russiandrink's Rock of Ages (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

An excellent game that will probably go unnoticed

I was interested in this game when ACE Team (makers of the weird first-person brawler Zeno Clash) first announced it but it wasn't until Ryan and Patrick did a Quick Look of it on the site that I was sold on it. Describing the game is not a simple task.  I will focus on the War game mode because I did not have enough experience with the Skee Ball mode (refer to GB Quick Look; hint: you're the ball).


In a War match (singleplayer and multiplayer), the game starts in its tower defense mode. You must construct obstacles on a path that your opponent's rock will be rolling on. While you are building towers using your limited budget, a rock is being carved for you. When it is finished, you can start playing as the rock.  

At this point, your objective is to roll down your opponent's path to your opponent's gate and destroy it. It takes several turns to destroy it. While you are rolling, you will be deterred by your opponent's defenses. Meanwhile your opponent is rolling down your path and is being deterred by your defenses.  Your obstacles can be towers, cannons, explosive barrels, elephants, and many more other units fit to defend a fortress against a giant boulder with a goddamn smiling face on it (customizable).

There are several power-ups available to you when your rock is ready for you to control. Your rock can be armored, on fire, covered with tar, or you can have an extra jump to use mid-air. These power-ups have different prices so you must manage how much you're spending on defenses vs how much you want left for offense. Furthermore, you're allowed to use any given power-up only once per match. They may also be destroyed on the way to your opponent's gates.  The power-ups available are tied to the levels.


 The are 20 levels in the single player campaign (including 4 boss bottles that are very easy and heavily checkpointed but nevertheless provide a nice break from the primary gameplay). Each level starts with an animated sequence in the style of Monty Python (The Holy Grail was a major influence on the artists) and there is a great number of references to pop geek culture (i.e. "This Is Sparta!"). Each set of levels (in other words: each age....hence the name) has a distinct aesthetic and unique level design; and the levels get progressively harder to navigate as you continue with the campaign.  


The game has its own visual style and everything in the game is beautifully rendered. The environments are gorgeous, although you rarely have the opportunity to appreciate their beauty since you're always focused on winning. Even looking at the rock, especially when it is lit on fire, is pleasing to the eye. The game's control scheme is very easy to learn and the it controls really well for the most part. When you are controlling the rock, momentum plays an important role and you do feel like you're controlling a very large rock. However, when you are in tower defense mode the controls can feel a little too sensitive and if you want finer control over the placement of your towers (which may be crucial to your victory) then you have to zoom in.  
The game is a ton of fun to play. I picked it up in the morning and had an absolute blast with it the entire day (I'm writing this at midnight). It took me several hours to complete the story mode and I've put in a lot of time into the multiplayer (will get to that in a second). The gameplay is surprisingly addicting and fresh.  I have yet to try to the split-screen myself, although the Giant Bomb crew seems to have had a fun time with it on the Quick Look. However, I did manage to play a bunch of multiplayer matches (at least 10 since I got the "Win 10 War online matches" achievement and there were many times when I lost). 
It's actually pretty hard to get into an online match because you can only join somebody who has created a lobby for you to join. It's not intuitive and almost nobody actually does that so the way I managed to play online is to create a lobby and wait for somebody to join me. Otherwise you just get "no games found" error even though there are actually many players who do want to play. It's not a very good system and it could have used a little bit more work.
Seriously, the game is really fun and I highly recommend giving it a try. It's currently out on Xbox Live Arcade for 800 MS points and will be made available next week on Steam for 10 USD. They are offering it at 10% discount if you pre-purchase it on Steam and even without the discount I say it's well worth the money. You're not just buying a great indie game that will thoroughly entertain you, you're also supporting an independent game developer.
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