The Dark Souls games are brilliant, altering how we approach game design with a hard-as-nails challenge level that still rewards players improving. But they lack something, as far as Harebrained Schemes was concerned, namely a load of sass and a much more adorable graphics scheme. Or, at least, that seems to be the idea behind Necropolis, the new roguelike out this week from Namco Bandai. But do sass and cuteness make up for a lack of mechanics?
Nobody can fault Harebrained Schemes, best known for its Shadowrun revival, for not bringing the adorable. Despite the muted color palette, the game’s minimalist graphics are still charming, and the sound design is equally high-quality. This may not be aiming to be an AAA game, but it works and it’s quite fun.
Truthfully, this game is a grab-bag of trends and styles. It’s a roguelike with permadeath, the graphics and sound are straight from the Zelda franchise, and the mechanics are so much like Dark Souls‘ they even cribbed the control scheme. They’re not trying to push anything to new heights.
Nonetheless, it plays pretty well. As you can see from the above playthrough, it’s pretty much Dark Souls with a sense of humor, and sometimes a rather sardonic one. In truth the controls feel a bit stiff; you want the game to be snappier than it is. You can also see that the enemy AI is, uh, not very intelligent. The roguelike elements mean that you’ve got the constantly shifting levels to get used to, which can be fun, but which can also kill you quickly; I died, as you might have guessed, soon after that video wrapped up.
The Zelda aspects do brighten things up, though, and the game has some fun puzzles and interactive elements that give it a bit more depth. One random area was full of platforms I had to rotate to sneak past a bunch of enemies, for example, and the game can be full of little fun spots like that.
In theory, of course, you can play this game forever, that being the central appeal of roguelikes. In reality, you’ll probably sink a dozen hours or so into it before you get distracted by other games.
Necropolis probably won’t be your game of the year. But, if you’re tired of the blizzard of AAA games that arrives this time every year and want a break, or just need a game to relax with that offers a bit more challenge than you might expect, it might just be your jam for a while.