Roguelands Usability Review

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Roguelands (aptly named) an action-adventure, rogue-like platformer in which you play as a galactic cadet exploring planets and gearing up to ultimately take on The Destroyer, a creature which threatens your world. The game is Early Access on Steam and currently has "very positive" reviews on Steam.

My primary criticisms for Roguelands aren't what I usually mention -- its font color, type, and sizes are fine (and its dialogue format nostalgic, if you played JPRGs), its UI is intuitive, and its controls easy to pick up.

The place where Roguelands has the largest room for improvement is in player onboarding and crafting.

The First Few Screens

The first few minutes of the game are self-explanatory -- on the main menu, you can click Play, Data, Options, and Quit. Clicking on 'Play' shows you seven Empty save slots -- and when you click on one, you're led to the character creation screen.

This screen was easy to figure out - clicking on each button had a predictable effect, and the 'Stats' icons had a mouse hover effect so that I could learn what each meant. No too much to much to elaborate on here, but I have a fair number of recommendations/enhancements that don't require length paragraphs to explain.


  • High Priority: Stabilize the initial menu/setup screens by either eliminating the movement of the buttons or slowing down the movement speed of the background.

    Having both a scrolling background and slightly moving platform buttons is disorienting. I'm prone to getting motion sick when playing video games -- and I feel the risk of getting sick when on those initial screens.
  • Low Priority: Consider allowing 'Esc' to be used in the initial setup screens (such as in the Race Selection screen).

    Enabling 'Esc' in the Race Selection screen will save time in the instance that the player doesn't want to change their character's race after reading the other abilities. It's weird to press 'Confirm' for something that's already in place. Plus, in the game itself, you use 'Esc' to close menus -- so why not do it here, too?
  • Low Priority: Consider allowing both left and right clicking on the Character Creation menu to allow players to more easily cycle between options.

    Currently, there are six types of Allegiances that a character can take. If I left click and see the Church of Faust, but decide I want to be The Galactic Fleet, I have to left click six more times to return to The Galactic Fleet option. Allowing for cyclical navigation will save the user time.
  • Low Priority: Add a kerning in the Variant field, "Variant:1"should be "Variant: 1"
  • Low Priority: Consider adding a mouseover effect for the character class type and character allegiance.

    While the names are super cool, I want to know more about what those mean. Sure, they might not have a stats effect -- but I don't want have to Google the game's lore to learn about what I'm selecting. 

Starting the Game

After creating your character, you appear in a space ship and can navigate with WASD. The game also clearly illuminates what items you can interact, as a 'W' appears above your character's head. Simple enough. But once I had explored the space station and talked to all the NPCs, I couldn't figure out how to get off the ship. I first went to my character's computer, which showed two location options: the Desolate Canyon and the Deep Jungle.

Since this computer was showing me where I could go, I assumed that the way to get off the ship was on this computer screen, and that 'Select' would display a 'Teleport' option.

This was not so.

It turned out that in order to get off the ship, I needed to go to what I thought was another computer, but was actually a portal. When I stood in front of it, it said 'Hostile Zone,' which I assumed (incorrectly) was some sort of multiplayer arena.

It was only when I selected 'Deep Jungle' that I saw the connection between the computer and the Hostile Zone machine -- when the Deep Jungle was selected, the screen's color changed from orange to green.

This led to my first death -- I teleported to the Deep Jungle, and being woefully undergeared, I died my first death. A horrible, terrible death. Alas, poor Bubba, I barely knew thee.

My next dozen lives were spent in the Desolate Canyon, and could be attributed to two things: me not understanding the level's puzzle traps, and a woeful lack of health packs.

For the latter, I was desperate to find health packs, but I couldn't find a way how. They were infrequently in treasure chests, and all of my attempts at alchemy failed.

What I discovered, through Googling how to get health packs, was that I was using the alchemy station completely wrong.

When in the alchemy station pane, shown below, the player is able to place three items in crafting slots, and then press the potion button in order to craft. When that happens, the alchemy pane shows a green bar, that swiftly decrements back down to zero, after which the crafting fails. What I assumed  was that I only had to press the potion button once, and that if the items were a viable combination, I would receive a potion. I wasn't sure what the green bar represented.

It turns out that the player needs to press the potion button multiple times in quick succession in order to receive a viable potion, if the player's recipe was correct. This process was not clear to me, not only because I wasn't sure of the green bar's purpose, but also because there was no notification telling me that my crafting had failed. As such, I thought I was putting in an invalid combination of materials, not engaging with the alchemy station correctly.

Screenshot with an alchemy station pane.

Once I knew how to create potions, the early game got significantly easier, and after that point, there weren't game elements that tripped me up.


  • High Priority: Consider changing how you display the progress bars for crafting.

    Currently, it's very unclear how crafting works from the existing visual language. While in retrospect the progress bar makes some sense, it is not intuitive enough to pick up without some explanation. One way to potentially make the crafting mini game clearer is to add percentages on the bar, and have the number decrease over time. That way, it's more clear that one must press the potion button multiple times in order to craft successfully.
  • Medium Priority: Clearly display crafting failure from not getting the bar to 100%.

    This will help reinforce that the potion creation was not due to an incorrect material combination, but from player action.
  • Medium Priority: Change either the teleporter's image or hover text in the space station.

    If changing the image, change it to the same planet icon used in the computer's planet selection page. But my recommendation would be to keep your formatting consistent. Since the teleporters at the end of each level have the next area's name as the hover text, I'd do the same here just to be clearer.
  • Low Priority: Consider changing the layout of the very first Desolate Canyon trips so that the Tip text is to the right of the player, rather than under him or her.

    Because the tip text is below the player's avatar, they may be less likely to see it initially and will miss out on gathering materials until they spot the tip (this was the case for me). I'd potentially recommend making the very first part of the first canyon area lower down (so that they need to jet pack up), and then moving the tip text to the right, under the ledge so that there's better findability.

Final Thoughts

Roguelands is a thoroughly fun game, and I'll certainly be playing it in the future. Let me know if you get it -- the game has multiplayer! :) 


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