Necropolis is an action RPG from developer Harebrained Schemes which sees you fighting through randomly generated dungeons full of monstrous creatures.
I had heard that Necropolis takes some inspiration from the Dark Souls series, with challenging gameplay and tough enemies. The game is not for the faint hearted as the game is a rogue-like and has permadeath to contend with. You will find that you do an awful lot and the game can start to feel repetitive as use slash and dodge your way through different types of enemies. There are only two stats, stamina and health and no weapon and armor upgrades. The gameplay is very challenging but you do start to make progress after a few trail runs.
The combat is all about timing, precision and evasion, with lots of weapons that have unique stats for weight and speed. You play from a third person perspective, much like the Dark Souls games and you’re able to lock onto enemies, block and counter. What I loved about the game is how the controls are introduced to you at the start when they are scrawled onto the dungeon wall. I did take a look at the basic controls but you will soon find that practice is the only way you’re going to improve and eventually make any sort of progress. It’s about proceeding through dungeons with caution, getting a hang of the combat and making mistakes, and then learn from them. As you play more you begin to obtain tokens that can unlock bonuses that will be available for later lives in the game.
The game has a fatigue system, so you can’t just button bash your way through the hordes of enemies and therefore plan attacks and use your shield to block. From first impressions it looks very simple but the combat almost has a rock, paper, scissor style rhythm that requires you to think about when is best to attack. The enemies also become increasingly more challenging as you delve deeper into the dungeons, with danger lurking around every corner. Necropolis also has a crafting system that allows you to craft a variety of items, the most useful in my opinion being the health boosts. You collect gems you find along the way and break pots, just like in Zelda to acquire more loot. I can’t stress how important it is to try and gather everything possible as the game is incredibly punishing and every item helps.
Unfortunately, the gameplay does start to full repetitive and has that feeling of Groundhog day as you feel like you’re traveling down familiar pathways and rooms. Enemies come at you in waves and at points the enemies can feel overwhelming so its best to drop back and try to take them out cautiously. The procedurally generated rogue-like elements do work well and keep things fresh but I do wish that enemies had a wider variety of forms and attacks to make combat more interesting. I do want to also mention that the narration is fantastic and a really memorable part of my time playing the game. You can also come across treasure chests that may contain more gems or new weapons, or use items you find to craft certain objects.
Death is extremely frustrating and even more so than in Dark Souls, where you do have to jump back to the last bonfire but here its much more of a punch to the gut. In Necropolis there are no checkpoints, no hand holding and no room for mistakes. That being said there are some positives to bear in mind if and when you certainly will die. Firstly, you get to keep your tokens, which can be spent on conduces which are mysterious books that enable helpful perks. These are unclear and have no description for what they do and their effects seem limited and you can have only one active at a time. The other thing to consider is that because the dungeons are randomly generated each time you restart you don’t have to replay the same beginning over and over; I think I would have quit much earlier if this wasn’t the case. This can also mean that some runs are easier than others with early weapon pick-ups. The permadeath aspect is the games most interesting and thrilling aspects, as it keeps you on your toes and you never know what to expect next.
As I said before, each weapon you pick up has different stats and these can influence how effective you are in combat. You can also charge attacks to make them more powerful, causing greater damage to enemies, but bear in mind that it uses more stamina. I was actually a fan of the slow-paced exploration combined with moments of frantic action. It’s certainly a tiring experience that some gamers will be put off by but I enjoyed the challenge. The game also has drop-in, drop-out multi-player, but I didn’t use this during my time. You can revive downed players, like in Gears of War, giving you longer runs. The game still has friendly fire and there are larger amounts of enemies. I’m looking forward to playing this game with others as it feels like it will be the best way to play it. You can play with up to four people, with people dropping out if they wish to do so.
I really liked the cel-shaded geometric style of the game and I thought that the visuals overall were pretty decent. It has a polygonal cartoon feel, with an interesting colour palette. The fact that dungeons are procedurally generated means that it’s always unique and feels interesting to explore. The majority of the dungeons are a dull grey colour, with splashes of colour that stand out. The game almost reminded me of Zelda games at times, especially some sections of Wind Waker.
Overall I enjoyed playing Necropolis but I can certainly see some players giving up early on. The combat is fun and the procedurally generated dungeons keep things interesting but I couldn’t help but feel that the game was missing something. I think it needs to have more variety in terms of enemy types and upgrade systems to increase the games longevity and with a few minor additions or tweaks it could be successful. The game does do a good job of making you want to try just one more run and tip-toe just a little bit further than before.
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