character abilities make for an interesting battlefield, but I think it's too early to start talking about the balance of the different characters. What I can say is how pleasantly surprised I have been by this mercenary shooter, I think largely because of the mix of pacey combat and interesting abilities. By channeling the spirit of Counter-Strike and mashing that up with a few roguish abilities, Hi-Rez seems to be onto something.
Away from the action, while there is in-game currency and both character and account progression to take into account, there are other investment options for those who want cosmetics (skins for certain characters as well as wraps that will adorn clusters of weapons), however, it didn't sound like an unreasonable or unusual approach was being taken in terms of its monetisation.
There are three founder's packs available as of today, and those packs extend across all four major platforms (PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox), with three different editions (you'll find more details on pricing here). Head over to your platform store of choice for more on the particulars of each, and check back later this week for a short update with hands-on impressions.