It’s Ann Veal: The Game
Rogue Company is a difficult game to write about. When I sit down at my computer to type, its bland and basic world begins to fade from my mind, and I struggle to think of anything meaningful to say about it. Despite its diverse cast of characters, fast-paced shooting action, and sufficiently smooth gameplay on my Switch, it just doesn’t leave a lasting impact. The experience scuttles from my mind, and the only thought I can muster about it amounts to no more than an admission that I did indeed just play an online shooter.
Maybe that’s because nothing about Rogue Company is original. This is a checklist of a game, cribbing features and modes from other popular titles and stitching them together in this third-person, squad-based shooter. There are dancing emotes, the ping system from Apex Legends, sprays, characters with their own unique abilities, a between-match weapons upgrade system, and modes recycled from games that came before it. You’ve seen this all before, and chances are, you’ve seen it done better than it is here.
Rogue Company launched in late July in a closed beta on all the major consoles and PC through the Epic Games Store. There’s crossplay between the platforms and cross-save progression is here too. Like with other Hi-Rez Studios games, it’ll eventually go free-to-play. For now, players can pony up $15 or more to become a beta tester. From my time with it, there is still a lot of work to be done. The announcer is all over the place, I’ve seen my gun disappear but still shoot just fine, and the ziplining feature really needs to be more reliable. Most of all, I hope this beta shows developer First Watch Games that it needs to do a lot more with its various modes.
Rogue Company currently has just a handful of modes in rotation. There is Extraction, where you need to hack an object on the stage or kill off the other team. There is Demolition, where one team has to plant a bomb and the other has to diffuse it…or you can just kill off the other team. Finally, there’s Strikeout, where you just need to kill off the other team. However, in this mode, both teams have a certain number of respawns that can be chipped away at if your squad can hold point for a set amount of time.
I don’t dwell on the lack of innovation in its modes because of how briskly each round moves. For Extraction and Demolition, each player has just one life, and it’s startling how fast your health bar will drain. My very first round in Demolition lasted less than 60 seconds. My team made it to the point and were promptly slaughtered. I didn’t even have time to get my bearings. Hell, there were multiple times I was eliminated without ever seeing where the shots were coming from. If you are downed in battle, your partners have a chance to revive you if they can get to you before your opponent finishes you off. A revival like that has been a rarity outside of Strikeout.
The pace of these matches and the ease in which you can finish other players off does affect the usefulness of some characters. Saint, for instance, is the requisite healer. His unique ability is the Revive Drone. If another player is downed but not eliminated, he can send out the drone to bring them back. The revival is not instant, but a player going from downed to dead can be. As I’m wont to do, I went with Saint anytime he was available, but it didn’t take long for me to realize he’s not that useful in two of the three modes.
The other characters and their abilities are more versatile. For instance, Dallas, the southerner with a six-shooter, can locate the nearest enemy with his Target Finder ability. There’s also Anvil, who can lay down a barricade for extra shielding, and Ronin, who can take out unsuspecting enemies with her proximity mine Ballistic Knife. It’s not a bad mix of abilities, but they’d be better if they were attached to characters that had any sort of personality.
It’s probably a bit unfair to compare Rogue Company to the other, more well-funded shooters on the market, but one way this game or any game can stand out in the crowd is through personality and creativity. The characters and the environments are both opportunities to distinguish yourselves from your contemporaries, and yet, First Watch Games has settled on a bland assortment of heroes doing battle in even blander settings. The characters here do nothing more than fill the genre cliches we’ve seen before, and the stages aren’t much different.
From the Italian village to the deserted factory to the heavenly city in the sky, the various maps of Rogue Company merely provide a field of battle and nothing more. These settings tell me nothing about the world I’m fighting in and give me no reason to care about whatever this conflict is. I don’t need a wall of hieroglyphics to illustrate the history of each city, but when a stage features a crashed rocket and I’m not the least bit interested in how it happened, that’s probably not a good sign. I mean, there’s a stage with a goddamn Gundam growing out of the middle of it and the most enthusiastic response that image can elicit out of me is a resounding “eh.”
Maybe if the actual gunplay was different I’d be more into it. After spending many hours with Apex Legends, Warframe, and Titanfall 2, I don’t really enjoy switching back to shooters with such a lightweight feel to the shooting mechanics. It’s why I don’t play Fortnite anymore. Even Call of Duty Mobile has better-feeling weaponry than what’s found here. I need gunplay with some actual weight to the guns, not just a difference in trigger operation. If there is one aspect of the weaponry I do appreciate, it’s the gun upgrade system Rogue Company is packing.
Each character has their own unique loadout of guns, secondary weapons, melee weapons, throwable objects, and perks. At the start of a match and between each round, you’ll spend money unlocking and upgrading your loadout. The more rounds you play, the more you can upgrade. It’s a great system to experiment with though honestly, some of the unlocks don’t really live up to expectations. Getting a bit of armor doesn’t matter much if opponents can still kill you in less than two seconds.
Look, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Rogue Company, and when it goes free-to-play, you should at least try it out. Especially if you’re on Switch or don’t otherwise have access to games like Valorant or CS:GO. It’s serviceable, it runs smooth, and it plays well if you like a shooter where the guns lack heft. Just don’t expect me to join you when it finally releases because if I can barely remember this game an hour after playing it, it’ll surely be lost to the Phantom Zone of my mind when it launches later this year.
[This impressions piece is based on a closed beta build of the game provided by the publisher.]