Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Rock of Ages was bit of a surprise to me at E3. I never expected to find an even weirder game than Catherine when visiting Atlus' tiny, hole-in-the-wall booth at the show. And it's this sort of surprise that really makes it fun to go around exploring.
In Rock of Ages, you're tasked with defending your kingdom's gate and attacking your foes in a tower defense-style game. Instead of calling out units of your own, though, you directly control a huge stone boulder on a long road toward your enemy's fortress. At the same time, your own gate will constantly be under attack too and you'll have to sprinkle defenses in your foe's path.
Placing defenses is Rock of Ages' closest tie to tower defense and even RTS games. You pick specific tiles in a grid in order to place buildings, people and even livestock that will hopefully get in your enemy boulder's way long enough to slow it down or even destroy it on its way to your gate.
Surprisingly, livestock proved to be the most effective defense method while I was playing. A group of cows did an amazing job slowing down my boulder, making it hit their gate like a feather, thus doing very little damage.
Navigating the map is also a huge challenge—each of the roads has its own unique design and the few maps I had the chance to play had a host of sharp turns that easily threw me off my path and into the enemy's emplacements.
In order to counter some of these obstacles, you're able to choose from a few different boulders. Sadly, I was not able to experiment with them much, although the "standard" boulder proved to be very effective.
Controlling my boulder was pretty easy too. Rock of Ages' controls are much less cumbersome than say, Katamari's, and even though I didn't have to do as much with my rock as I did in that game, I never felt out of control the way I sometimes did when playing Katamari.
The presentation in Ages scores points for humor too. I really dug the laid-back interpretation of feudal Japan. Thankfully, they don't even try to explain the reason for having huge boulders rolling their way around the battlefield. Some of the graphics seemed plain, even a bit papery, but I assumed that it was deliberate, going with the rice paper art style from the time period.
Atlus is the sort of publisher that likes to produce unique games, and Rock of Ages fits the bill. Even though I was not able to spend a huge amount of time with it at the show floor, I'm intrigued and interested to see what else it will throw at you as you progress through the story. We'll have to wait until later this year to find out.