I missed Convoy when it originally released on Steam in 2015. I don’t understand how I did, as it offered up gameplay that promised a cross between FTL and Mad Max. And while Convoy delivers on that promise, and it does so with a cheeky brand of humor and pixel art graphics, it can be a little hard to get into.
I play a lot of video games. There are some games I’m better at than others, but I consider myself pretty capable. When I first played FTL, I found it difficult, but nowhere near as unforgiving as Convoy. I say this early as a caveat to this review: Convoy is an unforgiving roguelike that this reviewer seriously struggled with. I’d like to say the struggles were mainly due to its hard nature, and it’s all worth it. Unfortunately, part of my struggles were with just how unpleasant Convoy can be–but I’m getting ahead of myself.
In Convoy, your goal is to repair your crashed starship. To do so, you’ll lead a convoy across dangerous wastes in search of a series of parts. You can either barter for, steal, or connive these parts from their owners—or engage them in vehicular combat. But that’s not the only time to expect combat, as your journey to retrieve these parts will lead you through dangerous areas controlled by different enemy factions. There is value in exploration, too, as different encounters can yield parts, or fuel that is necessary to continue your journey. As great as it all sounds on paper, Convoy never lives up to its promise.
To start, you choose two escort vehicles, and a MCV to make up your convoy. More of these unlock as you meet certain conditions, but I don’t think I’ll ever get there. Convoy promises Mad Max style road combat, and while it delivers that, it never ends up being very fun. Cars attack your MCV, which is mostly defenseless. You must use your escort vehicles to block, shoot, and (in desperate situations) ram opposing vehicles to destroy them.
Combat, as mentioned, can be often be avoided. Attrition can set in. Fuel can run low. And any misstep can be the end of your run, which for me, was quite frequent. I could never quite get the rhythm down, find upgrades that were suitable, or manage to have much fun, even despite loving every concept I encountered. I love how the overworld map works, and how encounters can be negotiated just as often as you’re forced to fight. I love the humor, the references, and just about everything but the combat.
The presentation is a mixed bag as well. Convoy uses pixel art graphics, and while the art is done competently, the style is a little busy. Small details are lost in confusing patterns and colors. The graphics are just fine, pixel art drawn well—but the lack of an attractive art style makes the game seem rough around the edges. I played this mostly on Nintendo Switch, and the small text made everything a chore to read. It’s almost unplayable in handheld mode, at least, not without a lot of squinting. Conversely, the soundtrack is great. The main theme is reminiscent of Knightrider, and the rest is electro goodness.
I really wanted to like Convoy, but even after completing it once, it’s a roguelike I’ll probably stay away from. It’s not the hint at permadeath, nor even the unrelenting difficulty, but rather the uninteresting combat that’s keeping me away. Skip the game, buy the soundtrack.
Convoy is available on Nintendo Switch tomorrow
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