Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break PC Review

Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break proves that, nine years on, Ace Team’s formula still has juice left in it.

By Woozie, Posted 21 Jul 2020

The first thing I did in Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break was crash into Polyphemus’ cave using a boulder made entirely out of sheep. It’s the tone that the entire story campaign is going for, showing that three games in, developer Ace Team keeps finding inspiration for silly Monty Python-esque premises to precede and sometimes set up its boulder duels that, I’m told, are 100% historically accurate. Rasputin was so resilient that he only died when a giant rock with a face carved on it rolled over him, apparently.

Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break frames its literal crash course through history as a journey to bring a flattened Odysseus home, although you shouldn’t go in expecting much of a deep story. While you’ll end up facing Romans, Indians and even the Flying Spaghetti Monster itself, only a part of their lighthearted introductory cutscenes actually tie them to the game’s main characters. Some of these cutscenes, animated in a style that sees characters pop right out of era-appropriate paintings, are deliciously hilarious while others miss the mark.

Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break PC Review, Screenshot

You select levels from clusters found on an open ocean map. Each rewards a set of stars upon completion, depending on how well you perform or if you complete a secondary objective. Although you can move anywhere, new levels are often locked behind a certain number of total unlocked stars. While completionists will find something to go back to in an effort to get the highest possible number of stars, more casual players needn’t worry, as you don’t have to constantly be at your peak performance in order to progress through Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break’s levels. You will, however, be required to play most of them and squish different more-or-less historical figures.

The main story missions see you and your opponent racing boulders to destroy the gates of the other’s keep and unceremoniously roll over his papercraft-like avatar. Prior to taking control of a boulder of your choice – that range anywhere from traditional round stone balls, to square ones, and even some made of meat or resembling a snowman’s head – you can set up banks to mine gold and, more importantly, various defenses along the track. Their role is twofold: slow down the opponent and, preferably, destroy his boulder altogether, prompting a relatively lengthy wait before respawning. Once your first wave of defenses is placed, you get to control your boulder directly. Deal damage to the enemy’s fortress or have your boulder destroyed, and it’s back to laying down defenses with a new influx of cash, making up for those the enemy destroyed and setting up new chokepoints.

Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break PC Review, Screenshot

Each boulder has different stats like weight, speed, damage and health, and a shape that can vastly differ how it controls. Your default rock is well-rounded but, in some cases, you’ll maybe want one with the shape of a fist carved into it to deal extra damage to gates. Or, perhaps you want to show the enemy what’s what using a roll of cheese – because, let’s be honest, why would you not – or give physics the middle finger by rolling a square boulder uphill. Using some more challenging than others, but discovering where they’re better suited or winning a match by a thread while using a rock that’s a bit more unusual feels pretty darn great.

Just like you can use different rocks on the offense, there’s a plethora of defensive units from which you can choose. The traditional stone towers might only slow down an enemy temporarily but spawning massive bulls with an AoE attack that instantly stuns boulders lets you more accurately chuck lightning bolts, stones or cannonballs at them, chipping away at their health while you wait for your death boulder to be built. Whales use air currents to suck the boulder towards them, then throw it back from where it came from while explosive barrels and guillotines can severely damage your or the enemy’s rocky avatar, rendering it weaker when it hits the gates – as damage dealt is a combination of speed and your boulder’s health – if not destroyed altogether.

Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break PC Review, Screenshot

Learning how each of Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break’s boulders move is key to completing levels. You must not only get a hang of its speed and maneuverability but also count in things like momentum, level elevation and the enemy’s trap placement. The aforementioned whales can be used to accelerate your speed if you come in from a certain angle. Your boulder’s jump ability can see you semi-gracefully avoiding explosive barrels, while slowing down to a crawl can, in a few scenarios, prove beneficial as you precisely navigate around tight groupings of traps. Of course, you’re always pressured by the enemy’s own boulder that’s rolling towards your base, which makes these races feel surprisingly tense.

Each story level has several others linked to it in which you’ll face the same enemy on maps built from similar tiles, just in different game modes. Unit Challenge retains the two tracks but only gives you access to a single defensive unit to deploy and face, this unit being permanently unlocked for use if you get to the enemy’s fortress first. Obstacle Course places both you and your opponent on the same track and crowns winner he who reaches the other end first in two separate rounds.  In Time Trial you play as a bomb with a lit fuse and must reach the end in a set amount of time, receiving medals depending on how quickly you reach your target, while Avalanche puts you on the defensive, tasking you with stopping multiple boulders before they crash into your gate. Lastly, Skee Boulder levels give you score if you hit bull’s-eyes spread across the track, the first player to reach the end having a shot at multiplying their score.

Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break PC Review, screenshot

There’s no way around it: you’re rolling boulders and avoiding obstacles for the majority of Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break, however, the existing game modes – and few special levels I won’t spoil – provide enough variety to push you to complete as much of the map as you can. Stars can also unlock pillars that grant access to upgraded versions of defensive units. Upgraded banks have dragons defending them while upgraded Trebuchets can rotate around and fire on boulders that have passed them by. This, alongside the constant trickle of new boulder and unit types constantly gives you different avenues of gameplay that you can try but without constantly forcing you to do so. If you really like the initial boulder and a small set of traps, you’re free to try and make them work across most levels.

Less great were Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break’s technical issues. On a few occasions, the music forgot to play upon restarting a level. The frame rate, in a few stages crowded with defensive buildings, suddenly dropped to unplayable levels. In other cases, the game would skip frames, making controlling the boulder unnecessarily difficult. A more hilarious bug placed my boulder outside of the track right at the start, meaning that I had to endlessly watch it plummet to its death unless I backed out to the world map and restarted the level. The cherry on top was a crash that happened during a run in which I was absolutely dominating the opponent. While neither of these were consistent companions, they occurred enough to make their presence felt.

Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break PC Review, Screenshot

If you spotted the “Make” bit in the game’s title and got the hunch I mostly spoke about the “Break” part thus far, you’re quite the detective.  Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break adds a level creator that allows players to build their own stages. The editor itself requires some getting used to – even after Napoleon Bonaparte himself walks you through the basics – but gives access to all the units and decorative elements encountered in the campaign, letting you build your own tracks and fill them with as many obstacles as you want.

You can drag out pathways in different directions, change their width and elevation and play through your creations at any point. There’s a lot of trial and error involved in creating a level in which all the elements play a defined role, this ultimately making you better appreciate how well the story mode’s level are built. My experience with the editor was brief, however, I did manage to convince it to not treat lower segments of my track as instant fail states and set up a couple of traps that required some skill to get past. Some of the existing community levels were also good fun, especially one that filled a short track with buildings before rewarding the first to get through it with a trampoline leading to a gracious dive straight into the fortress at the end.

Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break undoubtedly treads familiar ground, although not without showing that, nine years on, Ace Team’s concept still has juice left in it. Aside from a couple of technical issues and cutscenes whose humor miss the mark, its unique hybrid gameplay that mixes boulder racing and strategic defense segments remains captivating while the majority of its hilarious Monty Python-esque skits act as welcome interludes in between its action.

Bogdan Robert,
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Publisher(s): Modus Games, 3goo
Developer(s): Ace Team, Giant Monkey Robot
Genres: Racing, Strategy
Themes: Tower Defense, Historical
Release Date: 2020-07-21

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