Platforms: Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Mac
Developer: Harebrained Schemes
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Steam Page: Necropolis
Necropolis is a roguelike action with RPG elements and a very similar Dark Souls feel. It piqued my interest when it was shown at E3 last year, but after playing through it, it’s not a game that I’d recommend and I’m disappointed because I wanted to like it. So why would I not recommend it in its current state? Well sure it has a unique art style, a Souls-like feel, the option to play with up to three other players and a pretty good crafting system. These are all great, until you see what’s not so great.
My initial thoughts of the game weren’t good. I was bored and didn’t feel like continuing. This is where I teamed up with a friend of mine and decided to go through it with him, and it instantly became a much more enjoyable experience. The first 4-5 levels were actually pretty solid rather than playing on your own, but then you soon realize…there’s not much else. Despite the procedural dungeons, you feel like you’ve seen them all even after only seeing a handful. Procedural levels are a good tool to implement, but when the levels feel too similar and have very little variation, it’s just not going to work.
The same can be said with the enemy character models. There only seemed to be roughly 8 types of enemies spanned across nine levels and of course they’re also varied, but again, it’s extremely repetitive. And I’m sure you wouldn’t like to fight the same type of enemies over and over again. Throughout each level, the ‘bearded humanoid’ enemy randomly spawned from out of the ground, constantly keeping us in combat. It was cool the first couple of times, but it ended up being a drag and an annoyance more than anything (we referred to these enemies as the ‘bearded ones’ and had plenty of other names to describe each type of creature!).
The multiplayer is perhaps the single best feature of the game because it’s great to communicate with other players while traversing through this lonesome game. It’s something that I wish Dark Souls would do (having a partner with you at all times), but it does suffer from one thing. The difficulty is the same whether you have one or four players, although if you’re not aware of their positioning, you can easily damage your allies. The friendly-fire aspect is a neat feature because it punishes you if you’re reckless.
Multiplayer is where the clumsy A.I. show their true colours. Whenever an enemy spots a player, they’ll usually always fixate on them unless someone else deals enough damage or that player run far enough away. This allows you to have someone act as a distraction, while everyone else pummels the hostile(s). If you do get the game however, I encourage you to play with others.
Just One Boss
Another big issue I have with the game is that there’s only one boss, and it’s at the very end. Throughout the game you’ll be facing up against all these dudes here and there, who aren’t particularly exciting (except the skeletal spider creature, ‘Big Daddy’ and ‘Winston’ from Overwatch) anyway. I’m trying not to be a Negative Nancy, since there are some things about the game that are good, but when the final boss is a recycled version of an enemy you’ve already faced since the earlier levels….I can’t help it.
Not only does the constant spawn of the ‘bearded ones’ slow down progress, the fact that it takes at least 7-10 strikes per enemy from level 5+ is what stretches out the game. When all you’re seeing are tier 0-1 weapons drop, even at levels 5+ and all you’ve got is a tier 2 weapon, it doesn’t feel good (what would be great is if you could at least sell items in exchange for gems). You do get tier 3 and 4 weapons eventually but nowhere near as commonly as tier 0-2 items. It’s completely fine when you have a tier 1-2 weapon and you’re up against one or two hostiles, but when it’s four or more, it just becomes a case of thinking how to skip them so you don’t risk dying and starting over. And with the roguelike nature of the game, you’d expect that dying would be part of the game, and sure it definitely is. The problem is, there’s not really an incentive to keep playing, especially after you’ve gotten to level six or higher. It doesn’t help when the story is non-existent, each level ultimately feels the same and fighting the same enemies again.
As you delve deeper into each level, it starts to become more of a chore. It all comes down to “I don’t want to die because I don’t want to start over and go through the whole process again”. A game that relies so heavily on restarting should make you feel like that. The aspect of restarting on death and improving is also quite shallow. The only thing that carries over after resetting are codices and you’re only able to equip one at a time. You can probably get the most expensive codex after your first death if you get to higher levels and reap enough gems. There’s just not enough replay value or incentive to carry on.
Codices are however quite useful throughout the game. There are codices that reduce the stamina cost of your attacks, increase gems gained and even give you a 5% health drain for each attack you land, so you can see why they’re pretty important. What I find irritating is that the item description for each codex are incredibly indistinct. None of them tell you what they do, which caused me to look them up online so I didn’t waste precious tokens. I’m not saying we should be spoon-fed, not at all. Just at least give an exact explanation of what the item does, especially when it involves spending tokens that you mostly gain from dying.
It’s Not All Bad
It’s not all negatives. Necropolis’ crafting system is one of the things that kept me going. It feels rewarding have to be able to make a few rations of food or bottles of potions in moments when they’re needed. In order to get the ingredients, you simply have to kill anything and everything and loot as many chests as you can find. Crafting and combat are both what give you some level of control over the game and that’s why I managed to keep on playing.
Combat itself isn’t the interesting part because it consists of either a light, heavy and charge attack for melee weapons, a bash with your shield and a single attack with a ranged weapon, all of which use stamina to execute. That’s all nice, but the ways in which you can go about fighting is where it gets better. You can choose between melee and ranged combat. Most of the time you’ll be depending on your trusty melee weapon, but at other times you can use a scroll to freeze enemies, drain their life or even enrage to attack each other.
You can also get your hands on wands (mostly tier 0 I’ve found) but are helpful for attacking from a ledge or from afar. The thing is you can’t spam these ranged attacks as they’ll drain stamina and you’ll also suffer from fatigue which will slowly reduce your maximum stamina the more you do it. This is to help combat the spamming of ranged attacks so it won’t trivialize any fights. The same actually applies to melee attacks and being hit. Just remember to dodge or block as much as you can.
Enemies however tend to repeat the same attacks, giving you an easy time remembering their attack patterns. The only thing difficult about the combat is getting overrun. If their patterns were a bit more varied, tried to dodge your attacks or were a tad more aggressive, it would be far better.
The game is also a bit of a maze, where you must go deeper to leave the Necropolis. It’s not much of a puzzle, in fact there’s not really any brain work involved in this regard. It’s mostly testing out which path leads to where and mostly they’re dead ends with extra gems or chests. So it doesn’t hurt to explore.
The concept of Necropolis is great, but I think the execution is where it has failed. The game is very vague in its item descriptions (even after the patch but mostly with codices and consumables), repetitive game levels and uninteresting story is what makes it difficult for me to recommend right now. The developers are however listening to feedback and they’re working on improving the game over the next few weeks, so I wouldn’t completely rule out the game yet. But in its current state, my experience of the game isn’t good and I hope it’ll change with the updates they’ll add in the coming weeks.
Pros and Cons
- Far more endurable with other players
- Great concept and unique art style
- Crafting and combat are the only interesting features
- Funnily enough, looking into the distance is more exciting to look at than the immediate environment
- Developers are listening to feedback and are adding updates in the coming weeks
- Vague item descriptions
- Pretty dull on your own
- Multiplayer doesn’t scale difficulty
- Repetitive levels despite it being procedurally generated, constant tier 0-1 item drops even at level 8/9, recycled enemy character designs with variations of colour or slight additions
- No real incentive to keep going after you die, especially if you’ve gotten to levels 5-9 only to have died there. What’s the point in playing more?
- It’s not worth the price it’s currently at
- Extremely bland environments, some areas look as though they’re untextured
- 90% of weapons are slow, which can be aggravating
- Almost no story being told, you’ll have to look it up
- A.I. isn’t so good and at times, the random spawns of the bearded humanoids are just downright annoying
Have you played Necropolis? If so, I’m interested in what you have to say about the game.
This game was given as a review copy, but as always, that doesn’t affect my review.