The beauty of the rogue-like genre is how robust it is. A truly creative developer can take the idea of starting from scratch over and over again, experiencing different stories and adventures every time while crafting something that’s truly unique and special. It’s a style of game that has become incredibly saturated in recent years but I don’t think that’s a fault of the genre itself.
I think far too many developers leap into the simplest and most accessible iteration of the rogue-like, usually some kind of side-scroller or top-down shooter, without adding anything new or interesting to the formula. Doesn’t exactly help anyone, right? We just get more and more games that fall short of actually being decent explorations of those mechanics because there’s nothing truly original to them. That’s something that Convoy clearly sets out to resolve, adding a unique spin to the genre while also providing a tough-as-nails challenge that’s only just accessible enough to not throw your device across the room.
Convoy is a game about always moving forward yet unlike something like Doom, it’s a game with a similar design philosophy, your movement isn’t one of reckless abandon. It’s a slow-paced crawl, carefully evaluating every kilometre you cover while making decisions based entirely on unknowable blips on a map. With the thin premise of your ship crashing on a desert planet ruled by a handful of vicious and tyrannical factions, your only quest is to find the parts that you need to mend your ship and escape.
To do so, you’ve fashioned the titular convoy, equipped with battle wagons and machine guns, to scavenge the wasteland and find all the necessary items. Of course, there’s more to it than that with plenty of micro-stories unfolding in the mix to make every playthrough a little different. Locations, characters and items change every time you roll a new seed, and the sheer variety at play here is rather stunning. Not only do the various pillars of your engagement change but you’ll always be given options on how to approach a scenario. The option to “Shoot him” or “Ready for Battle” are present at all times, providing an element of actual narrative role-playing that many rogue-likes often overlook in favour of mechanical RPG elements.
There’s a lot going on in Convoy’s core gameplay loop but don’t expect it to be an incredibly visual experience. Many of your encounters, both random and story related, will be told through some text-heavy screens and while that’s not exactly a fault of the game, it is a design choice that’s not for everyone. As I said above, this is a rogue-like in a very tactical sense of the phrase so going into this expecting visual storytelling to enhance the experience is just looking for disappointment.
The most visually dynamic the game gets is during battle encounters and even those are rendered with some fairly rudimentary and blocky sprites. I’m not the sort of person to be put off by graphics in a video game, largely because I’m not 14 and it’s no longer 2011, but even I sometimes found the visuals to resemble free browser-based flash games. Perhaps that’s not a fair criticism to level at Convoy but there’s definitely something about the presentation that just didn’t quite click with me.
Let’s talk about the combat system in Convoy because I think it’s going to be the thing that draws most players in and for the first couple encounters, it’s fantastic. Battles play out like a top-down Mad Max car chase, with cars zipping across the battlefield and forcing players into a reactive playstyle that delivers what certainly feels like a tactical experience. Factors like car placement, equipped weapons, installed upgrades and the utilities mounted to your lead vehicle all play a role in determining your victory.
It’s just a pity that it never really evolves past that point. Sure, you can add new cars to your convoy and find new equipment to give you an edge but the actual battles feel like they play out just a little too slow, as ironic as that is. Actions feel like they take just a little too long to register and while it’s possible, and certainly encouraged to prevail, the enemy AI isn’t dynamic enough to really force some kind of strategy other than, “Shoot the big one first”. Instead of an AI that attempts to outplay you at your own game, Convoy elects to rather just throw more enemies at you to boost the difficulty. In a game that labels itself as a “tactical experience” it feels cheap to fail just because the enemy outnumbered you, which goes double for the final boss that really just involves killing waves of similar enemies.
So, much like many modern-day rogue-likes, Convoy can grow to become repetitive if you spend too long with it. I suspect the design intention behind the game was to deliver an experience that’s meant to be played in short-bursts over a long period of time but the general pace of Convoy makes even those shorter sessions feel like a grind. Unfortunately, Convoy commits the cardinal sin of the rogue-like genre: It’s unfulfilling. A great rogue-like game gets you to play again and again whether it be through a rich loot system, varied combat or just the sense of ever-changing exploration. Convoy does all of those things, it just never fully commits to any. In trying to be a Jack of All Trades, it ultimately fails to provide a compelling reason to keep coming back.
Last Updated: April 23, 2020