If you’re one of the 99 percent of people who hate their jobs, what would you say is the reason for such loathing? Could it be the endless cycle of repetitive duties? The constant grind of energy-sapping work for the tiniest of returns?
Strange though it may seem, there’s a long-established game genre that treats players in just such a manner. Even more strangely, players lap it up.
The hardcore dungeon crawling RPG comes in a number of forms, but they're all joined by a common theme: pain. If you can make it through the game without repeated deaths and restarts and without suffering at least one nervous breakdown, the game has failed.
Your choosen quest
A clear homage to Rogue, the dungeon crawler that started it all off some 30 years ago, 100 Rogues tweaks the formula to appeal to a savvy - if not soft - 21st century audience. And aside from a few unfortunate technical issues, it pulls of this daring operation with some panache.
While the concept of embarking on a quest through multiple randomly generated dungeon levels (all set in a typical fantasy universe) is hardly a new one, the approach here is a breath of fresh air.
Like any number of games on the App Store, the goal here is simply to get as far as you can before your inevitable death, posting your score onto local and online leaderboards.
Ditching the ultra-serious RPG tone, developer Dinofarm has imbued 100 Rogues with a welcome sense of humour as your over-eager hero is sent out to conquer the devil himself on the bored whim of the Council.
Dialogue is kept to a merciful minimum, save for the amusingly written loading screen text which fills in all the details you need to immerse yourself in this shallow, but well-realised world.
The meat of the action is a turn-based hack 'n' slasher, with a healthy levelling up and item management system keeping things interesting. While combat is ostensibly a matter of touching the various baddies as they come into range and attacking them until they fall over, 100 Rogues imbues a welcome dose of strategy to proceedings.
For one thing, you need to consider your chosen hero: either a Human Crusader, who can stand toe to toe with enemies but lacks a little range, or a Fairy Wizard who is quite the opposite. This plays into a wider set of tactical considerations that represent the key to progress in 100 Rogues.
While the Fairy Wizard is a dab hand with magic projectile attacks, you can make use of her teleport ability and an otherwise unfamiliar dagger to warp in behind an enemy and score a critical hit. Otherwise, success is all about maintaining a gap between yourself and your enemies.
As the Human Crusader, on the other hand, it’s all about manoeuvring your enemies into an engagement zone of your choosing, avoiding becoming overwhelmed from multiple sides. Your special attacks run accordingly, one allowing you to score a critical hit if you use it while an enemy has its back to a wall (or another enemy).
Every item collected has a tactical consideration too. Even the humblest dagger can be lobbed at an enemy for a free early attack or imbued with additional offensive capabilities via a handy magic scroll.
All this talk of tactics might sound daunting, but many of the game’s best tricks are introduced through the excellent Challenge Mode. Part bite-sized concession to the mobile format, part extended tutorial section, it’s both an enjoyable way to learn how to fight and a fun little mode in its own right.
Unfortunately we have to temper our hitherto unreserved praise for 100 Rogues with one or two grim realities. Let’s get the biggie out of the way first: on my iPod touch (and a fair few others, judging by reports) the game crashes. It crashes a lot.
Fortunately, the game auto-saves your progress on each floor, so you’re rarely set back too far. Yet, the sheer regularity with which the game quits out on you is far too big an issue for us to ignore.
Another bug we found cropped up after we had died and returned to the main menu screen. Strangely, the option to continue was available, but having selected it, I found myself stuck in the outer wall of a dungeon with an odd hit point count of 1/1.
These regular, repeatable bugs really shouldn’t have made their way into a retail product, irrespective of the developer’s pledge to issue a fix in the coming days. The fact is, as it stands, 100 Rogues is broken.
Growing into the role
But it’s a testament to the game’s quality that I found myself returning to the game again and again in spite of the constant crashes – not simply because I had a review to write, but because the pleasure of playing the game largely outweighed my annoyance at having to reload repeatedly.
Outside of these major (and surely soon to be fixed) issues, our only criticisms relate to the occasional vagaries of the touch interface – choosing where to move and who to attack in a crowded room can occasionally be a bit of a lottery.
Make no mistake though – once the glaring technical issues have been addressed, 100 Rogues will take its place as one of the best role-playing games for iPhone and iPod touch. As it stands today, it’s still one of the freshest and most finely nuanced.