Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike is a roguelike game developed by Convoy Games and published by Indietopia Games, Triangle Studios, and Convoy Games. While traveling through space your ship is damaged and you are forced to land on a harsh desert planet. Before you can leave it is necessary to acquire replacement parts to get your ship space worthy again. To that end, your captain sends you out into this harsh world leading a convoy of three vehicles. You must find the parts and get back alive. Simple, right?
My playtime with Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike, while fun, was mired with a number of shortcomings I feel one can only attribute to a failure to port a PC game to consoles correctly. Due to some struggles with control translation, and a few issues with font choices, playing this game on my Xbox One feels like way more of a struggle than it should have been.
As you start each game you are given the opportunity to read through some tutorial information. For your first playthrough, this is essential. While this isn’t the most complicated game out there, plenty of things can go wrong. And that becomes much more likely if you aren’t properly versed on what you are doing in the first place.
Once you start the game proper, you will find your convoy on the world map. With a list of objectives to choose from on the right of the screen, along with current amounts of gas, and parts (currency), you are ready to head out into the wasteland. With an objective chosen, a handy arrow will appear next to your convoy showing which direction the objective is found in. Manging the best route to conserve your gas is vital in reaching your destinations, as breaking down is bad news.
Different terrain impacts your fuel consumption differently. It’s almost always better to stick to the roads as they have the lowest consumption rates. However, you’ll have to make a call when a short cut is warranted. As you travel from point to point random encounters will occur. These encounters take the form of dialogue or combat, and sometimes a mixture of both.
While traveling a screen may pop saying something like, “you see something half-submerged in the sand nearby”. You’ll be given the option to investigate or keep driving. Investigation could lead to more parts or gas being found. It could also lead to an ambush and a combat encounter. Or other possibilities as well. Every scenario has several different random outcomes, so you are never sure until you try it. Many of the characters you encounter in these moments have a quirky style to their writing. This adds a bit of flavor to the drab desert overtones of the game.
If combat ensues the game goes to a top-down screen displaying your convoy as it travels along a road. As enemies swarm in, the battle ramps up. This is the meat and potatoes of Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike’s gameplay. During each of these combat encounters, you must destroy all the enemies before they destroy your transport vehicle. Players can not steer their transport. It drives in a straight line as the battle plays out around it. Controlling the escort vehicles is the main task the player has during these moments and while these movements can be exciting, this is where the gameplay shows some cracks.
While it isn’t visible, Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike’s combat is played on a grid. Vehicles move smoothly between these grid squares, but they are there. The player navigates this grid using the left thumbstick which often felt imprecise to me with my cursor not ending up where I wanted it to be and making me lose precious seconds finding the vehicle, or square, I meant to go to. As damage adds up, or deadly obstacles come barreling down at you, losing time can cost your convoy its life.
What I really wish the developers had done instead is allow me to navigate the battlefield with the D-pad. The up, down, left, and right directions would have been a much more natural fit for the playfield. This mechanical struggle I feel highlights the games PC origins, as a mouse would be capable of navigating this interface much more fluidly than the system implemented here.
Further complicating these controls is the fact that on several occasions the game would not acknowledge me selecting one of my vehicles. One time I stared at my car as I clicked it repeatedly, to simply see my other car start to drive towards what it thought was an empty spot. This would be frustrating under the best of circumstances, but in a roguelike where death means a restart, it is momentarily infuriating.
I also personally felt combat puts too much on the player’s plate to reasonably control. Controlling two vehicles is in itself is challenging. Especially since nothing is done automatically for you. In order to get a vehicle to attack an enemy, you must select the vehicle you want to control, select the enemy you want it to attack, and then move the vehicle within range of the enemy. If the enemy moves away, you must tell the vehicle to move somewhere that will keep the enemy in range. If the enemy is destroyed you must assign another target. Even if an enemy is in range it will not shoot unless told. This would be manageable if not for the obstacles that appear during battle as well.
Obstacles often appear on the right side of the screen. Depending on the type of obstacle either damage will be done to an impacting vehicle, or, in the case of larger objects like ruined buildings, the vehicle will be instantly destroyed. While there is a visual prompt warning of incoming objects, they are easily missed if your focus is on the left side of the screen due to an evolving combat situation. This situation developed frequently for me. Coupled with the slower reaction time my vehicles had, the frequency of me losing a car to an object collision was extremely high. I wish they had included an audio prompt to further grab my attention about the ensuing disaster.
Furthermore, I feel like this oversight may be, once again, tied to the nature of Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike being a port. With most computer monitors being a tad bit smaller than the average tv, I can see how this might not be as big an issue on its original home court. And of course, this could also simply be a shortcoming of my ability to multitask. So, if you struggle with juggling multiple problems at once, be ready, this game doesn’t shy away from it.
The final element to Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike‘s gameplay is in the leveling of your vehicles. Throughout the game, either at shops or after encounters, players will come across new weapons and novelty devices to apply to their vehicles. They can further improve their convoy’s chance of survival by leveling up various aspects of their vehicles. Health, armor, range, and maneuverability are all options for improvement. Of course, these use the same currency as making repairs, purchasing gas, and buying new weapons. There is never enough cash to do everything you want, but that is to be expected from a roguelike.
It is this last part of the game where Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike‘s final stumble rears it’s head. The text within the menus concerning weapon stats and other information are often illegible from across a room. Utilizing text that is reminiscent in color and style to red and green LEDs, I often had to get up and cross my room to be certain of things like whether I was looking at an 8 or a 0. Whether or not a decimal point was present was also a bit of a stumble to reading this information as well.
I should also take a moment to talk about Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike’s graphical presentation. Utilizing a lovely old school art style, the combat sequence remains clear and bright. While I wouldn’t call the visuals anything special, aside from the aforementioned text problems, they present the game in an enjoyable, eye-pleasing fashion.
So, to wrap it all up, Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike gives moments of fun, decision-based adventure, even though it has some significant stumbles along the way. I would suspect that if this game really sounds up your alley, checking it out on PC may be the best option. But if console is where you play, Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike could be worth a look but expect some frustrations.
Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike is out now on PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike
Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike gives moments of fun, decision-based adventure, even though it has some significant stumbles along the way.