The explosion of the roguelike genre has been nothing short of a spectacle for many. Said explosion has brought about some fantastic titles including Dodge Roll’s Enter the Gungeon, Supergiant’s Hades, and so many more. Many indie developers have thrived upon putting the utmost passion into these releases. Attempting to join the pot and make a name for itself is developer Scorpius Games’ PositronX. Does it truly live up to its ambitions and offer a solid rogue-lite FPS though? Find out in our review below.
PositronX is available exclusively for PC through Steam.
A Basic Premise
As is the case for most roguelikes and rogue-lites, PositronX follows a basic premise (though this is arguably much more basic than most). You’re a robot who’s dropped into an arena where you must fight other robots and make your way to a machine’s core. It’s very simple but instead is elevated by text logs you can find throughout the game’s levels. There aren’t many, but they give context to some of what’s happened here which is a nice touch nonetheless. I would’ve appreciated a more expanded premise, but the one that’s there suffices.
Some Good Ideas, A Lot Bad
We all know though that rogue-lites of this style never need to focus on a story (unless its name is Hades). Instead, the gameplay is the central focus. PositronX drops you into the suit of a Positron, a robot that possesses certain starting abilities and weapons. You’re never locked to these, but it helps to have a starting point and not have to gamble specifically for what you want. The issue here is that one dominates well over a lot of the others (especially in the early to mid-game). One wields a sniper rifle in a fast-paced game that has a host of problems, two others wield near useless pistols, while the second of the seven holds a shotgun. Given you’re locked into four characters for most of the experience, you can guess which one I used most. With the addition of healing, it can make most of the game feel linear as one character clearly outclasses the others.
Once you get in there though, things already feel sluggish. PositronX follows the very classic roguelike formula of having you go room to room, clearing out enemies, and proceeding forward. This is run of the mill, though for a few reasons gets very tiring very quickly. I didn’t mention it as of yet, but PositronX is trying so very hard to emulate the fast-paced, chaotic excitement of the DOOM series down to having a similar music style. It just can’t accept that it’s not that, and thus you’ll mindlessly go from room to room, shooting the same few enemy types until you get to the boss. The bosses are, to no one’s shock, larger versions of the game’s enemies with one small mechanic thrown in. I don’t think I need to explain why that can get tiring very quickly.
Even the gunplay fails to truly capture the weight and impact of DOOM’s weapons. PositronX does have a fair arsenal of toys to play with, but each one feels like it lacks the true satisfaction necessary to make it work. It doesn’t help that the aiming can be very finicky with a lack of a better term. Many shotgun shots didn’t do any sort of damage despite being clearly in my reticle, making for a consistently frustrating experience that required me to precisely aim my shotgun. When dealing with small enemies in combination, that messed with the pacing considerably. I could go on and on about the issues with gunplay, including automatically meleeing when in point-blank range (with a shotgun too), but you get the point.
The true culprit though comes in the way that PositronX tackles its difficulty ramp. From traditional roguelike titles, you’d expect the game to have you purchasing new tools for your adventures that make each run that much easier (or to shake it up). When it comes to PositronX, the enemies just become bullet sponges. 30-second rooms become several minutes, which can make the late-game runs often feel like a chore. All of this just for a few percentages into a single stat on your chosen character. Like with gunplay I could go on for ages, but to spare us both the pain it’s a struggle to get anywhere.
In the end, PositronX feels like a game that doesn’t understand what its identity should be. It wants to be a solid rogue-lite, and it really wants to be DOOM, but it can’t determine the best parts of what makes those two things special. Rogue-lites thrive off of interesting upgrades that keep things fresh and significantly upgrade your character. Meanwhile, DOOM loves its tight and hectic gunplay, made all the more satisfying thanks to the passion put into it. PositronX feels as though it lacks both, and it makes the entire experience feel like a slog as a result.
Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery…Sometimes
As you’ve likely seen already from the images shared in this review, PositronX’s art style isn’t the worst in the world. It won’t wow you at the end of the day, but it doesn’t have to. It serves well enough to shake up the individual locations, including a diverse range of tilesets so you’re consistently finding new rooms. What dampens this greatly though is the game’s lighting which feels inconsistent at best. You constantly feel as though you’re straining your eyes just to see past a lot of it, especially when plenty of the colors are made to pop with reflective lighting. It wasn’t too bad on my eyes, but there’s been a lot of reports of people straining just to see what’s happening. If you plan to try the title for yourself, be mindful of that.
On the other hand, the audio is the sole reason for this subheading. The audio as you can instantly notice from the trailer is taking that basic idea of DOOM’s soundtrack and giving its own twist on it. It’s not the worst I’ve seen and would honestly be passable, had the soundtrack not been so restrictive. There might not be this many, but PositronX often feels as though there are three songs in the entire game. It all feels very similar which, when combined with the repetitive nature of the regular game, doesn’t spell too well for the longevity.
PositronX is by no means the worst game I’ve played, but it’s definitely one I wouldn’t traditionally recommend. The title does offer some interesting ideas in the various characters and starting abilities, with an interesting story for the lore nerds out there. Despite that, it tries way too hard to be both DOOM and a roguelike without finding its own place from those respective inspirations. It makes the experience very bland, especially when paired with the fact it feels nowhere near as refined. Unless you’re incredibly desperate for a new rogue-lite, those who’d consider buying PositronX are better off playing the myriad of other roguelikes/rogue-lites out there.
- Passable soundtrack
- Intriguing backstory
- Variety in characters
- Decent looking backdrop
- Serious difficulty imbalance
- Weapons don't feel satisfying
- Incredibly repetitive
- Lacks identity
- Too few songs
- Poor lighting
- Uninteresting bosses
- Experience feels like a slog