Game Review #544: Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: John B
Developer: ACE Team, Giant Monkey Robot
Publisher: Modus Games
Category: Strategy, Action, Racing, Multiplayer
Release Date: 7.21.2020
Watch the Trailer
Buy Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
Man I wish I could find a way to like Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break for the Nintendo Switch more than I did. It features what should be an incredibly interesting mix of gameplay styles and a unique sense of visual humor that should have made it an instant hit, but nonetheless I found myself not really enjoying playing the game very much. I’m always interested in tower defense mechanics, I love games with a great sense of humor, and breaking things is amazingly good fun. And yet, as I stated in my last review, I just really don’t like games that feature rolling mechanics as a core gameplay concept. I find them too unwieldy and inexact; but let’s get into the game before I dive too far into that.
Unquestionably the game’s greatest assets are its visuals and sense of humor, and most importantly the way they are intertwined. In the game’s single player modes, the levels are separated by historical and/or mythological eras. When you first visit these different eras after unlocking them, you are treated to a hilarious cutscene reminiscent of the animated segments from Monty Python, using a classical art style associated with that particular era. The murmuring, muttering non-dialogue – think the Minions – completes a perfectly absurd picture that satisfies every time. If I could have just watched all of the game’s animations and skipped the gameplay, I may have even given this game a perfect ten.
The gameplay visuals are a little less compelling, but still very attractive. The 3D graphics don’t live up to AAA standards, but they’re overall very smooth, sufficiently detailed, and the level and unit designs vary enough to keep the game looking fresh throughout the experience. Rock of Ages 3 further benefits from its offbeat sense of humor in its unit design; from lions hanging from balloons to boulders made out ofa very large cow, many of the more ridiculous units brought a smile to my face no matter what I thought of the gameplay. The music is whimsical, upbeat, and intrepid, without breaking with the game’s lighthearted, humorous tone.
Rock and Roll
The main thing you’ll be doing in Rock of Ages 3 is rolling a boulder down a track while trying to only hit the right things and avoid the wrong ones. For instance, if there’s a wall in your way of course you’ll have to knock that over to try and get further down the level; but the lava spots, bombs, and various other traps that will slow you down? Yeah, you’re gonna want to avoid those. There are a few different game modes with different objectives, but in most of them the idea is to roll your boulder into some sort of goal area, whether that’s the gate to your opponent’s fort in the war mode or the scoring area in skee ball. Hitting the various obstacles makes for some amusing effects; cows will stick to your boulder and alter your momentum, whereas things like lions tied to balloons will grab on to your boulder and slow it down for a time.
As I said in the opening, this part of the game is where I have the biggest issue; I just don’t personally enjoy games like Marble Madness or the rolling segments of the afore-linked Skelly. I find controlling the momentum of rolling objects is a frustratingly imprecise experience. I understand that some players may enjoy the challenge it brings, but I find myself attracted more to games that give the player more precise controls because the experience feels more consistent. Even at lower speeds controlling my boulder was an unwieldy experience; it sometimes felt like turning was absolutely impossible at higher speeds, which is of course frustrating around tight turns.
Many game modes also allow you to play defense by building towers, walls, weapons, traps, or units on the track to impede your opponent’s progress. Your opponent also has the ability to build these things on your track, too, so be careful whenever you start a run of your own. In most modes where you can build, you don’t start out with a boulder to roll; it will slowly build automatically as you set your defenses. Once you’re off and rolling, your boulder can only take so much damage from your opponent’s defenses and/or falling off of the side of the track. Money to build your units can be gathered from mines you have to build or collected from sacks of gold that fall on the track at certain intervals.
In contrast to the boulder rolling mechanics, the tower defense strategy of the game was incredibly appealing to me. The units available to you offer a nice variety of viable strategies, like setting up rows of impeding towers or units to slow your opponent down and lining the area with units that can unleash a volley of attacks, or setting up a gauntlet of bombs and trap doors to knock your opponent off the track. Unfortunately, while every game mode requires some sort of boulder rolling, not every mode lets you get your defensive strategizing on. Since later levels can’t be unlocked just by playing the levels with tower defense elements, that meant I had to spend a large portion of the game slogging through the parts of the game I wasn’t really enjoying.
Making for Breaking
I understand that Rock of Ages 3’s new contribution to the series is a map editor that allows players to build their own custom tracks and let players around the world challenge them. The editor was easy to use, and uploading and downloading maps was a snap (as long as you’ve got a decent internet connection, I guess). It also features multiplayer and many of the time trial levels in single-player mode have online leaderboards, which is a cool feature in any game. More importantly, I was able to find some games whenever I logged on, even though I started my review a few weeks after launch, so it looks like there’s a good community around the game to support it.
Rolling to the End
I want to give Rock of Ages 3 a high score based on the things I loved about the game. Its sense of humor and creative, amusing visual style are second to none. Due to the original nature of having to defend against fast-moving, unpredictable boulders and not waves of steadily-advancing enemies, the tower defense elements are unique among that genre’s many entries. The strategies the reveal themselves in the tower defense mechanics are similarly unique and frequently amusing. Sadly, I just can’t get over my personal distaste for the imprecise control system for the boulders, which is present in every level whereas the more strategic elements of tower defense are more limited. It all ended up being a – yes I’m going to use a bad pun that is not indicative of the high level of quality humor present in the game – rocky experience.
Buy Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
Follow ACE Team
Follow Giant Monkey Robot
Follow Modus Games
*A game code was provided for review purposes