by Camrin Santchi
reviewed on PC
A Rolling stone gathers no moss
Mix in one part tower defense, one part rolling a boulder down a hill, a ton of Monty Python style humor, creative art styles based on the art of the times that may or may not clash hilariously, and you’ll have the quite successful Rock of Ages series. The newest release from ACE Team and Giant Monkey Robot (One of the coolest names I’ve ever heard) is Rock of Ages III: Make & Break.
The subtitle is not only a clever play on words, but a promise of the mechanic introduced in this game that’s a series first: Allowing gamers to make their own levels in which to play, and then wreak havoc upon them. Rock of Ages II: Bigger and Boulder had multiplayer, but only on pre-existing levels, but Rock of Ages III takes this one step further, allowing gamers to let their creativity and destructive tendencies flow on other player’s designs. The tutorial for the stage creator is given by Napoleon Bonaparte himself, complete with thick French accent and multiple assurances that yes, he is quite tall.
The story itself is quite simple but incredibly clever. It starts with Odysseus of ancient Greek Odyssey fame, during the early leg of his journey home. He and his men are trapped by the cyclops Polyphemus and it is this early section that gives a brief tutorial on rolling boulders, via Odysseus having the wise idea to tie a bunch of sheep together in order to push aside the boulder that had trapped them in a cave. This is followed by a defense tutorial as gamers try to keep Polyphemus from breaking down the door of the castle that they’ve barricaded themselves in. After this, the Cyclops (now blinded by poking his eye out in frustration compared to the myth where he was stabbed by a pike) goes to the god Poseidon, having a temper tantrum like a child telling his parent what occurred. Deciding to help, Poseidon decides to mix up a good old-fashioned Greek curse for Odysseus and his crew, only for his shelf of curses to collapse and all fall into a cauldron. With Odysseus’ ship now lost through time, gamers can take a look at the ‘hub’ of the story mode, an area filled to the brim with levels to complete and bosses to fight, once gamers have earned enough stars to unlock them.
Stars are earned through completing levels. ‘War Mode’, the mode known by players of previous instalments has players needing to both build defenses for their castle and roll a massive boulder down a hill towards their opponent’s castle (“The Ultimate in battle strategy!” Napoleon proclaims during the tutorial). However, there are other modes of play as well. Obstacle Course, which is a multi-round race to the end of a course riddled with traps of all kinds, as well as fellow boulders that can bump and crash into each other. Time Trials are also available, where gamers roll a bomb with a lit fuse, rather than a boulder, in an attempt to get the best time possible. Beyond that there are unit restrictions, a Ski Boulder mode that is similar to Obstacle Course but has targets to hit along the way and a ski ball ‘machine’ at the end that the boulder needs to land in the rings of. Then there is Boulder Avalanche where an overwhelming force comes for your base, and finally Humpty Dumpty, where one wrong move could leave your ‘boulder’ cracked.
Controlling the boulders feels about how one might expect, able to pick up speed and occasionally having issues with managing turns without slowing down first. As you would expect, the faster the boulder goes the more damage it does to the enemy gates, so being able to build up speed is certainly something that is important. I stuck primarily with the iconic ‘Rock of Ages’, the main boulder which has rather average stats, but gamers have access to multiple types of boulders to choose from, including some… questionable options, such as a hoard of sheep tied together, or an inflated cow of all things, depending on the map and preference of the player.
As mentioned above the game feels very ‘Monty Python’ in its humor and even its delightfully low budget designs for characters - often with very little movement - make them seem like stock images moving on sticks. Each character is designed to resemble the art of their time and region, which can lead to some comical confrontations, particularly when there is an introductory cutscene that lead to shenanigans. For example, Julius Caesar somehow evades being assassinated through sheer happenstance, or a superhero style intro for the Indian gods during Kali’s level.
Rocking and Rolling
This humor extends to the end of the levels as well, when the door of an enemy castle is finally broken the foe will squeal shrilly, and when the boulder runs them over there’s a rather childish fart sound that is still worthy of a chuckle or two. In all, Rock of Ages III certainly makes rather than breaks, and is a very entertaining way to spend time, with satisfying controls and humor that is admittedly hit or miss depending on the player.
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Well-Designed levels, Broad Variety of Game Modes, good level creator
Humor isn’t for everyone, Controls take some getting used to