It’s not often that my instincts about what I’m about to get into based on a title screen get thrown completely for a loop. Rollers of the Realm gives off a distinct RPG feel as you start it up. As soon as you jump in, though, it’s very clearly a pinball game. From there, the true shape begins to take form, and you find yourself in the midst of a difficult, but pretty enjoyable, cross-genre game. Mixing up classic RPG elements with frantic pinball action, it creates a very unique and intriguing system that’s easy to get the hang of but tough to master.
Rollers of the Realm manages a pretty complex feat, when you stop to think about it. Making use of common RPG pieces within the confines of a pinball game isn’t easy. Our story begins with a lone rogue, trying to stay alive in the dirty back alleys of a bustling city. Most of the gameplay involves breaking through barriers or fighting against enemies in order to progress, with all of trappings you’d expect of a pinball game — bumpers, flippers, bonus targets, and so forth. As our unfortunate heroine carves out her existence, more party members join the fray, each with unique abilities and play style.
What keeps Rollers of the Realm from being a pinball game, aside from the trappings of story, is the character balls. Each ball has unique properties; the Rogue, for instance, deals extra damage when attacking from behind, and can call in her trusty canine companion as a second ball. Other characters may feature different ball size, maneuverability, and their own unique powers; the Healer can resurrect fallen allies, the Monk can sharply increase his maneuverability, and the Swordsman’s flaming swords leave a damage over time burn on enemies, just to name a few. The party’s mix of characters keeps things interesting, and finding the right ball for the job is key.
All along the way, Rollers of the Realm tells a story between levels and areas. The focus is a pretty simple story; an oppressive Baron rules the land with an iron fist, and the party slowly takes shape in a struggle against this unjust rule. The story unfolds in short conversational cut scenes and propels our heroes ever onward through a number of regions including the city, the baron’s keep, and a battleground between the ruler’s militiamen and the freedom-seeking outlaw forces. Each presents unique fields of play and new challenges to overcome, and can be replayed for extra loot and XP to power up your champions.
Progressing through each level is generally a matter of defeating enemy forces, but other objectives pop up as well. Defending the outlaw camp against the baron’s torches, stealing valuables from within the keep, or searching the forest for healing herbs keep the play varied. Combat is difficult but engaging, as enemies pour in from all sides. While most foes will make use of swords and the like, simply knocking player balls dangerously around, ranged weapons add a dangerous threat by attacking the player’s flippers, making ball-dropping a much more serious concern.
Rollers of the Realm gets points for its unique play style and responsive, approachable play. It’s definitely not an easily mastered mix of genres, but it’s well-done enough that it takes more skill and concentration than it does luck. The story isn’t much to write home about, but with an entertaining play style and solid RPG elements, there’s a lot of good to say. If you’re a fan of pinball games — and I am — then this one definitely deserves a look, if only for the particular twist that Phantom Compass puts on it. I’d happily say the amount of content is worth the $9.99 price on Steam, and a sale price of $7.49 as I write this is a great deal for anyone that’s on the fence.