First Look

Published on June 6th, 2017 | by Justin


ROKH – First Look

ROKH is an early access game on Steam.  It’s in early access.  No, seriously, it’s an early access game…

I’m going to break it down like a shotgun here: it’s the Matt Damon movie “The Martian” mixed with a little bit of No Man’s Sky and a smidge of The Forest.  It’s currently $25 in the US and has been available for purchase for just over two weeks as of this writing.  Due to the early access status of the game, this will just be a first look at a game that’s got “mixed reviews” on Steam.

As some of you may already be aware, I went to bat for No Man’s Sky earlier this year and covered the release of the Pathfinder Update.  For the sake of brevity I’ll just explain that I thought the game had come a long way since its initial release and was, possibly for the first time, a game I could actually recommend to people.  I’d have to say that after spending five hours or more on ROKH that it is suffering from a similar fate, although with a much quieter launch, and under the protection of the “early access” status.

The idea for the game is simple.  You’re a human on the planet Mars, I’m not certain exactly what year it is in the game, but Mars has already had lots of people visit previously.  I assume things didn’t go so well for the initial wave of colonists that have seemingly disappeared, but there does appear to be some lore going on in the game in the form of written emails that can be found only at terminals spread across the Mars landscape (I guess they never heard of wifi in this version of the future).  I wasn’t able to get loads of information about what happened on Mars prior to the new wave of colonists that players take control of, and there seems to be some other sinister goings on that, again, I wasn’t able to fully explore in my initial playtime.

Part of the reason I wasn’t able to explore as much as I’d like was because the game just wasn’t running well.  At first when I launched the game I selected the “local” version of the game, since I had no desire to play with any other people and would have preferred to just explore the game solo for my first impressions (unspoiled by the memes of others).  Playing solo in this current iteration of ROKH means, unfortunately, running a private server on your computer.  The process of starting the server, waiting for it to appear in the server list, and attempting to join the server takes five minutes or more, and that’s about four minutes too long.

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed my usage of the word “attempting” in that previous sentence, and the reason for that is because I was never actually able to successfully join my own private server.  Was I doing something wrong?  Maybe.  Did I care enough to troubleshoot it by spending even more of my day not playing ROKH?  Absolutely not.  So eventually I joined some of the official servers.

Thankfully the map is big enough that, even with seven other people on a server with me, I never actually saw anyone else in the game at any point in time.  Once I was in the game I had to turn the graphics settings down though, as my Ryzen 1700 and GTX 970 were not handling the default settings very well at all.  Much to my chagrin I wasn’t able to actually change the graphics settings from the pause menu.  Back to the main menu we go!  Made some tweaks, lowered some settings, and as is par for the course the game needed to restart in order to apply some of the changes.

So I close the game and attempt to relaunch it but instead I’m greeted with a message that says ROKH is already running.  I check task manager and I see the ROKH server is still running in the background and using 4GB of my memory.  “Oh,” I say, “that’s cool.”  So I closed that and attempted to run the game again.  Same message, ROKH is already running.  I continue to dig, checking everything in task manager that might have the word ROKH.  Nothing.  I try to exit Steam.  Nope.  ROKH is still running, can’t exit Steam.  Okay, fine, I’ll kill Steam with task manager.

That finally did the trick and I was able to launch the game again, but at this point I’ve spent well over 30 minutes just trying to play the dang game and haven’t done anything more than load into a server and then immediately leave it to change my graphics settings.  When I finally got to play the game I found that the graphics were quite nice, the controls were good but not great, the music and sounds were above average I’d say, and the UI was very nice looking (although a little clunky and slow to respond at times, and I’m not sure if that was because of server lag or not).

My other major complaint was the speed of building.  Obtaining the materials needed not just for crafting the tools you need, but also for crafting the buildings and structures that you want, takes way too long in my opinion.  There are no enemies in the game, at least not in the few hours that I played, so the focus is just surviving.  Imagine “The Forest” but without the mutant cannibals constantly trying to kill you; gamma radiation, subzero temperatures, and a serious case of the munchies are the only enemies here.  Because of the lack of enemies, the real bulk of the game is crafting and building, and they make both of those things very difficult in the early stages.  Structures are not built in traditional ways however, at least not that I could tell, but rather one “tile” at a time.  This approach brings incredible amounts of creative freedom, but also a lot more effort and time invested, which is not something many gamers are looking for these days.

The game feels more like a sim than anything else, there is definitely more of a focus on realism than other games in the genre, and it’s pretty much a stress-free experience (chill AF, fam) once you’ve actually successfully loaded the game.  I wouldn’t recommend ROKH to anyone other than people who are hardcore fans of the genre in its current state, but if the idea of surviving on Mars while building a base literally one square foot tile at a time sounds appealing to you, then this is the one for you.  The game has promise in the survival and possibly even roleplay genres (I could totally see Tim Kushard becoming Mars’ first kebab vendor), but I think the developers will need to start pumping out patches before the game can really show its potential.

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