Rock of Ages 3: Make and Break (Switch) Review
Rock of Ages is the quirky series that always surprises with how much they can keep the rock rolling. The last time I played a game in the series was the first game, when it first came out nine years ago. 2020, the year of the pandemic, is a perfect time to give the series another go. When the main character is a giant rock with a big silly grin on it as you squish historical and mythical figures, Rock of Ages 3: Make and Break is off to a good start.
Rock of Ages has you controlling a big round rock. The goal is to control this rock through an obstacle course which is often suspended up high, avoiding rock-damaging obstacles along the way. You’re not the only giant rock out there, the enemy also has their very own and they want to squish you. The sections where you control your rock feel very much like Super Monkey Ball. But then there is the tower defence. It’s not just about rolling around and squashing someone, you need to keep the enemy away and to do that you need to lay down your own obstacles and traps.
Instead of just following a story mode, developers ACE Team have given players two different modes from the get go. Make and Break are the two separate modes, Make being the course creator and Break being the story mode. The Story mode begins with the Odyssey, Odysseus and crew facing off against an angry Cyclops. After a series of wacky events the much lesser known crewmate Elpenor winds up on a journey through time and space. The titular rock playing a part in the variety of wacky events. While I say wacky, it’s definitely what the game is going for, I’d settle for kinda silly instead.
There’s a series of challenges for each time period, with six possible modes that you need to clear for their precious stars. You can then unlock more time periods, more challenges and unlock more rocks. While it is meant to be a story mode, it feels like this applies loosely. As you unlock each new area, there’s no real sense of a story happening. It’s more of a series of vignettes in that Monty Pythonesque animation style. These scenes are good for a smile or chuckle as the rock is thrown about by historical or mythological figures.
The game throws you into the thick of it without much explanation. You’ll pick it up quick enough, but it wasn’t the best introduction to the game if this is your first time around on the Switch. Even just the structure of the story mode feels messy, not that the story matters, but it could at least try.
Let’s have a look at a few of the game modes. War is the traditional mode for Rock of Ages, a balance of tower defence and ball rolling. The battle consists of each side trying to build up traps and defences along their enemies route, to damage their rocks. The rock takes time to prepare before it is unleashed, then it is time to navigate the enemies defences. If you make it through to the end you have a chance to damage the enemy’s gate, enough times and you can smash through and squish your rival. It’s not just as simple as plonking down a few towers or spinners, everything costs money to place so you need to make sure you’re building up enough money so you can mess up the enemies rock.
Tower defence sections were my least favourite, which is a shame given that it plays such a big part in the game. It is more of my own personal hang up than a problem with the game. This mish mash of obstacle course and tower defence won’t be for everyone, and to make progress in the game you have to engage with both parts.
Avalanche is just the tower defence portion, only now it’s also wave-based. You need to defend your gates by placing obstacles and traps in the path of the avalanche of boulders. You can also be more active and fire off bolts of lightning to do damage along the way. It’s a strange mode given it removes the main premise of the game, being that of controlling a large rock. I’m biased in that I don’t enjoy the tower defence aspect of this game, making this mode one of the least enjoyable. If you’ve enjoyed this aspect of the previous two games then you’ll likely enjoy it way more than I did.
Skeeball is about racking up points as you race to the giant skeeball game at the end. You get extra points along the way by smashing through target boards. They also go towards your score in case you aren’t the first one to the skeeball section. The idea of it sounded pretty fun to me, but when going up against the AI the mode feels like it stumbles in the execution. When hitting the target boards can send you rebounding off of them just enough to mess up your run, they can also just slow you down. While I was moving at a decent pace and seeing the AI fall off their course, I was surprised to see them still just beating me to the skeeball finish. It could be that I just wasn’t very good but I know I didn’t do as badly as the AI had, yet there they were getting there first. If you manage to build up enough points through the course you can still win even if you are pipped at the post, although you won’t earn as many stars.
There is a lack of consistency to the physics of the rock. Look, I get that it’s meant to be a giant unwieldy rock. It still shouldn’t mean every course feels like a crapshoot. Hitting something on the wrong angle can either result in nothing of consequence, or have you bounce around and falling off the course.
You can unlock a variety of different rocks, or things bundled up into a ball. An early example being a ball of sheep! Some rocks are much harder to control but have a greater payoff if you can get them to the gates, like the cube rock. For all the fancy gimmicks I often defaulted to the generic rock. It’s already a slog to get around some of those courses as it is, so it was the most reliable. If you want to really give yourself a challenge,try the cube rock at least once. If the payoff for using it was worth it I would’ve stuck with it.
We’ve looked at ‘Break’, now it’s time to look at ‘Make’. In short, this is a course editor/creator. If you’ve ever wanted to make your own Monkey Ball-esque obstacle course here’s your chance. How much you get out of the Make mode will all depend on how much you want to create a course for yourself or others to play. While I had more than enough time with the story mode courses, there’s already a bunch of community made courses to play. Browsing through I came across a lot of peoples test courses, and. there are also some made by the developers. It was cool to see what people have been making and it felt solid enough to make a course of my own.
One issue I had was that the story courses aren’t that memorable in the first place. You learn the one you’re on because you want to get the best score. Not everyone will feel this way, especially fans of the series. You can make a course with an objective from the preexisting course goals. While you can make a course as tough or outlandish as you can imagine and construct, it’s limited by what the objective is. Which is fine of course, not everyone wants to mess with the formula like Mario Maker 2 allowed.
The most immediate and biggest issue with Rock of Ages 3 is that the text is way too small. It’s hard to read from the Switch screen. While ordinary Switch users can connect it up to a TV, it can’t be adjusted which will be an issue for Switch Lite users. Not all dialog is spoken, and if you don’t have the sound on you’re going to be doing some squinting.
Two player local multiplayer and four player online is there if you want to roll rocks at your friends and squish them. It works well enough if you have the people, and the short burst play might even be better suited to gaming with others.
Rock of Ages 3 is definitely more Rock of Ages. It keeps the same quirkiness that it started with nearly a decade ago. If you’ve been waiting for a more historically-themed tower defence and ball rolling then look no further. If you’ve always wanted to make your own Rock of Ages course, there’s a whole mode for you to mess with here. If you just want to knock down some doors and squish some people the story mode is there for you too. If you’re new to the series it might be a harder sell, despite the different game modes they all feel like they blur together. The real issue that will be hardest for some to look over is the text. There’s a lot, and it’s hard to read docked and especially when undocked. This game is not suitable for Switch Lite owners, unfortunately. Hopefully, the text issues are fixed over time, if you can look past it there’s an alright game waiting for you.
+ That grimacing rock never gets old
+ A level creator to make your own courses or play community creations
- Best enjoyed in short bursts otherwise it gets very repetitive
- Text is way too small for a game with a bunch of it