Review: Rock of Ages
Got to hand it to Ace team for coming up with such a unique game idea. I really can’t think of a game where the basic mechanic is literally rolling a rock down a hill. But when you take that mechanic, add in a bit tower defense and pair it with humor through the style and cut scenes you have a good combination.
In Rock of Ages main mode War, you and your opponent must roll a boulder down opposite sides of a hill dodging obstacles and trying to break in each others castle gates. For controlling a round object down a hill you do have a good amount of control being able to slow down, change directions, and even stop without too much trouble, which is good because if you do not watch your speed you can easily fall off the edge. Thankfully though there isn’t much of a penalty for doing so, just a loss of the amount of time it takes for a giant hand to pick you up and put you back into play. It takes time for your followers to construct another boulder between rolls so in the mean time you get to build defenses to hinder your opponents roll. This is where the tower defense aspect of the game kicks in, with the ability to lay down different obstacles such as blocking towers, catapults, explosive barrels, and even raging cows. You can only build on the light tiles on the map and with each obstacle taking up a certain amount of tiles and a having different gold costs you need to keep an eye on both to come up with the best strategy. You can obtain more gold by destroying obstacles on your way down and by also hitting your opponents gate. Of course by hitting obstacles your boulder takes damage so there is a bit of risk and reward there.
Each boulder has a health meter and the more obstacles you hit or are hit by cause damage. After you take so much your boulder will begin to lose mass thus lowering the damage you will cause when you hit an opponent’s gate. Your boulder can also be destroyed by taking too much damage, so you must keep an eye on your health meter. To help out with this you can apply power-ups to your boulder before you roll. Each power-up costs a certain amount of gold and can only be used once per match. The four different power-ups are: the Iron ball which protects your boulder from damage when hitting obstacles for a limited time, the FireBall does extra damage to obstacles and enemy gates but the fire can be put out if you hit too many obstacles or instantly if you touch water, Angel ball which gives you the ability to double jump once, and the Contamination ball which turns enemies light tiles unusable when you jump on them. Strategic use of these power-ups can end up really changing the tide of battle.
In the story mode you take control of Sisyphus. Yes that king from Greek mythology whose eternal punishment in Hades was to roll an immense boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down without ever reaching the top. Being extremely frustrated with his punishment Sisyphus decides to roll his boulder towards the gates of Hades to break out and what follows is his rock rolling journey through the five ages taking on the major figureheads from those times. One of the first things that you will notice with Rock of Ages is the presentation. Each of the levels takes place during one of five ages (Greek, Medieval, Renaissance, Rococo, and Romanticism) and is presented according to the style of art that was used prominently during that period of time. You are shown a video intro of your opponent before each level which is presented using paper cut-outs from how those characters were presented in classic art with all the sound effects being done by people. This gives the game a real Monty Python feel that fits rather well. I don’t really want to go into these too much as to not spoil what I consider some of my favorite parts of the game but as an example one of your early opponents is Leonidas, who during his intro may try to re-enact one of the more famous moments from the movie 300. All of these scenes have this type of humor and you may notice more then a couple movie/game/pop culture references thrown in to the mix. What is also neat about these is that the game loads during these intros so there is very little down time and is something I would like to see more developers do in the future.
At the end of each of the ages, besides Greek, you fight a boss. During these battles there are no gates to break and you are tasked with approaching a boss and hitting them three times in their weak area. While it was nice to do something different, these were also the only times in the game that I experienced frustration and I don’t think these were really necessary to include. During each level in Story mode there are also three keys you can collect that are scattered in usually hard to find places. These are used to open up the boss gates on the maps and add that extra objective in the levels and also gives a reason to revisit the story mode to try to track down some of those harder keys.
Besides the main mode War (which is what you play in the Story mode and can also be played multiplayer) you also have some other modes that you can sink your time into. Time trial is a single player mode that has you trying to race through a level as quick as possible to beat the gold, silver, or bronze time. Skeeboulder is mainly a multiplayer game though you can also practice in single player. This mode has you and your opponent rolling down the same map hitting score targets with the end of the level being set up like skee ball with each hole being a different multiplier number. The first to get in a hole will end the round and get their score gained from the score targets multiplied by the multiplier. The person who has the highest score at the end of three rounds wins the match. The last mode is the PSN exclusive Obstacle mode. This mode can be played in single player against the AI or multiplayer. Both you and your opponent roll down the same map that is filled with obstacles such as catapults and explosive barrels. The objective is to make it to the end of level before your opponent in a best two out of three. These three additional modes add some variety to the mix and each is quite fun to play, especially the Skeeboulder mode.
The game contains both online and split screen multiplayer. I was really happy to see split screen supported since way to many games have dropped support for that lately and this is the type of game that is perfect for sitting down with a friend for some fierce competition. Unfortunately there seems to be a major problem with online multiplayer though. Each time I tried to play online I was greeted with an error of not being able to start the game, or even worse a software lock. While I am sure this will be patched in the future, its disappointing for a game that just came out after many delays to have the online component unplayable. Also I did notice some graphical glitches and a bit of stuttering while playing. While these were annoying to see they weren’t bad enough to impact my time with the game.
I enjoyed my time with Rock of Ages. The minute to minute game play is a lot of fun and it was always satisfying to break through the castle gates and crush my opponent at the end of a level. Also not many games have me wishing for more cut scenes but the ones included in Rock of Ages are one of the highlights of the game for me. While the story mode is a decent length with 22 levels, I do wish that the AI would have put up more of a challenge throughout the game rather then just at the end. But my only real problem with the game is with the online. Hopefully the problems with this does not take too long to be fixed since playing online multiplayer would be the main reason to bring me back to this title in the future.
A copy of this game was obtained through PS+ for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- Humour filled intro videos
- Good controls
- Skeeboulder mode
What I Dislike:
- Online is currently broken
- Enemy AI is not always the smartest when rolling
- Some frustration during boss battles
- Graphical glitches and stuttering