Essentially, Rock of Ages is a mix of strategy and action games where you’re given control of a big boulder and guide it down a winding road. Your ultimate goal is in attempting to break down the castle gates of significant people from both history and mythology, from King Leonidas to Michael the Archangel, and literally squish them as they squeal like a 12-year-old girl.
Developer: ACE Team
Platform: Steam PC (reviewed), Xbox LIVE Arcade (Xbox 360), PlayStation Network (PlayStation 3)
Players: Single-Player, Multi-Player
Price: $9.99 USD (Steam), 800 Microsoft Points (Xbox LIVE Arcade)
Release: August 31st 2011 (Xbox 360), September 7th 2011 (PC)
In the game’s story mode you play as Sisyphus who was, for those of you like myself that aren’t overly knowledgeable about Greek mythology, a king punished by the Gods for the tricks he played during his life. The story goes that Sisyphus was damned to an eternity of pushing a boulder up a hill that, upon almost reaching the top, would then roll back to the bottom and he would have to start again. The Sisyphus in the game, however, doesn’t just have his boulder roll down the hill, but also through the five different time periods including Ancient Greek, Medieval, Renaissance, Rococo and Goya, all of which can be seen in the differences in art from period to period. While some of these time periods may mean very little to some of you, most players should easily recognise many of the historical figures and cultural references the story is laden with.
Gameplay is divided in to two sections: trying to break through your opponent’s castle gates, and setting up your defences to stop them from doing the same to you. To break through, you’re given control of a giant boulder and must make it down a winding route, past or through your opponent’s defensive structures (as well as over rocks, houses or people) and ram in to their castle gates. However, doing so destroys your boulder and while a new one is being carved you’re giving a short respite to setup your defences.
Some defensive structures include towers that slow you and your opponent down, explosive barrels that can both damage your boulder and send it flying off in any direction, or cows whose sole purpose in life is to attempt to push your boulder off the edge of the path. Early in the game you’ll have access to only a small selection of these, but as the game progresses you’ll unlock new structures and items as well as upgraded (and more expensive) versions of what you already have. While there are too many to list, making strategic use of all of them is important to ensure that you’re able to stop your opponent and destroy their defences before they destroy yours. Each structure or item can only be placed on certain tiles and when the object on these tiles gets destroyed, these tiles are no longer able to be built upon. Of course, none of these would be affordable without some sort of income which is accrued each time you crash your boulder in to the gate of your enemies’ castle as well as by building mines which generate a small amount of income over time.
As well as the wide range of defensive objects that can be placed, the player has the option before launching their boulder, of adding one of four power-ups to it. These range in price and only last for one run at the enemies’ castle or until the players boulder takes enough damage to lose a layer and thus loses the power-up. Each of these adds an increase to the damage you do to your opponent’s castle gates which, from what I experienced in my play through, tends to get the gate down in two charges from each boulder as opposed to three without the power-ups. This makes defence less of a priority with game becoming more of a competition of who can find the best path to reach the end three times, and this can cause things to feel quite repetitive.
The story isn’t the only gameplay mode available with time trials available for each completed level as well as two separate modes (War and SkeeBoulder) available in both local split screen and online multiplayer. War is simply the story mode (minus any story) with both players having opposing castles and setting up their own defences before attempting to destroy each other. SkeeBoulder is a variation of Skeeball where the basic goal is to earn points by having your boulder take out targets then attempting to launch it in one of seven different holes with each hole representing a different score multiplier, the winner being the one with the highest score at the end of three rounds. Even with these options, it was hard to find replay value and longevity after the story mode had been completed.
If the creative minds behind Monty Python were to develop a game, Rock of Ages would be the kind of silly, semi-historical based work I’d expect to see. With this in mind, Zeno Clash developers ACE Team have done a great job in using historical and mythological humour and adding it to already enjoyable and interesting gameplay. Overall, its quirky story, cultural references and changing art styles will have you chuckling from start to finish and it’s a good, laidback game to pick up if you want to kill an hour or two of free time.
8.0 – Great. An enjoyable experience, fans and newcomers of the genre will be entertained. Any noticeable flaws are largely outweighed by the positives.