Developer: Flying Oak Games
Release Date: October 21, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Dear Villagers
To say there is an over-saturation of roguelite and roguelike games feel like a bit of an understatement at this point. The majority of the titles I’ve played this year have incorporated either of these mechanics in one way or another. It can be challenging to stand out from so many other titles. Still, Scourgebringer by developers Flying Oak Games and E-Studio, and publisher Dear Villagers focus on frenetic and smooth gameplay in an attempt to do just that.
Scourgebringer begins as a colossal monolith appears in the sky that decimates the people below. Its motives and origin are unknown, but it has been dubbed the Scourgebringer. You play as Kyhra, the most vital member of a clan sent to investigate the Scourgebringer and hopefully bring peace to your land.
Scourgebringer is broken into just a few chapters and levels within the monolith. Each level is procedurally generated and alters a bit depending on how many upgrades you’ve unlocked. Your map will only chart down rooms you’ve explored, and with the layout changing each time, you never quite know what’s around the corner. There are a few constants, though. Each level contains a mini-boss you must defeat to unlock the main boss of each level.
Most rooms contain random smaller enemies for you to battle. They typically come in multiple waves per room. Once you defeat the first wave, larger enemies and slightly more difficult enemies appear. Upon defeating them, you can progress in the direction of your choice.
Each map also contains a room where you can buy items from a merchant known as Greed. Greed accepts blood as payments for his wares, which is most commonly obtained after defeating enemies. His items range from health restoration to weapon upgrades. Also scattered in each level is a pillar that bestows one of three stat upgrades of your choosing. Both of these stay with you until you lose a life.
Combat and controls are where Scourgebringer truly shines. You are armed with a blade and a gun. Along with this, you have a move called a “smash,” which can stun any enemy leaving them vulnerable for attacks. Stunning can be a tricky maneuver to pull off. It’s only useful when the enemy has an exclamation mark above their head.
Not only does this mean they can be stunned, but it also signals they are about to attack. Because of this, if you’re like me, you will often find yourself misjudging the amount of time allowed to stun an enemy and end up taking damage. It’s a system that rewards your risk and precision. You can do damage without stunning but timed right; the stun works to your advantage.
Interestingly, Scourgringer’s physics and play style almost felt like a shooter to me. You can delay your descent with blade slashes and easily move aerially about the screen with double jumps, wall leaps, and air dashes. It takes a bit to get used to, but I found myself always surprised how much flexibility there was to my movement and how little I actually made contact with the ground. It’s a super enjoyable experience and, at times, can make you feel absolutely cool.
As fluid and fantastic as this movement is, I never felt overpowered. Just because you can move speedily doesn’t mean you’re invulnerable, and it is exceptionally easy to get hit with health regeneration being rare. I frequently found myself taking damage as hordes of enemies ganged up on me. These moments are frantic and, at times, totally overwhelming.
Although you do get used to enemy attack patterns, you are still required to be aware of multiple things going on at once, and one mistake can have dire consequences for your whole run. I would even lose my character’s placement a couple of times with so many enemies on screen at one time. The sheer number of smaller enemies actually proved more difficult to me than bosses.
While challenging in their own way, bosses usually have moves that are easier to predict and avoid. That being said, it did take me several tries until I recognized each boss’s attack patterns. It helps that they are typically just one target to focus on. Still, bosses are pretty fun to combat and a welcomed change from the swarms of enemies found elsewhere.
Since this is a roguelite, Scourgebringer does expect you to die many times. Every time you die, you lose all blood and stats and upgrades collected from Greed and pillars. You also start at the beginning of Chapter One instead of continuing at the chapter you died on. However, when you die, you are brought to “the chiming tree,” where you can obtain permanent abilities and stat boosts.
Scourgebringer does require you to “get good,” though in some circumstances, as each layer of the tree is restricted from unlocking until you defeat the boss for its level. I can see some masochistic hardcore gamers become so skilled they would hardly need any upgrade to rely on, but for most, getting even to the second chapter will take more than a few deaths.
Although just a few chapters may not seem intimidating on paper, Scourgebringer lives up to its genre’s reputation, making each progression feel like a huge achievement. But also, like many other rogue lites things can become repetitive after a while.
For many, this redundancy and difficulty will be a turnoff, but fans of the genre will probably go in expecting this. Knowing this, I still wish there was a bit more enemy variety. Most chapters only vary with six enemies, and most are just size variations. It honestly probably wouldn’t have been noticeable, but being a roguelite, those elements are highlighted, unfortunately. Luckily the crazy energetic gameplay does make up for most of it.
Scourgebringer offers a challenging and chaotic roguelite experience that manages to be as addicting as it is frustrating. The mechanics are sound with a responsive combat system and intense battles, even with the limited enemy variety. You may suffer many deaths, but Scourgebringer is just one of those games that you can’t help accept the punishment and then jump back in for revenge.
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