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GamingOnLinux Reviews - Rochard

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Game Information:
Name: Rochard
Released: September 27, 2011
Developer: Recoil Games
Rating: 8/10

Hardware Specifications:
Processor: AMD Sempron 140 2.7 Ghz
Video Card: Diamond AMD Radeon HD 4670
Memory: 4 Gigabytes DDR2 1066
Hard Drive: 2 TB Western Digital Caviar Green

System Specifications:
Distribution: Fedora 16
Kernel: Linux 3.6.10
Graphics Driver: R600 Gallium3D Driver
Desktop Environment: Xfce with compositing

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Indie physics platformers are a dime a dozen these days, and I can not help but find it somewhat peculiar that in a market that seems to promote itself so heavily on its supposed innate creativity and diversity that such a genre glut as we are seeing now came to exist. People may moan when more mainstream big corporate developers churn out yet another brown looking shooter on other platforms, but the independents are starting to develop a similar record with regard to these physics platformers. I am not saying that these games are not necessarily creative or competently executed or even fun; it is just that even I have seen most of this before.

Rochard is definitely an example of this, following very much in the shoes of such titles as Trine (2009) in everything from its prominent release on the PlayStation Network to the geographic location of the game's developers. In fact, the easiest way I can think of explaining the game to another Linux gamer would be to simply say that Rochard is Trine meets Prey (2006), mixing the former titles's penchant for box stacking and controlled physics movement for the latter game's liking for mind-blowing gravity effects and even grabbing some of Prey's noteworthy emphasis on aboriginal mysticism. Oh, and Jon St. John is in it, finally showing the world that the man has a much wider vocal range than just his familiar Duke Nukem character, even if the main character does not always demonstrate it.

Gamers play as John Rochard, a hard as rock astro-miner who's been down on his luck for the past several years, with he and his team seemingly never being able to dig up anything worth anything. All of this changes when you and your crew discover an ancient structure hidden deep in an asteroid, with your team suddenly being attacked by space bandits. It is left up to you to save your friends and uncover the true secret of the asteroid, as well as fully reveal the machinations of your boss Maximilian and the rest of SkyRig and the Sky Police. Gameplay consists of combat sequences spliced in around puzzle solving, with most of the player's time playing Rochard being spent using the game's specific set piece objects in order to solve an array of gravity and physics based puzzles.

John Rochard is equipped with his own G-Lifter, a tool that builds on the already well established gravity gun/grabber concept and allows John to move and toss objects around at will. As the game progresses, the player will also have access to various upgrades that expand the G-Lifter's capabilities. For instance, later on in the game the player will be able to use the tool's gravity beam to swing on certain specific boxes and fly through the air, a technique which is important to master for those who want to survive the game's final boss fight in one piece. Towards the end of the game the player will also have access to the Helga, an older model of G-Lifter that can even lift and toss John's human opponents around just like the wizard can do against goblins in Trine 2 (2011) and it is just as satisfying here as it is there.

John's other major ability is his knowledge of artificial gravity generators, which after a little mechanical assistance from him can be made to assist him in combat and problem solving. By pressing a specific key, players can activate a low gravity mode which allows John to jump higher, lift substantially heavier objects, and perform certain acts such as the aforementioned gravity swinging, as well as a technique in which the player can jump off an already suspended box in order to acquire that last little bit of momentum needed to reach certain otherwise inaccessible ledges. It sounds complicated, and it is, but it is these little tricks that at least let Rochard come up with something vaguely innovative. All in all, these do in fact work well, allowing the player to feel like they are in fact accomplishing something by mastering the varied techniques that are put on offer.

The G-Lifter can also double as a rock blaster and a flashlight, and this is John's primary means of defence against both the space bandits and sky police. John can of course also pick up boxes and some explosive devices and toss them or drop them on enemies, which often proves to be a much more successful means of dispatching your foes. Indeed, for the first part of the game, this serves as John's only means of defence besides a rather forgettable melee attack, and it will always remain as being one of the most satisfying. Boxes and later people can also be picked up and used as shields, something that is vitally necessary when interacting with lasers and turrets, which in of themselves can also eventually be grabbed and hurled at enemies. John also later gains the ability to fire various forms of grenades, one of which can stick to objects, which add a bit of colour to the combat sequences.

Each type of grenade can be remote detonated by pressing the middle mouse button, a little trick I unfortunately did not learn until rather late in the game, making one's timing that much more important when utilizing these grenades' full destructive capabilities. Explosives are also needed to solve certain puzzles, being used mainly to blow out certain specific floor types or temporarily knock out fuses. Players will also have to use the rock blaster to clear away certain environmental obstructions, and the weapon can also often become a puzzle in of itself due to its tendency to overheat, something which is thankfully somewhat mitigated later on with later G-Lifter upgrades when combat becomes more intense. Enemies consist of armed bandits, the sky police, security turrets, and various forms of flying droids that are often a pain to kill but thankfully can also be grabbed using the G-Lifter and tossed at machinery, walls, and each other when they become too annoying.

