General game information
Game name: Necropolis: Brutal Edition
Release date: September 6, 2016 (originally launched on July 12, 2016)
Price: US$ 29.99 (with a 20% launch discount bringing the price down to US$ 23.99)
Available on: Steam
Genre: third person action roguelike
Developer: Harebrained Schemes
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Necropolis: Brutal Edition is a revamped version of Harebrained Schemes‘ Necropolis: A Diabolical Dungeon Delve, a third person action roguelike that had some glaring issues when it was released back in July. Gamers and critics alike complained about Necropolis‘ obscure item descriptions and lack of variety, with developer Harebrained Schemes promising to fix the game’s problems in a future free update. That patch is here now, and it’s important enough to deserve a full review.
The first thing that most gamers will notice upon launching Necropolis is that the game’s control system is identical to the one used in the Souls series of games. After having a go at some enemies, players will realize that the game’s combat is also heavily inspired in that revered franchise requiring careful stamina management and a great deal of dodging. Indeed, Necropolis is a mixture of Souls inspired gameplay with roguelike elements, and it can be as punishing as that sounds.
Players take command of a warrior raiding a mysterious structure built by an evil entity known as Abraxis, and a floating pyramid called the Brazen Head offers varied quests while mocking the warrior as much as it can. Harebrained Schemes made up a strange language for all the voiced interactions, something that adds a touch of color to the humor in display. The new update lets players choose between two different classes, a nimble rogue and a hulking brute. The rogue is perfect for people who like to attack fast and dodge everything, while the brute can take a ton of punishment before going down and has some powerful alternate attacks that let them knock out the enemy before delivering the killing blow. Both characters can be customized to some extent, changing their gender and the color of their clothes (with the ability to unlock more colors as the player progresses through the game)
Mechanically, Necropolis borrows a ton from the Souls series, but it’s not exactly the same. Gamers can’t go in expecting to button mash their way to victory, because they will quickly be overwhelmed once their stamina runs out. Instead, players must carefully manage their stamina, and attack when the enemies leave an opening in their defenses. There are no backstab mechanics sadly, something that feels like a missed opportunity. Combat feels generally faster than in the Souls games, and one on one fights are far more forgiving. Fighting against hordes is a different thing, however, and any misstep can cause death in that kind of situation. Dodging lets players take advantage of invincibility frames, something that can be incredibly valuable when fighting an army of skeletons and other beasts.
The amount of weapons present in the game isn’t as varied as one would hope, but the handling always feels good, and there are many interesting combinations, as the game doesn’t force the player to use a shield and a sword, instead letting them choose at their own leisure (for instance, a crossbow in the off hand, and a longsword as a primary weapon, etc)
There is a basic crafting system that feels a bit underwhelming, and the items created with it are useful, but some of them feel redundant. At the start of each run, gamers only have a few recipes available, but as they progress, more can be purchased from merchants holed up at the game’s safe zones.
The Brutal Edition adds new item descriptions that make a lot more sense than the ones in the original game release did, while still keeping the same tongue in cheek attitude.
Completing the Brazen Head’s quests rewards the player with Tokens that can be used to purchase codexes, unlockable books that persist even after death and can alter the game’s flow significantly (though in this case, their descriptions are still quite vague, and players may waste precious Tokens on codexes that may not offer the expected boon) Tokens can be used as keys to open special golden chests as well, though the items found in those containers will still be lost if the player dies.
The game’s audiovisual design is austere but extremely effective. The graphics have a low poly aesthetic, each enemy type is instantly recognizable, and there are some pretty good looking locales once players delve further in the Necropolis (sadly, the game’s procedurally generated levels can end up feeling very samey after a few runs) Every enemy type has its own distinct sound, and the game’s soundtrack is really good at creating a mysterious atmosphere.
Playing alone, Necropolis can be a good source of fun, but where the game truly shines is in co-op. Up to three other players can join in the fun, and it feels like a completely different game at some points. Death isn’t the end in co-op, as the other characters can resurrect downed players (and if the timer runs out, they will respawn with basic gear, and at the first level of the dungeon) Friendly fire is on by default, so gamers will need to exercise caution when fighting alongside others, and crafted items can be dropped to the floor and shared with party members. There is a caveat, however, which is that co-op progress will overwrite existing singleplayer runs, meaning that players interested in joining a friend’s game should first complete any run they have in progress.
Ultimately, Necropolis: Brutal Edition is a successful mix of Souls inspired combat with roguelike elements. It may hit a few bumps along the road, but Harebrained Schemes’ third person action roguelike can be easily recommended to most gamers, and it’s incredibly fun in co-op.
8/10 – Very good.