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Review: Lightning Fast ScourgeBringer Fits Snugly in the Roguelike Mold

Screenshot: ScourgeBringer

The world of video games is brutal—especially roguelikes. How many games have young people fighting against impossible odds, off to a certain fate, in a slim chance of stopping a catastrophe that already destroyed the world.  A grim prospect, but one I’m all too familiar with—and something you’ll face in ScourgeBringer.

An alien device appears from nowhere, and destroys entire cities. Nothing can stop the scourge that it brings—killing countless millions, and changing the entire world. Expeditions were sent into the machine, but none returned. You play as Kyhra, master of the katana, and this world’s last hope–because the end of civilization means tribalism, and embracing martial styles of fighting. Armed with her katana and her trusty blast .32, Kyhra must hack and slash her way through the various environments of the scourge bringer to put a stop to its devastation.

Screenshot: ScourgeBringer

ScourgeBringer is a super-fast, stylish action roguelike. The closest comparison I can probably make is Dead Cells, but most of those comparisons are only surface deep. As Kyhra you are master of the blade—dash, slash and avoid bullet hell as you fight the mechanical (and sometimes bio-mechanical) monstrosities inside the ancient scourge bringer. Each run means a different configuration of rooms, and each time you are defeated you go to a sanctuary where you have the opportunity to increase your skills—if you have the currency for it.

The appeal of ScourgeBringer is its lightning fast combat. Kyhra’s abilities allow her to dash and slash endlessly, even staying aloft for entire rooms as she cuts her way through her foes. She’ll have to stay on her toes, as most encounters become bullet hellish, and require fast reflexes to survive. Kyhra isn’t killed in just a hit or two, though—she starts with a fair amount of health, which can be upgraded in time. Each enemy you kill drops blood, which can be used as currency during runs—and killing deadlier foes will yield orbs (called “Judge Blood) which can be spent on skills. It’s a pretty bog-standard formula for a roguelike.

Screenshot: ScourgeBringer

ScourgeBringer has extremely tight, fluid combat. Unfortunately, most of the good stuff is relegated to melee. One of my favorite part of roguelikes is the potential for massively different runs—like finding a bunch of different skills and weapons than I did the previous run. ScourgeBringer doesn’t really have that. Most of its action is katana based, with Kyhra’s firearm almost an afterthought.

You can find different upgrades for her gun, turning it into a machine gun or rocket launcher—but the controls almost seem to punish using ranged over melee. But Kyhra does have the ability to do heavy attacks that stun opponents and deflect projectiles. The combination of super-fast combat and challenging environments make it feel like ScourgeBringer has a high skill ceiling—but I had a hard time finding a reason to continue.

My initial impressions with ScourgeBringer were very positive—but once I started doing runs over and over, everything felt a little too same-y, even for a roguelike. I really wish there was more variety in weapons and abilities. There are items you can find that buff you for the duration of your run, but these never seemed to change the way I play significantly like some items do in other roguelikes.

Unfortunately, the enemies I encounterd in ScourgeBringer were part of the problem. No matter how far I progressed, it seemed like I was fighting the same three or four types of enemies—just with variations on appearance and armament. The bosses are perhaps the most interesting encounters, but they’re also some of the most difficult—but that’s as it should be.

ScourgeBringer does have a great art style, and an awesome soundtrack to back it up. I’ll never get tired of super smooth pixel art animation, and ScrougeBringer has some of the best I’ve seen this year. The environments remind me of something from a Metroid game. And Kyhra, despite being a tiny cluster of pixels, is always visible with her fire-like hair.

While it does nothing to break the mold, ScourgeBringer is a solid roguelike. It has great pixel art, and a great soundtrack to go along with its melee combat. It’s a blast to dash and slash—until you realize that’s really all there is. Too little variation—both in its own gameplay, and its handling of genre standards– makes ScourgeBringer another face in the crowd.  If you want yet another roguelike, you can’t go wrong with ScourgeBringer, but don’t expect much else.

 

ScourgeBringer is available October 21 for PC via Steam, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

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