Unfortunately though, the combat often veers between satisfying and annoying, largely due to the fact that, given the way things are set up, there is usually only one right way of handling a situation, meaning that it may take several tries of experimentation and death to get past one particularly difficult area. This is not just a problem with the combat, however. Players of games like Trine will find the freedom offered in the game to be rather limited, with there always seeming to be only one right way of doing things. As I mentioned before, puzzles consist mostly of moving specific set pieces to the right position, with everything in the game world seeming to be very rigidly defined. Trying to forge your own path and attempting to escape this orthodoxy will almost inevitably lead to failure, or at the very least stall your progress. This in turn can cause Rochard to feel a little repetitive, although the game does seem to acknowledge this fact and try to liven things up with a new ability or a new environment whenever things start to get a little dull.

The basic puzzle paradigm the game offers is trying to navigate John through the levels while interacting with three types of force fields. Red ones prevent humans from progressing but let boxes and lasers through, blue ones do not allow objects to pass, while a mix of the two stops both from getting through. Players will either have to find their way past these to move either themselves or a specific object to another part of the level, or otherwise disable the force fields by interacting with fuses. Fuses can also control doors, lifts and lasers, which unfortunately also happen to be one of the game's other sticking points. The game has a little bit of an over reliance on sudden death traps, and the lasers are the worst of the lot, delivering instant death if they even come close to the player character. Considering several puzzles involve grabbing and moving these laser beams, they quickly became a little frustrating.

Besides the objects that bring instant death, such as the lasers and areas with electric shocks, most other painful encounters hurt John by lowering his health bar, which in a rather modern fashion recharges over time and thus removes the need to hunt for medkits or other more esoteric health items. Indeed, most firefights can be won by simply backing up or hiding away from enemies until one's health recharges, and the amount of health one receives increases throughout the game as John encounters various health stations that increase the size of the bar. In a rather nice touch that actually does manage to set Rochard ahead of some of its contemporaries, John is actually affected by hard long falls or being hit over the head by an object, unlike in Trine where I can bean the wizard an infinite number of times with his own box and the worst thing that he does is rub the back of his neck in a plaintive fashion.

The fact that falling hurts also ties in nicely to the low gravity mode, which can take the edge of some of these man/ground collisions. Speaking of gravity, one other point that I have yet to elaborate on is the fact that in some parts of the game gravity becomes reversed, meaning that John now falls to the roof and you need to readjust your perspective to tackle the suddenly new world you are facing. These are in many ways the game's most memorable moments, and are the parts of the game that feel the most reminiscent of Prey, granting a similar hectic feeling of scrambling for a new foothold every time the gravity changes. Later on, after John picks up the Helga G-Lifer, you can even fire a specific type of grenade that reverses the gravity of certain objects, a neat feature especially when paired with the intermodal containers tied to tracks that the game frequently employs as puzzle objects. Grenades by the way are plentifully provided by various refill stations throughout the game, so I recommend players be a lot more liberal with them than I turned out to be.

I have so far mentioned very little about the game's storyline, and that is not due to there actually being very little of it but rather because it is another part of the game that sticks out in an odd way making it rather hard to comment on. The basic premise of the game is sound, and the game does actually attempt to provide a proper narrative with theoretically engaging if over the top characters and several emotionally invested scenes. In fact, at the beginning of the game things actually start off quite well, setting up a good dynamic between the main characters and between John and the villain, even if the characters do slide into their respective roles in a rather predictable fashion. The problem is the game seems a little unsure of what it wants to be, and several of the elements shown in the game feel somewhat uncomfortable in a game that prides itself on having a large sense of humour.

For instance, the game actually has a rather dark sequence where a main character dies, and thinking back to it now after having completed the game just makes that scene seem that much odder. It was as if all of the dramatic tension the game was attempting to build up fizzled out somewhere in the middle of the game and was instead replaced with pure plot that did not seem to go anywhere. The ending also seems to promise a big payoff that never was fulfilled upon, leaving much unexplained with their decision to leave on a cliffhanger ending. The best we are left with is this vague notion that everything in the game is connected somehow with no clear elaboration as to why this is the case, and in the end this makes much of the whole experience very unsatisfying.
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Anon 28 December 2012 at 11:57 am UTC
I loved this game, but it's just so short. I hope they eventually manage to make a sequel.

