I knew someone like you. They died.
Necropolis is like if Dungeons of Dreadmor was watered down and designed by a cubist.
Necropolis is an artsy game that uses roguelike elements to give it an oppressive atmosphere.
Necropolis is what happens Journey swallows Dark Souls, takes out half the difficulty, and is mostly style over substance.
…Yeah. Yeah, that sounds about right.
Okay, maybe I’m being a little bit harsh. Necropolis is a stylish third-person hack-and-slash roguelite with a very simplistic approach. You are…well, some person that the game never really identifies, running around in the titular Necropolis, in hopes to get a Macguffin for a disembodied voice that talks to you every now and then. You run through stylized areas, pick up loot, grab weapons, and hack and slash monsters until your inevitable death, where you start it all over again.
Game progression is simple enough: Get to the next floor. Every randomly generated floor is long and winding, sometimes with multiple means to get to the exit, sometimes only with one. Regardless of how many times I played, though, the floors always felt well-designed, and even after playing for several hours, it was still a lot of fun to go and look in tiny nooks and crannies and grab some more gems, or rummage in crates and boxes, stealing just about everything that wasn’t nailed down.
Actually, that’s probably the best strategy I’d give for this game: “Steal everything that isn’t nailed down.” Necropolis‘s floors are immense, and as is expected from the genre, shops are sparse and randomly placed, so the developers balanced that out by allowing you to craft food and items from random stuff that drops from enemies. It’s not exactly a complex system, but it gets the job done. Unfortunately, this can shave down the difficulty significantly once you’ve progressed enough to amass a sizable amount of reagents (which doesn’t take long), since you can just fill your inventory with healing items and make more if a particularly tricky monster spawn brings you down to low health.
Well, that, or one of the many environmental hazards.
Character progression is done through buying special abilities in the library at the start and end of each floor. To do this, you need a special currency, which is earned one of two ways: You complete random tasks for the disembodied voice (such as killing enough skeletons or drinking potions or scavenging food), or you will earn currency after you die depending on how much money you collected during your adventure, and how many tasks you completed. Dying is essential to leveling up your character, and the game encourages you to do it as much as possible. This is balanced by the fact that you can only equip one ability at a time, so no matter how much you progress, you can only take an iota of what you’ve earned with you into the next run.
While the game’s difficulty does go down once you learn how to take advantage of the crafting system and get used to its variant on Dark Souls‘s combat (at least with a controller, but since this game’s keyboard controls are some of the worst I’ve seen in recent memory, and you can’t change the key bindings, it’s almost required that you play it with one), it gives a nice balance where it could have been too easy to take advantage of the system.
Still, it was clear to me from the get-go that the visual style was the star of the show, and it should be given due credit. Everything is cast over with a dark, oppressive atmosphere, almost beckoning you to search around the corner to see what the game has in store. Shadows are used to great effect, making stark contrast with the brighter objects in the scenery (especially doors, light fixtures, and elemental effects), creating a marriage of light and dark that is an absolute feast for the eyes.
It’s unfortunate, then, that there’s so little to do in each dungeon. I know that I said that it was fun to run around and look for stuff, and it is. At the same time, dungeons are expansive but sparse, leaving a lot of empty space to run around in, but without near the amount of variety as other Roguelites and Roguelikes.
So, what about multiplayer, then?
Multiplayer is probably the best way to play Necropolis, especially if you have a few buddies, Skype, and an evening free. The sparse dungeons begin to feel less empty due to more characters running around in them; hordes are far more fun to fight since you have someone at your back; and with friendly fire, you’ll have a few funny moments where you accidentally kill your friend by stabbing him in the back while you’re trying to get at the monster right next to him. You don’t die unless everyone is dead, and you can revive allies by pressing a button near their corpse to get them back up. This is also extremely slow, so you have to actually coordinate your team to have a few members on monster duty while someone else runs around reviving fallen team members without worrying about if a monster is going to stab them in the nostrils.
It’s good fun, and was the most fun I had playing the game. I’d suggest playing it with people you know, though; playing it with strangers makes it hard to coordinate and strategize amongst your party, and that can make the experience a cluster and a half when things get hairy.
So, what else is there to say about Necropolis?
Well…for all of its artistic flair, the interesting graphics, and all the things it does right, it doesn’t have much of an identity. Just about everything I’ve seen has been lifted from other games, and anyone who’s been playing games since the early 2000’s will be able to pinpoint each one.
The controls and combat? If you’ve played Dark Souls, then you’ve played this, since they’re almost exactly the same.
The aesthetic style is very reminiscent of both Journey and Dark Souls.
Progression? Pretty standard for the genre.
This doesn’t take away from what Necropolis already has going for it; the graphics are beautiful, the gameplay is solid, and it’s a fun experience with some friends. I couldn’t help feeling in the back of my mind that I’ve gone down this road before, even if this was the first time I’ve ever played it. Couple that with its difficulty and lack of content and most genre veterans will be done with the game in a matter of hours.
That said, this is a good game to pick up, if you’re itching for a roguelite that you can play with some friends. I don’t think it’s worth the thirty dollar asking price, but for some, the experience is worth the price of admission.
Final Verdict: 3.5 / 5
Available on: PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Harebrained Schemes, Bandai Namco ; Developer: Harebrained Schemes ; Players: 1-4 ; Released: July 12, 2016 ; MSRP: 29.99