Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike is a frantic, strategical RPG where your main task is to repair your spaceship and get out of Dodge.
Inspired by Mad Max and FTL, Convoy has you searching a wasteland-like planet in an effort to find the vital parts to repair your damaged spaceship. You can get items through searching the planet, defeating foes, and purchasing them with scrap in shops set up at various camps scattered around. You encounter a vast array of characters, both friendly and unfriendly, through text-based roleplaying interactions with multiple-choice options. These impact your game directly as well as the larger political landscape of the planet you’re on. It’s a well-thought-out title with questionable execution, but you can’t deny the passion that has gone into its creation.
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Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike’s PS4 Launch Trailer
Partnered with Triangle Studios, Convoy Games is a small team from the Netherlands. Convoy: A Tactical Roguelike was originally released in 2015 on PC but is not making it’s way to consoles. Triangle Studios’ page on the game bouts some impressive statistics. It contains 37 cars, 9 MCVs, 192 different scenarios and a total of 151,938 words. That’s a lot of reading, alright.
I didn’t do a lot of research into what kind of game this would be going in, because I wanted it to be a surprise. Despite this, I instantly made the connection to the two inspirations mentioned. With all the game’s action taking place as fast-paced car chases across desert wastes, it’s very Mad Max. With its graphical design and text-based interactions to break up combat, it’s very FTL. It seemed as if it would marry the two perfectly when I began…
In no particular order, let’s discuss the three main aspects of Convoy: its graphics, its gameplay, and its additional features rounding it out as a complete game. I reviewed this on a Nintendo Switch Lite. It’s coming out on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Switch 8 April 2020.
There Is A Lot Going On Visually With Convoy…
While I do enjoy the pixelated styling of Convoy usually, I found that it was just messy when I was trying to play it.
One issue I found, despite there being a generally busy HUD, was with the weapons. When you’re going to purchase and equip weapons, they can get lost in the HUD. I think this is primarily down to the same pixelated style being used throughout every aspect of the game. The backgrounds, the sprites, the HUD… It’s all the same. Once I managed to get over this, though, I did find that I enjoyed the designs of the weapons. It wasn’t the worst, but if I was trying to complete any of these tasks quickly, it was an issue.
Similarly, the top-down view of the game and the size of the sprites meant that some of the weapons were getting lost in the visuals of the vehicles. Part of me didn’t mind this, as it made it seem as if the weapon customizations I made were more naturally fitting the design of things. But it also annoyed me when I couldn’t always see the cool new artillery cannon I had bought. Again, not a major problem but not necessarily my preference.
The text was difficult to read, at times.
The major graphical issue, which actually did impede gameplay somewhat, was the weapon statistics. They are way too tiny. Simple as that. When you hover over a weapon, the stats appear in a pop-up beside it. This is a common feature in games and a good way of doing it, but it does help to be able to read them. I expect that this might be better to play on a docked Nintendo Switch, or indeed just a Nintendo Switch, but playing this on a Switch Lite, I found that it put me off. I even found myself avoiding reading descriptions on occasion. Perhaps this is a comment on my eyesight, but I think information such as weapon stats are important, and they shouldn’t be a chore to read.
Convoy’s combat is ruthlessly challenging…
By a long shot, I had the most fun while playing Convoy when I was in combat, although this wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The frantic nature of the combat combined with the perma-death commonplace in roguelike games makes it an exciting experience. However, I found it was almost too easy to lose, as strange as that sounds.
You can lose your escort vehicles by crashing them. Sure, logically, that makes sense. If a car crashes into a rock during a car chase, it’s going to explode. But while trying to manage vehicle positioning and ability use, it’s easy to forget about avoiding rocks. During my first couple of playthroughs, I lost my escorts very early on. This made every subsequent fight truly tiresome. You can equip weapons onto the MCV, which is good. However, the weapons I equipped were almost always slow-firing or had horrendous recharge times. As these are usually meant to be used to support the escort vehicles, it makes sense, but when the MCV is all you have? It’s bad.
Convoy’s pause feature is one that I regret not using more. It gives you a huge tactical advantage in combat, allowing you to issue commands to your units and helping you manage the chaos. However, in this chaos, I found that I forgot I could do it more often than not.
It juxtaposes fast combat with slow exploration.
Exploration outside of combat is simply boring. You search a topographical, hexagon-covered map at varying speeds praying for a surprise encounter while you look for the markers which you hope contain the parts you need. Thankfully, encounters are fairly regular, but in those moments in-between, it’s slow and kills any excitement from the pace of conflict you may have.
The text-based conversations and interactions you have in the world are simple and somewhat predictable at times, but they can be amusing. More often than not, you find yourself having to decide on whether to use resources to force an outcome or gamble in conversation. Sometimes you get a reward, sometimes you don’t. It isn’t a groundbreaking gameplay feature and one you expect in this kind of game. It carries you between combat instances, but I often found myself purposely picking the ‘negative’ options in these situations to get into fights, as this is where I had the most fun. I’m not sure that’s exactly how you’re meant to play the game, but… Is it not better to die a hero, than to live long enough to… I don’t know, actually repair your ship?
By far, Convoy’s roguelike features are it’s best…
This is where Convoy truly thrives as a game, in my opinion. Its combat, I found, was almost too chaotic at times. The gameplay outside of combat is almost too un-chaotic. I know, I sound very hard to please… But the degree with which you can customize your vehicles’ weaponry and abilities is what kept me playing as long as I did.
Convoy is, as one would expect from a roguelike, completely randomized on each playthrough. Other than the MCV and escorts you begin with, everything else is different. The planet you land on has a different layout, complete with different objectives and a different selection of side-quests and interactions for you to uncover. The prospect of what you might encounter and accomplish is what drove me into playing ‘just one more game’. If this game wasn’t a roguelike, I would certainly have not played half as much as I did.
Also, the little things really complete the experience…
There are also a few little features that help further deepen the experience. Despite the fact that I found exploration boring, I did appreciate the fact that the terrain impacted the speed of the MCV. If you’re on a road or low terrain, you go quicker than if you’re going across higher terrain. It brings a degree of realism to the simplistic exploration. It helps you imagine that the MCV really is navigating this uneven landscape.
In addition to this, the very limited dialogue of your escorts helps to bring character to otherwise lifeless vehicles. They may only say “roger that”, and utterances similar, but this helps foster some degree of a connection to these units. I find this is a paramount feature in any roguelike experience with permadeath. If you don’t care about keeping your units alive, then the idea that you’ll lose them forever if they die doesn’t have as much of an impact. It’s as simple as that. Part of me felt connected through these small voice lines, but part of me cared because it was bloody difficult to carry on a save without the escorts.
But… Myfinal thoughts?
On the whole, Convoy is a fun-enough game to play. But rather than making me want to play Convoy more, it made me want to play other games similar to Convoy, instead. It pulled me into the concept again and how much I enjoy it, but not the game itself, which is a shame. I went into Convoy with a nostalgic hype from the days where I played FTL a lot more, but rather than being surprised and hooked, I was a little disappointed.
On top of this, it is annoyingly difficult. Even when I thought I had the hang of things, I was still getting my escorts destroyed in one of the first couple of fights.
Convoy is as tedious as it is stress-inducing. Its gameplay is challenging, but so is reading half of the text in the game. I had some fun playing it, but not as much as I’d hoped I would have.
Convoy: The Tactical Roguelike comes out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch April 8, 2020. Check out Triangle Studios’ site for more information on the title. For more reviews, make sure you check out Gamezo’s review page here!