A few weeks ago, I previewed City of Brass, an ambitious new game that had a vibe like BioShock meets Prince of Persia, but with some interesting new tricks thrown in. I found its art style to really be something else; and its gameplay catered to more of the adventurous set, as you basically had to be really good -- or suffer a fateful death and have to start all over again.
Now the full game is here. I still feel the same when it comes to City of Brass’ impressive design, as Uppercut Games has one hell of a creation on its hands in terms of look. However, upon closer look, I could totally see some people getting frustrated with this one -- especially after they get knocked back a few pegs by deaths you don’t really see coming. It’s not a bad game mind you. Just something of an acquired taste.
The game puts you in the shoes of a nameless hero who’s thrown head first into a city of undead beings. It’s like some eternal punishment where the only way to outdo the wrong is to survive to the very end. As you might guess, this is easier said than done. If the ongoing waves of enemies don’t finish you off, the traps certainly will. And these traps vary, ranging from spiked pits to sand shooters to spike pits that pop up out of nowhere -- hence the Prince of Persia reference from earlier.
The interesting thing about City of Brass is its roguelike design. The levels change up each time you get back into the game. So just when you think you’ve learned something and know where the traps are...BAM! The course has changed.
This is both good and bad. On the good side, it’s great to have a refreshing change to level design, as it gives you something to return to. But on the bad, it could be a horrible nightmare for someone who goes, “So this is where that trap is, okay” and then, surprise, it’s somewhere else. On the bright side, you can look on the ground to see what traps look like and just keep an eye out for that -- if enemies aren’t bombarding you first, of course.
Along the way, you have access to wishes. There are a limited amount, as you might expect. But you can use these to purchase goods from genies, including stopping one’s destruction of a stage or even opening up a portal after you defeat a certain boss. This makes it simpler to whisk back to an area where you were before instead of needing to start all the way over again.
There are two negatives working against City of Brass. First off, the story isn’t that compelling. We don’t really know too much about the lead character -- just enough to give him a push out the door. There aren’t too many elements that keep it moving either. Just fight, try to survive and start over if you fail. That kind of breaks it away from the same distinction that its AAA successors had, because BioShock and Prince of Persia had unbeatable stories. City of Brass just, well, is.
The other is the punishing difficulty. Sure, the opening levels are good. But once you get to later stages or your first boss battle, you’ll need crackerjack timing to get through in one piece. It’s a patience thing. If you die a few times and swear never to come back, City of Brass wasn’t built for you. This game is built for the truly devoted -- and they’ll probably get the most mileage out of the game. You can try to slowly skill yourself up so your get better with each runthrough, but you’ll still need perseverance -- and patience -- to get the most out of it.
But if you can accept both of these things, City of Brass does have some excellent gameplay. The sword work feels magical, as you really feel like you’re obliterating enemies instead of just cheaply slinging a blade around. What’s more, your whip is fantastic; it can distract enemies and also fling explosive objects closer to you or make them blow up, depending on size. Mixing these together makes combat way more interesting -- and fun -- than expected. In fact, it’s probably the key component that kept me so interested in the game during my stay.
City of Brass also has fantastic visuals. The game moves at a beautiful rate and the enemy design is really something, even if you face skeletons for the most part. The aesthetic that went into the randomly changing levels is cool too.
I was also a fan of the music strewn in parts of the game along with the growls that come from most of the enemies. But the sound design could use a little work, as it’s sometimes hard to track down just where a foe is. And by the time you do, it might be too late to truly do something about it. Maybe a patch from Uppercut Games would do the trick.
Again, City of Brass isn’t a bad game -- it’s just one that’s built for dedication. If you aren’t a fan of cheap deaths or don’t like the idea of working on your progress and building it back up, this might not be your thing. But if you’re into first-person adventures or just want to see what a fine example of gameplay and visuals Uppercut Games has put together, it’s worth carving into.
Just be prepared to die. A lot. Like Dark Souls a lot. Maybe even more than that.0comments
WWG’s Score: 3.5/5
Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher.