There seems to be an awful lot of alchemy-based games of late; Potion Craft, Strange Horticulture (perhaps?), and a few others whose names typically escape me. However, and I’m no expert, none of them combines exploration and alchemy as The Serpent Rogue does.
A third-person discovery game, you play a Warden – a professional alchemist on a mission to rid the world of The Corruption. Though there’s a story here, the emphasis is on exploration – any pre-drawn narrative would get in the way of cutting your teeth. Because of this aspect, there’s a lot of ambiguity. Usually, that’s a good thing, but in my case, I found it a challenge.
Unlike its counterparts, The Serpent Rogue doesn’t hand you a recipe book to refer to when you’re out in the wilderness foraging for ingredients. Instead, you have to research them by collecting enough and fusing them with other elements to create something entirely different. This is a great mechanic and is open for experimentation, but when you’re given quests to make certain potions, it’s not always clear what you need.
As a result, I often wandered back and forth on screens collecting the same elements, making the same potions and then having my arse handed to me when I attempted to fight a corrupted assailant with a shovel. It’s effectively a rogue-like as you’ll die, respawn, and be left without your gear. The only way to retrieve it is to return to the place you died and if it’s already perilous, expect a few attempts.
The real challenge, though, was those ingredients. In one of the earlier sections, there were these mini-tornadoes that, upon inspection, would indicate what items could be found in that area. Die, and you have to repeat the process. Fortunately, The Serpent Rogue is a slow-moving game (in the right way), so taking your time is fine. The problem is that I took a break from it, then frantically tried to experience as much as possible – which, I hasten to add, isn’t the way to go.
As a Warden, you’re an expert in your field, so once you do learn a potion or perhaps unlock some lore via a tome, you’ll be able to access the methods for making new gear or upgrading existing equipment. Eventually, you’ll be able to recruit followers – be it animals or the locals, and nothing beats having a super chicken having your back. The combat in The Serpent Rogue isn’t anything special, but it works, and those who like the ol’ hit and run will be in their element. There’s also a wealth of hats to unlock. I needn’t say any more than that. Well, customisation is the way to my heart, that’s all I’ll say.
I’m a champion for exploration in games, and The Serpent Rogue does not disappoint in discovery terms – I found the opening hours a little frustrating/challenging. That’s subjective, of course, and no doubt someone is running around in their pants with a pot on their head and wielding two katanas that’ll say it’s easy. However, this was one of the few games where I was happy to watch the publishers, Team17, stream gameplay on Steam.
On that note, The Serpent Rogue is a very nice looking game with some cool character modelling and atmosphere throughout. The UI might seem puzzling at first, but it’s very intuitive, and you have customisable hotkeys for your favourite tools and potions. Though you can’t swing the camera around horizontally, it’s possible to manipulate the camera while exploring, but more importantly, through combat as you might not realise there’s a threat as it’s off-screen.
The Serpent Rogue is a refreshing approach to this influx of alchemist-based games and a very good one at that. That’s more of an objective comment as it didn’t resonate with me as much as I’d hoped, though that’s 100% on me as I was trying to rush areas, and that’s not the point. What I will say is I didn’t like having to eat before going to bed – who even does that, and where can I source some food from? Aaarrghhh!
Sengi Games’ title releases today on PC and consoles.