Vagante Review - Screenshot 1 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Over the past decade, few genres have boomed as much as the roguelike. Indie games like The Binding of Isaac, Crypt of the Necrodancer, Dead Cells and Hades have brought attention to a genre once thought to be far too punishing for a mainstream audience, even if the core run-based gameplay is tweaked slightly into a -lite or a -like-like to be a little more forgiving. Even major publishers have dipped their toes in the water, such as with the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series and Cadence of Hyrule.

Vagante, on the other hand, is made by a small indie team, who have been working on the game for nearly 10 years. While the dedication to work on any game for a decade is admirable, how does a game like Vagante fair in such an increasingly crowded genre?

Upon first glance, what stands out most about Vagante is the gorgeous pixel art. While character and enemy designs are simple, the environment and backgrounds are some of the best seen in recent years. Stages like the forest look incredible, with lush tree-tops that look close to hand drawn, and the accompanying music fits the atmosphere well. However, these complements can only extend so far, as Vagante’s biggest issue is just how repetitive it all can feel.

Vagante Review - Screenshot 2 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

As beautiful as the environments are, there are only four different biomes to explore. Each one has three floors — with identical backgrounds and tile-sets — that need to be explored before moving onto the next area, meaning the visuals get stale very quickly. The inclusion of both a cave biome and an aesthetically similar catacomb biome doesn't help. If there were a few more locales to explore, or if each floor within a biome had its own unique set pieces, this wouldn’t be as much of an issue. However, because you reset to the first area after every death, Vagante’s lack of visual variety ultimately hinders the game; it very quickly loses its freshness.

Vagante plays like a traditional 2D platformer, with roguelike and RPG elements. Before each run, you pick a class for your character. At first, only the knight, rogue, and mage are available, though more classes unlock as you play the game. Each class has a different set of stats and starting weapons, which helps make each type feel unique — a thankful mechanical contrast to the samey visuals. You enter a cave, with the objective of finding a door hidden somewhere on the map, which will take you to the next floor. Each floor contains chests, enemies, a shop, a boss, and some traps. After entering the door, you end up at a campfire room that restores some health, before proceeding to the next proceedurally generated floor. Standard stuff, then.

Vagante Review - Screenshot 3 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

While there is nothing stopping you from going straight to the door on each floor, Vagante heavily encourages you to explore as much as you can. Chests are found everywhere, which can hold plenty of new weapons, armor, or spells to learn. Fighting enemies gives you experience points, which can be used on perks, such as negating fall damage. Defeating bosses, most importantly, gives you a full bar of experience and a key to a big chest hidden somewhere on the floor. Gear inside those chests can completely change the game, such as bestowing the ability to go through walls. Going after treasure and bosses, while not required, makes for a much more enjoyable experience than going straight to the door. It also will be the only way to feel any sort of progression in between runs, as Vagante’s progression system works differently than other roguelikes.

Unlike something like Crypt of the Necrodancer and 20XX, where there is currency you keep in between runs to upgrade your character, Vagante’s only form continual roguelite progression comes from an experience bar. After each run, you earn experience based on your performance. Upon filling the bar, new classes or permanent upgrades are unlocked. While this method works well for rewarding experienced players, it hurts newcomers and the upgrades do little to alleviate that. They mostly boil down to increasing one stat permanently, or healing an extra 5 HP at campfires, which oftentimes feels negligible and does little to improve someone’s chances at succeeding in the next run if they are already struggling. Combined with how difficult the game can be, newcomers may feel like they are constantly running into a brick wall. While playing with friends, either through local co-op or online, might help mitigate the difficulty, playing alone feels incredibly punishing.

Vagante Review - Screenshot 4 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

While Vagante has a lot of impressive elements, it unfortunately feels closer to an extended demo than a finished product. Being only four biomes long, the game is incredibly short; the difficulty feels arbitrarily hard to mask that. In addition to the game's slightness and lack of environmental variety, Vagante also has no real story or sense of motivation to keep you playing. You are simply dropped off by a wagon at the beginning of the game, and are left to enter a cave. Having some way to tie the game together would go a long way to making this feel less like a demo, and more like a complete package.

Another key issue comes from how little the game tells you. For example, while some objects are self explanatory, like chests, oftentimes you’ll come across cauldrons or a blacksmith with no indication on how to use them. This issue extends to every part of the game, from controls to objects to upgrades, and without using a guide, it would be impossible to know what the game expects you to do. You're more-or-less forced to venture online and consult with the community that's built up around the game on PC if you want to know what's what. Much of the time Vagante is just too opaque for its own good.

Vagante Review - Screenshot 5 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Finally, it is worth noting the numerous bugs and glitches the Switch version is plagued with at launch. These range from music not playing when fighting bosses (which we've now been informed will be addressed in a release patch) to the game not registering certain controller inputs. It's disappointing to say the least.


Vagante is, at times, an impressive game that feels incomplete. There is no denying the incredible amount of dedication that the team put into certain aspects, especially into the visuals and variety of upgrades available, but there isn’t enough of a game here to make it all come together into a complete package. The combination of a short adventure, the lack of any story, arbitrary difficulty, and minimal tutorials makes for a hard recommendation. The Nintendo Switch has plenty of incredible roguelikes and run-based indie games, and your time is better spent on them than Vagante.