Sword of the Necromancer Review – Not Quite Roguelike Enough
Title: Sword of the Necromancer
Developer: Grimorio of Games
Release Date: January 28, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: JanduSoft S.L, Game Seer Ventures
Roguelike dungeon crawlers come in all shapes and sizes nowadays. While some push the genre in a direction that focuses on replayability and action, others tend to lean more towards a narrative to entice the player into playing countless times. Developer Grimorio of Games’ dungeon crawler Sword of the Necromancer aims to enrich players in a story of love and the lengths that someone will go through to save the person closest to them.
Sword of the Necromancer introduces players to Tama, a young thief who has been hired to escort the princess Koko on her journey after she was caught in the act of stealing a rune. However, on their adventure, Koko ends up being killed, and Tama blames herself. She then seeks the sword of necromancy to bring Koko back to life but finds out that she must first defeat a power presence to grant her strength.
The narrative is perhaps the main reason players will want to continue this rather short adventure. Before each level, story scenes take place with well design backgrounds depicting the scenes. The story scenes are often flashbacks to how Koko ended up losing her life and how the two girls became closer.
Sadly, the personality traits of the two girls aren’t the best sooted for this type of adventure; they are both written as tsundere characters it seems as you’ll hear a lot of, “It wasn’t like I liked it or anything, stupid!” type of lines during dialogue. It actually gets a little overbearing at times, but you can tell that the two girls have some attraction to each other, if not as great friends then as potential lovers.
I’m not sure Sword of the Necromancer works completely as a roguelike dungeon crawler from a gameplay perspective. For starters, each stage only has one floor, which leads to a boss after collecting a key. Treasure chests are scattered around that contain items, but a significant issue is that you can only hold four items, forcing you to choose which is more important. These four slots include everything, equipment, potions, and summonable monsters. As the game’s name suggests, it’s possible to revive monsters using the Sword of the Necromancer and add them to your party.
I’m not sure why there’s no system to hold more items or why an additional set of slots wasn’t allocated to monsters. This game’s main appeal is enlisting monsters, but I often never used it because I was hoarding potions and equipable items for added defense. It’s just a bad design choice, and I feel like even being able to simply horde items found in a dungeon would have been a better system.
This puts a significant highlight on the game’s mediocre gameplay systems as well. Without the monster summons, you’re just hacking away at the same enemies on each floor. If you die, you have to start over no matter how far you got, but very little is carried over after death besides points used to upgrade weapons, which you would have had to proactively added to your chest after a boss fight so that you don’t lose it after death.
There’s really no speed or skill to the game either. You have a dash, but it’s mostly used for getting over pits and provides no really invisibility frames during combat. Some enemies can’t even be touched, while another can, which had me accidentally dashing into enemies and losing health. The game itself isn’t difficult by any means, though, and if you take your time, the enemies and bosses are mostly a breeze.
The entire game isn’t too long either, which has me thinking that the only reason you’ll want to complete this adventure is to see what happens to Koko. In this regard, the gameplay and narrative don’t mesh well at all. I wanted to believe in their love, but I couldn’t when the quest was going by so quickly before my eyes. Bosses, which I expected to be a huge selling point, can pretty much be walked over and have the same attack pattern no matter their health.
This is just a missed opportunity, given that the design is so charming. The characters and world have a nice appeal to them, even though every floor of the dungeon looks the same. There are also collectible notes found in dungeons that expand the lore, but you’d have to be really interested in this world to go and read them actively. Music and sound add a strange experience to the game since the music changes anytime an enemy is near, which I don’t think the game needed, so you’ll hear the same loops repeatedly. Other systems include remote play with friends, but I never used the function because I never felt like I needed any help. Still, friends can join your quest as a summonable ally.
To enjoy Sword of the Necromancer requires you to be invested in the narrative, but to do that, you’ll have to get through gameplay that lacks many refinements that a roguelike needs. The system of bringing monsters back alive to fight for you is limited because you have to manage only four slots of items, which often shadows the game’s most unique systems. As charming as this game looks, it doesn’t ever become a challenging adventure or an interesting experience.
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