The first thing that capture players’ interests when they hear about Immortal Rogue from solo developer Kyle Barrett aka Foolish Mortal Studio is its unique narrative system. When they actually start playing the game, though, it is its gameplay that keeps them hooked. Sure, the retro art style is lovely and the soundtrack is solid, but the true beauty of Immortal Rogue comes from its difficulty and unforgiving nature. Granted, not everyone can enjoy games that challenge them to their limits, but those who do is going to absolutely love Immortal Rogue.

Before we go deeper into the details about mechanics and controls, let’s look at the first two things that come to our attention: Graphics and sound. Right off the bat we are put in the middle of an ancient battlefield. Amidst the ruins stands a lone figure clad in a purple cloak. The entire scenery is eerily beautiful and serves to establish the atmosphere (and the narrative to a certain extent). As you click “begin”, the music rises – a mournful, reflective melody that cements the theme. This is the game telling you that this is not a tale of heroes, valor, or wisdom. It is entirely about an immortal predator trying to find its way to survive through the ages.

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Overcome hordes of enemies as a Vampire in Immortal Rogue

The game then officially begins and you are given some instructions on the basic controls, which is, indeed, quite basic. You tap to execute an attack, dash with a swipe, and perform a heavy attack by holding on the screen a bit then swipe to the desired direction. Overall they feel smooth and responsive – except for the heavy attack, which will take a little bit of time to get used to. Sometimes you might find yourself performing a dash instead of a heavy like you intended to, or vice versa, getting a heavy out when all you wanted was to simply attack. For the most part this is not a big issue, but it could actually prove fatal when you are surrounded by a mob or in the middle of the boss fight. Luckily, this problem only occurs pretty rarely. Still, builds that focus on using heavy attacks and constantly moving around a fight might be somewhat hampered.

Getting used to the basic controls and surviving is relatively straightforward. Mastering them and actually thriving, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. All the attacks have a feeling of impact behind them and overall feel great. The first few levels feel like a chaotic and hysterical bloodbath, and that the core, they are. While the game does not have any visual animation such as blood spraying to emphasize the point, jumping on top of enemies and hacking them to pieces truly does make you feel like a ravenous predator ruthlessly feasting on its prey. It is possible that this was intentionally included by the developer because the thrill you get upon defeating the first mini-boss is definitely going to stay with you for a long time.

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The controls are simple

With experience and mastery comes wisdom, however, and in this case it tells you that there is a safer and more effective playstyle: Dashing between attacks. Every weapon has a combo, which could include anywhere from 2 to 4 hits. After you execute that combo, you must wait a little bit before you can do it again. And here is where the trick comes in handy: you can reset this delay simply by dashing or performing heavy attacks. This will allow you to chain multiple combos back-to-back, which means your opponents will never have a chance to counter-attack. When you master this technique, you will no longer feel like a mindless bloodthirsty animal, but an experienced and deadly hunter stalking his prey from the shadow.

As a newborn vampire (“newborn” as in, you just got turned into a vampire, not that you are a baby), you will slumber for centuries at a time, waking only replenish yourself. Each time you wake, you can choose your prey from a collection of notable figures, and the future of the world will progress in different directions depending on who you kill. This is Immortal Rogue’s narrative structure, and it promises a brand new mechanics: You, the player, will have the ability to shape the in-game world and determine how it develops. This sounds wonderful, especially for those who love to choose their own adventure. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t really deliver on this promise.

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Be sure to pay attention to ranged enemies while managing the melee ones

Yes, for your first playthrough – and second, and maybe even third or fourth – it can be pretty intriguing to mess around and play with all the options you have to see how the world will change. However, there will come a point where it gets… stale. Maybe it’s just because you are tired of beating the game again and again and again, but eventually your choice starts to feel meaningless. You still go from centuries to centuries with the only difference being which enemies you will encounter. But why does it matter whether you are fighting barbarians with spears or high-tech cyborgs wielding grenade launchers? While this might have been the developer’s way of simulating the tedium of immortality, it is still pretty disappointing, especially considering that one of the advertised features of the game is that you can “guide the development of a world.”

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Unleash powerful heavy attacks by touching and swiping the screen

Despite these shortcomings, the idea is still an innovative one that could be expanded on in later titles, and the combat as well as difficulty are extremely well done. It provides everything you would expect: An intense, fast-paced, and difficult hack-n’-slash roguelike. The early part of the game is not too tough (in fact, it could use a boost in term of challenge), but it quickly evolves into a graceful yet deadly dance. You will have to pay careful attention to ranged enemies while at the same time manage hordes of melee bruisers. There is one minor complaint in this aspect though: You might swipe out of the game by accident, especially if you play on a device that has a home bar. However, this is more of a personal experience than anything else.

Barring those minor hiccups, Immortal Rogue is still, without a doubt, a title worth trying. The game clearly shows that a lot of effort has been put into it, and it’s amazing to think that all this work was done by just one person. Hopefully this developer will have more in store for us to enjoy in the future.