Nice review, Danish.
liamdawe 28 December 2012 at 1:00 pm UTC
"Anon, post: 7353"Nice review, Danish.


Lol! Oh my the names keep coming. GOL finally has it's own home grown funny thing.
Hamish 28 December 2012 at 5:27 pm UTC
Indeed, Liam Dane.
kael 29 December 2012 at 12:33 am UTC
Good one Amish, thanks for article
berarma 30 December 2012 at 12:42 am UTC
Damn, I think I contributed to the name thing. Sorry Hamish.

Good review. The game is a bit easy and short, but I enjoyed it from start to end. The Unity engine has debuted very well, everything run smooth, and it's the first game I've seen that lets me change the system volume with the media keys. I didn't have problems with screen resolutions.
Hamish 30 December 2012 at 5:19 am UTC
It is better than being called ham-ish all the time in real life, trust me.

I actually tend to find most games a bit long actually, as I find that most developers like to extend a game past it effectiveness due to the notion of gameplay hours equalling game worth. So that is probably the reason why I personally did not have a problem with the length of the game.
Hamish 30 December 2012 at 7:12 pm UTC
Apparently shortly before I put out the review they announced that they are indeed planning to put out a DLC and that the Linux version is coming to Steam:
http://www.rochardthegame.com/en/2012/12/24/happy-holidays-from-the-rochard-team/
Cheeseness 3 January 2013 at 6:31 am UTC
Finally got around to reading. Great review

I'm not sure I agree with some of your story critique - the death towards the end of the first act of the game signals a shift in tone and stakes. It doesn't really seem out of place with the game's pacing, and serves to provide motivation for John's actions and attitudes throughout the rest of the game. I'll agree that the ending is a little lacklustre though - it feels awfully like the game ended before it was ready. I spent a little bit of time hunting around after completing the game to see if there was an alternative ending for getting all of the collectibles (something that isn't visibly tracked in the DRM free/Linux version of the game due to its reliance on Steamworks).

A lack of configuration options seems to be a hallmark of Unity titles from what I can tell. Splice suffers from this as well (though apparently that has a launcher with configuration options that isn't included in the Linux version). I ran Rochard in windowed mode and didn't have any resolution problems at all.

All up, I found Rochard to be an unexpected gem, and it kept me captivated enough to finish in one sitting back when the HIB 6 launched (still looking forward to finding time for a second playthrough).
Hamish 3 January 2013 at 8:27 am UTC
"Cheeseness, post: 7473, member: 122"I'm not sure I agree with some of your story critique - the death towards the end of the first act of the game signals a shift in tone and stakes. It doesn't really seem out of place with the game's pacing, and serves to provide motivation for John's actions and attitudes throughout the rest of the game.


While I can see your point, I still do not agree mostly because it does not seem to add much to the game. His death seemed to contribute very little as we did not need anymore reason to dislike Maximillain, who had been screwing them out of their jobs by getting them to hunt for the asteroid and was now even threatening to fire them for it. Now granted, Zander did not really have any other purpose but to give a noble death, but with Maximilian screwing them and then sending the wild boys after them, his only purpose in life (and death) seemed to contribute virtually nothing of inherent value to the plot. It is not like it really builds up to anything later in the game, other then his vague musings about the connectedness of everything before he snuffed it, and if anything the game gets lighter as it goes along not darker, so to me it just makes things seem incongruous. It is like everyone simply forgot about it, except for when John needs to take Switchblade. It seemed to me to go like this: we kill off a potential main character, and then we spend the rest of the game making bambi jokes.

Still, it is not like I really minded the death, but to me it just added to the notion that the plot seemed a little haphazard. Still, thank you for arguing with me about it; I always wanted these things to engender some real discussions about the games.
Cheeseness 3 January 2013 at 9:30 am UTC
"Hamish, post: 7474, member: 6"His death seemed to contribute very little as we did not need anymore reason to dislike Maximillain, who had been screwing them out of their jobs by getting them to hunt for the asteroid and was now even threatening to fire them for it.


Ah, but it's not about us, it's about John, who's depicted with a fairly level headed and slow-to-anger type persona - without that catalyst, his actions would have been out of character (at least, from my interpretation of him). I'll admit that it was unduly ignored throughout the rest of the game, and could have been used to bring a little more gravitas when the plot called for it.

"Hamish, post: 7474, member: 6"Still, it is not like I really minded the death, but to me it just added to the notion that the plot seemed a little haphazard. Still, thank you for arguing with me about it; I always wanted these things to engender some real discussions about the games.


My pleasure
I also haven't played it with a review in mind though - I was too busy enjoying it on my first run through to cast a critical eye over it.
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