Roll7's action shooter may have style but lacks in story and substance.
A few weeks ago, I published a preview of Roll7's upcoming action shooter Rollerdrome, where I mentioned that the game was an interesting combination of style and skating. That opinion came from being able to play the first few stages of the title, and now today, I can talk more freely about the whole experience, which surprisingly ended up being rather fleeting.
And I say this because Rollerdrome is not a very long game at all. Now I usually don't focus on this sort of thing, but for anyone hoping for a six-plus hour storyline fit with twists and turns will find themselves at an impasse here, as the bulk of what Rollerdrome asks you to do is tick off challenges on a checklist in a variety of different locations. Don't get me wrong, there is a story at the core, with this revolving around protagonist Kara Hasan joining the Rollerdrome bloodsport circuit in the hopes of winning and paying off an enormous debt that she and her family has accrued, but as this is mostly told through emails and messages that feel almost irrelevant, you should know that the narrative for this game is near non-existent.
Rather this is an action shooter that is all about style. If you like Skate and Tony Hawk games and wondered what it would be like to flip and trick while using dual-pistols to gun down hostile combatants in a Matrix-inspired slow motion fashion, then this is the game for you. If not, then I'd suggest giving it a pass as while the Moebius-looking comic book-like visuals might draw you in with their vibrancy and colour, the gameplay is all about racking up score and completing challenges (such as doing a specific trick or eliminating an enemy while doing a specific grind), and doing so as fast as you possibly can. It should be known that this gameplay loop is pretty fun, but it does start to weigh on you once you're seven or eight levels in, and all that has really changed in the gameplay is a few more enemy types have been drafted into the fray.
This is an ad:
Sure, the enemy variety does keep you on your toes, as one minute you'll have to dodge incoming sniper rounds and then the next you'll have to evade homing rockets or foes that will attempt to literally squash you. And yes, this evasive gameplay merges really well with the trick system and how that is attached to the combo multiplier and the ammunition system. What I mean by this is that in Rollerdrome you only get weapon ammo by tricking or by perfectly dodging incoming attacks, meaning you have to sprinkle in some style if you intend to complete a level. This combines with the combo system, as every time you eliminate a hostile, your multiplier goes up by one, meaning if you want to set an enormous score (which mostly revolves around tricking), you have to be fluid in your killing manoeuvres and also in how quickly you regenerate ammo by tricking. It all flows very well.
But, if you also intend to complete challenges - which you have to do to unlock new levels - you will be doing things that impact your flow, as you may have to complete a level without using one of the four weapon types, or rather perform some challenging trick that will require a visit or two to the Trickpedia to understand and master it. Essentially, this means if you intend to truly complete Rollerdrome, by completing all challenges and by setting high scores, you will be replaying each level multiple times, and this seems to be what Roll7 is banking on, because other than doing this, there's not really much else to do.
This is an ad:
There is a game mode that is unlocked after completing Rollerdrome the first time that ramps up the difficulty a bit more by making enemies more threatening and so on, but this will still serve up the same four or five arenas to play in, the same four weapons to use, and the same challenges to beat. It all feels very repetitive when all is said and done, which is a shame because the core gameplay is served up in a very engaging and fluid manner. I can't help but feel like the game could've done with a slightly more enthralling story or perhaps a different approach to adding new locations to compete in, because this really doesn't feel like a feature at all and just seems to happen.
While I'm not particularly blown away by Rollerdrome at all, I can say that the game plays very well, the art style is absolutely wonderful and creative, and that the concept is truly top-notch. But is this more than a quick almost arcade-like sports game fit for a few hours of fun? Well, it's hard to suggest otherwise.
7 / 10
Core gameplay is very fluid and fun. The art style is brilliant. Decent enemy variety. A really interesting concept. The trick system is well designed.
Storyline feels nonexistent. The checklist of challenges system becomes boring quickly. Really banks of replayability as a way to keep players playing.