If At First You Don’t Succeed, Die, Die Again
I love roguelikes/roguelites, but I’m terrible at action-packed platformers. So I expected to be halfway good at ScourgeBringer. Developed by Flying Oak Games, ScourgeBringer is set in a future where a devastating calamity has befallen mankind. Players take on the role of Khyra, the best warrior her clan has to offer. Khyra must brave the ever-changing floors of the Monolith and face creatures of semi-describable horror.
Light on Story, Heavy on Action
There’s really not a lot by way of story; what I said above covers most of it. You’ll get snippets of the plot here and there as you explore, though. Occasionally you’ll run across an old computer, and you can obtain a very brief log from people who previously attempted to explore the Monolith. Perhaps not terribly original, but I found the little snippets interesting enough that it made me want to find them all. But if you need a game with a compelling story to stay interested, then ScourgeBringer is definitely not the game for you. If, however, gameplay can be as addicting and gripping for you as a good story, read on.
Are You, Are You Coming to the Tree?
ScourgeBringer is hellishly fast-paced. Once you begin fighting, there’s no taking a break – all the exits to the room you’re currently in automatically lock, and don’t open again until every horrifying creature is destroyed. Enemies relentlessly pursue you around obstacles in any given room and have absolutely zero qualms about swarming you. You’ll begin the game with a basic sword slash attack; pressing the square button lets you hack and slash repeatedly (with the added benefit of helping keep you up in the air longer as you slash). You’ll also have a double jump (the x button twice), a dashing ability (R1) that can help you slash across the screen with greater speed, and a gun you can fire with R2 (and which requires you to defeat enemies to recharge it).
Strange Things Did Happen Here…
As you progress through ScourgeBringer, you’ll fight regular enemies, what I consider mid-bosses, and then the boss of the stage, called the “Judge.” Defeating regular enemies will net you some regular blood droplets, but defeating the mid-bosses and the Judges will reward you with “Judge blood.” The latter, in particular, is crucial. Each time you die (and you will die a lot), you’ll be returned to a sort of staging area called “The Chiming Tree.” Here, you’ll be able to spend your hard-earned Judge Blood on skills. The skills are laid out on branches on a tree, and you must unlock them in order on each branch. There are a wide variety of skills; you can get access to a smash attack that will stun enemies that are preparing to attack as well as reflect projectiles back at them; an attack called “Fury” that will let you attack everything on screen for huge damage; and, of course, modifiers such as increased damage to stunned enemies. There’s a lot more to the tree, but as it plays an important role in the game’s progression, I’ll let you decode its mysteries for yourself.
Oh, Dear Cod…
As should be expected from a roguelite, the gameplay is composed of runs. Get as far as you can, and when you inevitably die (and die, and die, and die), spend that blood! Don’t be stingy with it; you can turn off any skills you purchase when viewing the skill tree and turn them back on when you return to it. While the floor names remain the same, the layout changes every time, so no two runs will ever be identical. The Judge of each floor won’t change, either, but you will encounter a variety of different mid-bosses to cycle through, which helps keep things a bit fresh. Speaking of Judges, holy wowcows, are they difficult. Oftentimes, the bosses become a hectic bullet-hell mess (in a good way) that leaves your palms sweating and a tension headache building up behind your eyes. Which sounds terrible, I know, but honestly, it’s awesome. The feeling of accomplishment from beating these chaotic beasts is well worth the effort.
Brutally Difficult, Wonderfully Rewarding
To help you through each run, each floor has shops randomly scattered about. Some shops will accept payment in the form of your blood droplets, while another requires you to sacrifice some of your health to obtain an item. There’s quite a variety, too: items to restore health, boost attack, increase your max health, and more. Additionally, each floor has one Blood Altar, which will let you select from randomized “blessings” that will aid you on your way.
Although ScourgeBringer sounds brutal (and it is), the developers thoughtfully included a few things to help those of us with… less than stellar skills in this genre. The game has adaptive difficulty that you can turn on or off at any time (and I most definitely kept it turned on). Additionally, you can adjust the speed of some of the game’s physics. Falling too fast? You can slow it down. Enemy projectiles hurtling at you too fast for your (my) slow reflexes? Slow that down, too! Enemies not dropping enough healing items? Increase the drop rate. Want just to sit back and slaughter enemy after enemy with no worry? You can turn on invincibility. With all the customization options for difficulty, I really think there’s something there to please just about any player.
Overall, ScourgeBringer is an immensely enjoyable game. Even your best run will be fairly short, so you can pick up and play anytime you feel like it. As light as it is on the story, it’s heavy on action and gameplay. It offers tons of replayability, too, with multiple endings. So if you’re looking for an intense roguelite platformer, give ScourgeBringer a try. I promise you’ll never be so frustrated and happy at the same time.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PS4 (Reviewed), PS Vita, PC; Publisher: Dear Villagers; Developer: Flying Oak Games; Players: 1; Released: April 22, 2021; MSRP: $16.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.