Developed by Phantom Compass and published by Atlus, Rollers of the Realm features the gameplay of Pinball with added RPG elements, mechanics and atmosphere. Unlike traditional pinball games, you have several characters with unique traits and abilities, a leveling system, equipment, enemies and a full-blown story.
You follow the life of a poor, young thief who spends her time lifting purses and emptying pockets of unsuspecting strangers along with her trusted pet dog. The story starts off as she passes through a village looking for her next target. She’s met by a villainous blacksmith and his militia entourage who suddenly decide to kidnap her dog. The first tutorial stages of the game takes you through a short quest to rescue your dog, and introduces you to the other main character; a battered, drunken knight. Together with your new friend you embark on an adventure to put a stop to the constant wars by defeating the tyrant baron ruling the lands.
You unlock several party members as you progress the story, and may unlock even more by purchasing them with your earned gold. The various party members seem to be the real depth of the game. Each member is represented by its own pinball on the playing field, and they all have their own respective abilities. The main heroine, the Rogue, can summon her dog in order to place two pinballs on the field at once, and she also has increased damage when hitting enemies from behind. The Knight has a slightly larger ball which makes it easier to break objects blocking the path. He may also shield himself from dying, and has stronger face-to-face combat than the other characters.
The special abilities, such as the Rogue’s ability to summon her dog, the Knight’s ability to shield himself from dying or the Alchemist’s ability to place a highly damaging bomb on the field were all overshadowed by the Healer’s ability to revive a dead party member. A special ability costs mana, which is earned by hitting certain objects on the field. This may prove challenging, which leads to mana being scarce. Now, I’m no pro pinballer so I often ended up losing my party members every once in a while and found I needed to spend or save all my excess mana to revive them, which meant I felt like I could never really make use of my other party member’s special abilities.
I definitely had some fun with Rollers of the Realm. At least, for a while. I love the concept of combining pinball and RPG, and as much as I wanted to enjoy this game, there are some painful flaws I couldn’t get over in addition to the problems involving abilities.
The difficulty curve is the biggest source of my dissatisfaction. I played the game for a while and felt a naturally increasing difficulty curve. I could easily tell each level were slightly harder than the last, and the progressive challenge was very satisfying. However, at certain points it would just reach a stop, and you’d come across a level that’s way above the difficulty of any levels before it. As any RPG, when faced with a difficult task I set myself to grind gear and levels, only to discover this was painfully inefficient. When you take on a level you’ve already beat, the available gold and experience is heavily reduced. I don’t mind grinding, but the levels I tried to grind in I found I got less than a third of the original loot. This quickly went from fun grinding to tedious work.
In addition to playing a campaign mode, there’s also an Arena mode. You select a level and you get 5 minutes or 5 lives to gather as much gold as you can. This mode can be played endlessly, although not much gets changed up every time you attempt it, so it’s basically all about beating your own score repeatedly. I tried to use the Arena as a way to farm gold, but found this to be fairly ineffective too. This mode definitely redeems the game for me a bit, because I really enjoyed the pinball gameplay and the Arena mode doesn’t suffer from the levelling problems. Because of that, I kept wanting to play this mode.