Rock of Ages 3 review. A school of Hard rocks

A few years ago I watched a small news clip of a town in England where people have a tradition of a cheese race. a nine pound round of Dou...

A few years ago I watched a small news clip of a town in England where people have a tradition of a cheese race. a nine pound round of Double Gloucester cheese is rolled from the very top of the hill and competitors chase after it down to the bottom. The first person across the finish line is crowned winner, with the cheese as their prize. It looks crazy and fun, but also painful. In some ways this is how I felt about Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break, A game about big boulders rolling down hills crushing all in their path.

In this third release in the Rock of Ages series, the game continues with its hybrid tower defense/down hill race game play. If you never played a Rock of Ages game before it does not hinder you stepping into RoA3 other than not knowing what to expect, as it was the case for me. The big new addition in this new release is the addition of the level creator (Make), more on that later. 

The main goal of RoA3 is to run down with a big boulder as fast as you can to hit a goal at the end while you also set traps and obstacles in the way of your opponent.

Rock of Ages comes with 6 different gameplay variants spread over a "story" campaign  and thousands of community levels.

War The original Rock of Ages mode. Players will alternate between building defenses and rolling a boulder down an obstacle course to hit your opponent’s gate. This might take multiple tries to break through. You pick your arsenal at the beginning of the game and depending on your strategy and the map you are playing you can pick various boulder types and defenses you unlock through the game. However there is a limit to how many you can bring along so plan carefully.

Obstacle Race to score points on a course populated with defenses that increase in number each round. This speaks for itself. Be fast, agile and lucky to get the most points. Best out of 3 rounds.

Avalanche A traditional tower defense mode where you must defend your castle from waves of enemy boulders. This was by far my least favorite as you do not get to roll as a big rock, but only defend. If you like tower defense you might get more enjoyment out of it. Throughout the level gold drops for pickup so you can build more resources and you can even build a gold mining facility to increase income.

Time Trial No pressure but this time you play as a big rolling bomb. Navigate an obstacle course reach the end before you explode and set the fastest time doing so. This was great fun and easy to get into. Navigating the track in time was still pretty hard.

Humpty Dumpty Guide the fragile egg through a course of trampolines, traps, and enemies to bring Humpty safely home.

Skeeball Like being back on the ocean boulevard on a summers eve. Collect as many points as possible by building score multipliers by rolling through a course into rings at the end of each track.

As you move through the story loaded with humorous gags which are clearly inspired by Monthy Python. Even the graphics and sound effects feel ripped straight from the archives of Terry Gilliam. Throughout you will find wacky historically inaccurate cut scenes and Easter egg homages ( Such as one for the 90's x-men opening credits). In the game you play Elpenor, a lesser known companion of Odysseus as he wonders through time with the titular “Rock of Ages”. Along the way he will be battling many famous and infamous figures throughout history.

The controls for RoA3 (PC version) are either with mouse and keyboard or controller. And I found that they each had their strengths and weaknesses. When rolling down hill the controller felt more natural even though there were still times I felt I did not had as much control over the movements as I thought. It felt however far better then playing with mouse and keyboard. During the defense build phase and the creation mode mouse and keyboard was far superior. Since during war mode you have a limited time to build before you opponent launches, speed in properly setting up your traps is key to victory. With controller I would often overshoot the location I wanted to put the various defenses.

I also had some frustrations in getting a grip on what was going on. The short tutorial at the beginning of the game leave a lot for you to figure out and if you just go with what the game tells you it can be very frustrating. Once you get past it and open the world map the game gives short descriptions for each level which started to fill in some of the gaps in what the heck is going on and why you are not winning. Combined with some strange physics that cause you to bounce off the track in unexpected ways and an AI that seems sometime brutal it took me a bit to get a feel for the game and not want to just close shop and kick rocks outside.

If you are new to Rock of Ages, take the time to learn and expect to make a bit of slow progress in the beginning. That or I am just really bad at it. Just roll me down a hill. Each area on the map has an unlockable era that when opened reveal a group of various game modes to beat and stars to earn as you play well, these stars can then be used to unlock other era's . Each of the groups also has a end boss to defeat such as Caesar or Polyphemus the Cyclops. Over time you will also unlock different boulders and traps to use in your game. They can change your strategy and approach to defeating each level. How to use them is up to you.

The other part and new addition in Rock of Ages 3 is the level designer mode. This mode will drastically increase the longevity of the game as you can design, make and share your own tracks with the community or use them to challenge fellow geeks at home in a battle for the highest honor and bragging rights.

Everything you see in the campaign you can pretty much build using the level designer. The controls are straight forward and start by picking the game mode and lay down a track which you can widen, narrow, move up and down and even tilt. Add some dastardly traps and objects along the way to liven it up a bit. At any time you can immediately try you creation and stop to readjust your build to get the perfect track.

Troll as hard as you want an make impossible builds if you like.

Once you are happy with your level you can keep it locally or you can decide to upload it to the online community as well. Check out the community library and play other peoples creations and see how well you do. There is a theoretically infinite resource of playable levels at your finger tips to keep you entertained for hours.

At the end of playing a community level you can rate it and select some keywords in how you feel about it.

What is missing is a feature to take a community level and further build upon its design. That would allow for some great collaboration and organic design of some creative levels.

Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break brought delight and thrills while at the same time it was also a source of frustration for me. Part of the frustration came from my lack of understanding the game and how it worked and as I learned more it got a lot better, I just wished the game explained it better.
The other part of the frustration came from playing against a early on brutal A.I. opponents and dealing with some odd physics where for instance a small knock from an obstacle would just launch me right of the track. Playing modes such as time trial or better playing against other humans made me move past those frustrations and get into the fun. Rock of Ages is part strategy, skills and party game rolled into one and dipped in a zany Monthy Python sauce of jokes and gags.
The long campaign can be replayed in order to get the gold score for each and unlock all the boulder types and traps. Rock of Ages games are unlike any other games you played and like that town in England where people decide to roll after a big cheese as entertainment if is up to you to decide if you want to join in head first and get rolling or forego the pain that can come from it. But hey you can always still claim the cheese as your prize!

Game information:
Title: Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break
Publisher: MODUS GAMES
Release date: 21July 2020
Platforms: Xbox One,PlayStation® 4, Nintendo Switch™, and PC(steam).
Review platform: PC
ESRB: E 10+ Cartoon Violence, Crude Humor


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