Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike
Developed By: Convoy Games
Published By: Triangle Studios
Category: Action, Adventure, Strategy, Role-Playing
Release Date: 04.08.20
Is it ever a bad time for a strategy roguelike to hit the Switch? Yeah, I guess, if you’re already playing one. Luckily I wasn’t already engrossed in one when Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike came up in the review queue, otherwise I’d be pretty conflicted about where to spend my time. From the appropriately titled Convoy Games and Triangle Studios, Convoy is a deceptively simple strategy game about car convoy combat in a sci-fi wasteland setting. There are a lot of words in that last sentence that really rev my engines, so let’s get started with the review.
We Got A Little Convoy
As far as storylines go, Convoy keeps things rather light. Your ship crashed on a wasteland planet terrorized by three factions – raiders, privateers, and the T.O.R.V.A.C. company. You’re in charge of a convoy of trucks sent out to find the parts needed to fix the ship and get the heck off this horrible rock. That’s essentially it as far as stories go. In the wastelands you’ll come across some randomized events that are occasionally accompanied by simple scenarios. The best part of these side quests are the numerous, amusing Easter egg references that punctuate many questlines. I particularly loved the few Terry Pratchett references I came across; GNU Terry Pratchett, indeed.
The biggest problem with the game’s many quests is that they all feel kind of the same; every quest is either a fight or a fetch quest. There really aren’t any characters to invest yourself in, so the small text pieces that accompany some quests don’t leave much of an impact. Frankly, there are a limited number of quests available, too, which combined with the game’s roguelike structure means you’re going to be replaying the same quests multiple times. After playing the same quests multiple times across the dozen or so runs I took through the game, they got kind of old and completing them became more tedious than adventurous.
Rockin Through The Night
The game map is a hex grid laid over different types of terrain; you use up gas as you move depending on the type of road you’re driving. Actual roads move the fastest and most efficiently, whereas mountains are slow and take a lot of gas. Different markers on the map will indicate either a new quest to start, an objective for your main quest, or a random encounter that can end with new allies, equipment, or (most likely) a fight. There are also some settlements sprinkled about the map where you can gas up, repair your vehicles, and buy new stuff to strengthen your trucks.
There’s a decent selection of weapons to equip that have different strengths and weaknesses. Trucks – including yours – have both health points and armor points that are reduced when you’re attacked. Having some armor left reduces your health damage; you take full damage with every attack when your armor points run out. You can also equip accessories that have special effects like adding energy shields, dropping land mines, or increasing your weapons’ range.
Every vehicle has a set number of fixed slots; if you have one weapon slot and one accessory slot, your truck can equip one weapon and one accessory. You can’t choose to focus solely on firepower or more tactical skills if that would be more toward your play style. It was a bit disappointing that your trucks lacked a little more customizability; you only get two trucks to start the game, and you’re pretty dependent on luck to add more to your convoy. If you can only scrounge up vehicles with a low number of weapon or accessory slots it makes the game either a lot harder because you’ve got inferior trucks or a lot longer because you need to spend the time to find different allies.
Yeah We Got A Little Convoy
Combat takes place on a square-grid highway; you don’t see the grid, but the tile layout is fairly obvious. You can maneuver your vehicles around your main convoy, which always stays in the same place during a battle; in the center of the screen during regular fights, and in the middle of the left edge of the screen during boss fights. You can activate whatever special abilities you have equipped to it, however; my personal favorite is the big laser cannon or the minelayer. Your guard vehicles – you can recruit up to four – can move around the screen according to your commands. They each have an attack range, and can attack any unit within that range. They don’t automatically move into attack position when you give them a target, though, so you have to actively position them if you want them to attack a faraway unit or keep up with an enemy that moves out of their range.
In addition to enemy vehicles firing at you, your cars can be damaged by different terrain-related obstacles. Mines – whether you or an enemy laid them – will damage any car that runs over them, and defeated cars will have the same effect until the running battle passes them. Hitting things like buildings and boulders will result in instant death. You can ram enemy cars from the side; ramming someone into a boulder and watching them explode is one of the game’s most truly satisfying experiences. Be careful with ramming, though; it damages your car a little to do so.
At first I found the game’s combat to be overwhelmingly unforgiving, but as I played a few more games I began to develop my strategies and the game became far more manageable. It took me four or five runs to truly feel like I understood the battles, so be patient with the game if you feel overwhelmed at first. Enemies get way more powerful the closer you get to collecting all four components you need, and therefore more difficult. The boss fight in particular after you collect the final part features an especially huge difficulty spike. I know it’s the boss, but geez; do they even want anyone to beat this game?
Ain’t She a Beautiful Sight?
Convoy features a cool retro pixel aesthetic that appeals to my nostalgia in a big way; combined with the futuristic highway wasteland setting, it makes for a visual style that I absolutely adore. It reminds me a lot of FTL’s graphics, both in terms of the bird’s-eye-view and somewhat minimalist details. Still, it looks really good. The music is similarly old-school and pretty funky. Like the graphics, the soundtrack is fairly minimalist, but that doesn’t make it in any way ineffective. I was grooving to the battle music the whole time through my experience especially.
Come On And Join Our Convoy
My initial impressions of Convoy were not especially positive; the exploration system was fine, but combat had some moving parts that I didn’t wrap my head around immediately – actually it was the stationary stuff that was killing me. I ran my vehicles into so many buildings because I wasn’t reacting fast enough to the game’s warnings; eventually I learned I could just pause the game and issue orders more calmly. Then things took off quickly from there. I came to enjoy the unique concepts of the battle system, the retro-inspired graphics, and the solid soundtrack. I would have liked a little more customizability out of the vehicles and I found the narrative to be a little too simple or repetitive for my taste, but overall I really liked the whole package.
Buy Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike
Digital – $14.99
Follow Convoy Games
Follow Triangle Studios
*A game code was provided for review purposes.