In Roguemance, love is a procedurally generated battlefield. The romance-themed roguelike (though you can turn off permadeath) places equal emphasis on the creatures you fight as well as the bonds you form with your party members. It’s indie developer Lucas Molina’s latest game, and it’s out now on PC.
As players traverse the colorful pixel realm of Heartipelago, they have the option to pick up sidekicks, select and buy new skills, and face off against hostile creatures. Before every battle, you pick who will accompany you in combat, and each fight acts as a date.
You’re equipped with four moves — such as attack, defend, and jump — and you must use all of them at least once before they cool down. Your date and enemies, on the other hand, go through their moves sequentially. In order to successfully hit the monsters and avoid attacking your love interest, you have to plan accordingly. Once your date likes you enough, you can control them and execute both of your moves simultaneously, which adds complexity to your strategy. It’s a fresh take on turn-based combat.
Roguemance also tasks you with balancing how everyone feels about your decisions. Some of the folks you add to your party may want to choose one path over another on the map, others ask you to spare your enemies after combat. You also have to take into consideration how the decisions affect your character.
Molina says that his relationships inspired the premise of the game, particularly when he started seeing patterns surface time and again when he was dating.
“Roguemance, at its core, is about compromise,” said Molina. “How much can I give before losing myself in this relationship? Should I do what you want, or what my partner wants? Is this person right for me? Do I take the hit for my partner? All of these questions and decisions are subtly thrown at the player all the time.”
Couching the game in terms of romance actually made me view some of the nonplayable characters differently. I was on a “date” with an NPC named Ufo who kept trashtalking me the whole time. They kept telling me they didn’t need me and they were fine on their own, which I found offensive since I felt like I was doing most of the work in battle.
I stopped at the first pub I saw and picked up a new sidekick straight away.
Molina developed Roguemance over a period of a year-and-a-half, and he plans on adding more content. He says he’s made a lot of changes based on player feedback during the game’s beta, so he’s interested in seeing what features the community asks for now that it’s fully released.
It’s undoubtedly difficult to create games as a solo dev, but Molina says that his biggest challenge is a condition called tension myositis syndrome (TMS).
“I have terrible back pain, so sitting down to make the game daily is a big challenge. Furthermore, this back pain is induced by stress rather than physical injury (it’s called TMS), so that means I’m not only suffering physically, but mentally above all,” said Molina. “I’ve been in a long journey to love myself more and not put so much pressure in myself. That’s the key to ease the pain and my mind. It helps that I’m making a game about love that I’m passionate about, but making games is hard. I’m slowly figuring out how to stay productive without suffering.”
Molina’s other games have tackled various ideas, and notably reflected his love of art. Painters Guild, for instance, is a simulation game that delves into the economics of being a Renaissance artist. Avante-Garde, which is in alpha, lets players make paintings and meet famous artists like Claude Monet.