I’m sure that hearing that there is another game that kind of plays like Dark Souls, kind of alludes to a dark world and a great threat like Dark Souls, and is cryptically difficult, like another Souls game that I may have mentioned before, is a little disheartening. It’s true, there are a whole bunch of those Souls games as is, but Necropolis is kind of leaning into the original ideas that made Demon’s Souls so exciting, while retaining the mechanics of its more modern, mainstream muse.
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Necropolis, developed by indie team Harebrained Schemes, is a Souls-like game that leans far more into the roguelike routes than any Souls before it. You play a descendent of a character, kind along the lines of descendents in Massive Chalice, while diving into a gigantic Necropolis pyramid. Your goal is to make it out of the base, but as you can imagine with a pyramid shape, it grows as you dive deeper into the tomb. You goal is to clear a floor, take the trip down, and continue on until the end; but of course, something like this isn’t without its hooks.
Here, if you die, you’re gone forever. Though I didn’t see it, Kayla, the community manager giving me the rundown as I played, told me about “tokens”, which would function as a sort of currency that persists through playthroughs. You’d use this for specific unlocks and changes, but I didn’t get to see these put into place in my brief demo. On top of that, enemies and levels are all randomly generated. That means that you can run into super powerful enemies at any time, and be forced into a corner if you’re not careful. For the most part, these bigger bads are easier to avoid in the front end, but I imagine much better rewards, like new weapon/armor drops, from taking on and beating those enemies early on.
As a game that played just like Dark Souls, you can easily imagine the attacks and secondary items mapped to shoulder buttons, and a stamina meter to micromanage. The ebb and flow of the moment-to-moment gameplay felt very familiar, if a little stiff. The only thing I’d be worried about this game would be some of the stiffer, heavier weapons. Weapons, also, you get by just picking up off the ground from dead enemies. Shields, swords, and possibly heavier weapons to see on deeper levels are all just pick-up-and-keep-going. They’re tiered, and their value/strength would be based on how deep in the tomb you are.
Necropolis shined when it came to style above all else. The game features a spiritual guide that is very sarcastic, commenting on you as you travel deeper in the tomb. He’s sassy, and fun, and while these games typically revel in their dreary worlds and nature, Necropolis is colorful and fun. The art is very minimalistic, and reminds me a lot of Journey, though maybe not quite on that level of sheer shine and beauty. It’s simple, and the skeletons that make up the brunt of the force I fought looked like silly, spooky, skeletons, which is A-okay in my book.
With everything being procedurally generated, each run is different. I was told that a focused run for the finish line would probably take six hours to complete. Kayla also told me that you can quit out to the menu and return mid-run, but the world persists when you do. If some group of enemies stumbles upon you when you put the game down, they will totally murder you, which is brutal. I don’t know if maybe that’s too long, or if there will be ways to access shortcuts, but it felt more along the lines of a Binding of Isaac, in that the runs can quickly become long, in depth affairs.
I’m excited to see more of Necropolis’s style. They were saying it’s coming to PS4 and Xbox One this summer, and will also feature co-op, along the lines of Souls games we’ve seen before. But hey, it has friendly fire, which sounds excellent. It’s a good mash of actual roguelike and the Souls style we all know and love, so it could be worth looking into in just a few months.