Celeste Meets Dead Cells
It’s hard to hate a punishing pixel art rougelite platformer, and ScourgeBringer is exactly that. Not for the faint of heart or weak of will, ScourgeBringer is a fast, fun, and frustrating experience that will please Metroidvania fans and roguelite enthusiasts equally. Even those who aren’t the best at these types of games will agree there’s enjoyment to be had with its chill nature and quick gameplay. In the very least, the pixel art sure is pretty.
Developed by French team Flying Oak Games and published by Dear Villagers, ScourgeBringer slashes onto PC, PS4, XBox One, and Switch with an introductory price of $14.44 (standard price $16.99). Already voted “very positive” on Steam with over 1,000 reviews at the time of this writing, ScourgeBringer is certainly shaping up to be an indie top pick of 2020. ScourgeBringer isn’t just about skill — there’s a strategy element to it as well that will be sure to pleasantly surprise both fans of the genre and pixel art enthusiasts alike.
Players take the role of Kyhra, sent through a mysterious portal in an effort to save her people from a devastating force that has killed most of humanity. All who have passed through the portal have yet to return, their disappearances felt like ripples among those who remained. It is now up to Kyhra, the strongest of them all, to save the few remnants of mankind. Will she succeed, or will she also succumb to the destruction?
Although controls are acceptable on PC, a controller is strongly recommended when it comes to ScourgeBringer. Players will be jumping, dashing, and using two different kinds of slash attacks in addition to a gun attack that is tricky to maneuver with the mouse cursor consistently messing up even the best laid plans. I made a valiant attempt to play with a mouse and keyboard for a solid hour before I switched to my controller, feeling a lot less frustrated after changing it up.
The aesthetics of ScourgeBringer speak for themselves, but I’m happy to gush about them anyway. The pixel art just pops, and a lot of that has to do with the gradients and shading painstakingly implemented throughout. There’s so much depth to the backgrounds and character to the environments that hit all the right notes for those of us who grew up in the 8-bit and 16-bit generations. The use of color is certainly serotonin-inducing, and with music to match, ScourgeBringer is a game that will please the senses. I especially like how the music changes when you first encounter an enemy vs. when you strike an enemy, as the tempo picks up to match the adrenaline rush of the fight that ensues. Coupled with the delightful bell sounds that chime when you strike the bells scattered throughout the levels, the little sound details match the visuals perfectly.
ScourgeBringer will feel familiar to retro gamers for its quick-paced hack-and-slash gameplay and rooms that only reveal their secrets upon entrance. The rooms you’re plopped into are procedurally generated and filled with enemies that all have specific movement, attack, and defense patterns that will need to be cleared before progression is possible. Upon their deaths, the enemies drop “blood” which can be exchanged for special items in the shops scattered throughout the rooms. You’ll also come across machines that will yield their secrets, which come in the form of powerups providing boosts, health meter extensions, and more that will aid you in each run. If you’re struggling too much, a helpful entity will appear to give you items for the run free of charge, which is tremendously helpful if you’re dying more than thriving.
Speaking of dying, I enjoyed how ScourgeBringer handled player death — to an extent. In ScourgeBringer, death is necessary, as players will be able to use the time spent outside the level to put skill points into the skill tree. Adding health and other important skills becomes imperative to progress with the interesting addition of being able to enable or disable these skills. If you’d like to make life easier, put as many points as possible into these skills; if you’d like a challenge, disable those skills to live dangerously. After that, you’re dumped right back at the beginning, Kyhra devoid of all previously collected blood and boosts and the map completely wiped — as if you’re starting completely anew.
While ScourgeBringer has incredibly satisfying gameplay when it comes to the fighting mechanics — you can float across the room killing enemies without touching the ground once, which is awesome — I find myself wishing the game was just a teensy bit more forgiving. I know that’s not really the point of a roguelite, but as time goes on and the genre becomes more and more saturated, it seems the games get harder and harder, making the older titles better entry points. ScourgeBringer is pretty fun, but it’s also pretty painful; I can’t say this game is for newcomers to roguelites. Instead, this is a challenge for retro gaming fans who have greedily played through the giants of the genre — gluttons for punishment and hungry for more.
Despite some frustrations when it came to keyboard controls and repeatedly starting over again with nothing, ScourgeBringer is a surprisingly chill experience considering how difficult it is. Even though I died repeatedly, I never felt like rage-quitting, which is honestly a pretty solid accomplishment. With glorious pixel art, engaging fighting sequences, and plenty of exploration, ScourgeBringer is an absolute treat for veterans of the roguelite genre who want some punishing pixel art play. If you’ve got a controller handy for your PC, I don’t see why you wouldn’t pick up this title; if not, consider getting it on console (or getting a controller) for a more seamless experience.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Switch, PC (reviewed); Publisher: Dear Villagers; Developer: Flying Oak Games; Players: 1; Release Date: October 21, 2020; MSRP: $16.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a copy of ScourgeBringer given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.