As I scrolled through Devolver Digital's big Steam sale recently, one title in particular stood out to me, mainly because it was the only one listed as "SECRET EARLIEST ACCESS GAME". With a label like that, how could I not have a gander at the store page for whatever Sub Rosa was?
In classic Devolver style, Sub Rosa is a very unique game and most certainly qualifies for its "earliest access" title. It's "secret" because it's currently unlisted on Steam at the publisher's request, though it does appear via a Google search.
In a nutshell, Sub Rosa is a first-person, physics-based shooter about business deals. Players join one of five companies - Goldmen Inc, Monsota, OXS International, Nexaco or Pentacom - and compete in business-based missions to earn money which can be spent on things like weapons and cars. There are a number of modes available, but there are two which tend to have the most players at the moment: one where each mission is round-based in a CS:GO kinda way, and an open-world option which is more free-flowing.
Objectives include things like obtaining disks from certain buildings before other teams get to them or negotiating deals with other companies with set amounts of cash.
These are all fairly basic and to some, perhaps a little boring, but Sub Rosa's charm lies in its emergent gameplay. The simplistic missions and worlds are simply tools for some of the most chaotic, hilarious and absurd role-playing I've ever witnessed. While this is largely dependent on the people in the server at the time, if you get a good bunch willing to play along, it's a helluva fun time.
YouTuber Cricken2 has some pretty good examples below.
On the flip side, however, servers can sometimes be overrun by trigger-happy players treating the game like Call of Duty, which is disappointing when your hard-hitting 80s businessman persona is simply met with gunfire.
While there is a criminal rating system in place that penalises players for pointlessly killing those not associated with a company and vice versa, it doesn't stop a team from amassing a large group of players and rampaging others with sheer manpower. When used sparingly, the gunplay is a lot of fun, especially when a tense deal goes south or someone's trying to rip you off.
Luckily, most players are keen to get in on the janky weirdness of business roleplaying, with phrases like "Oh come on Goldmen, you're breaking my balls" thrown around relatively often. To give you an idea of what a good two hours in the World mode looks like, let me tell you about a recent session I had with my pal Marty.
— Sub Rosa (@SubRosaGame) November 9, 2019
After spawning at one of the train stations, we made a beeline for the closest company building, which happened to be Pentacom, to gain some employment.
Only the company manager can hire and upon our arrival, he happened to be out of the office, so we were told by a nice gentleman with an immaculate corporate voice that he'd probably be back soon. Sure enough, he returned and we were given jobs, so we got to work doing business things.
As money comes in from deals and acquisitions, it's divvied up between all employees within the company. At a certain point, Marty and I weren't happy with our cut, so we decided to quietly leave the company and start our own enterprise. After arriving at the Goldmen Inc headquarters to find it empty, I appointed myself as manager and employed Marty as my head of HR.
As the server announced that I, Muscle Coight, was the new manager of Goldmen, a slow stream of new employees began showing up. Goldmen was growing and I was drunk with power. Marty and I decided to start doing recruitment drives, so we took a car and drove around looking for fresh talent. We had a patented Goldmen Inc employment test which ensured our new hires were always loyal. We'd pick up someone looking for a job, drive them out into the desert and ask them to dance at gunpoint. If they made us laugh or simply played along, they were hired.
During one mission we had to acquire a disk from a Megacorp (a company full of bots) building. This is usually pretty simple as the bots are fairly dumb, so once you kill the three or four in the building, it's just a matter of finding the disk and getting it back to HQ without getting rolled. Pentacon sniffed out the deal and ambushed us as we were leaving, killing all but me and another guy. We made a daring escape out of the second-story window and into a car as bullets rained down around us. It was equal parts thrilling and hilarious.
My employees were so loyal that if I died, they'd wait for me to return and resume my position as manager rather than appointing a new player. It was the most fun I've had in a multiplayer game in some time.
When it came time for me to go, I announced my retirement to the team and logged off. Marty told me I was given a funeral shortly after I left.
I can't wait to see how Sub Rosa develops as updates roll out.