For anyone following indie game trends over the last decade, it would be no surprise to hear that you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting four or five different pixel art roguelikes. With so many different offerings available for players, standing out amongst the crowd can be nearly impossible. The folks at Flying Oak Games are taking their shot with ScourgeBringer. It promises intense action with light platforming and all the roguelike elements you can fit on a Steam Store bullet list. For the most part, it succeeds at the job it sets out to accomplish, but without the truly special sauce that separates the classics from the rest.
They came from the skies
The action in Sourgebringer kicks off when monoliths appear in the sky and start wrecking folks. Our protagonist Kyhra is an icy-haired ninja who investigates the disturbance and must fight to save humanity. The setup is about as standard as it gets, but the real meat and potatoes of ScourgeBringer is in the moment-to-moment action. Kyhra is effectively a dashing ball of pain, whipping back and forth across the screen to dodge projectiles and slicing up the foes that she doesn’t shoot first.
The hand-to-hand combat in ScourgeBringer will be familiar to genre buffs but does include some twists that make the playstyle a bit more unique. Much like characters in Devil May Cry, attacks allow Kyhra to remain suspended in mid-air for a brief period of time. This is helpful as most of the enemies encountered are scattered at every conceivable height on the playing field. Slicing up one mob and then darting to the next while in mid-air is a heavy component of the core gameplay loop.
The developers tout ScourgeBringer as part-action and part-platformer, going so far as to include a comment from a games industry preview claiming the game is “Dead Cells meets Celeste” in its Steam Store opening bullet point. Celeste (or any other platformer of note) this is not. You will find yourself jumping onto platforms and moving around the screen in conventional platformer fashion, but implying that this type of gameplay is a core part of the experience would be very misleading.
All the action takes place across a series of blocked-off rooms. The camera does not follow Kyhra as she hops around and there are no sprawling levels to conquer with timing or finesse jumps. If anything, the moment-to-moment gameplay more closely resembles Enter the Gungeon or many of the classic arcade shmups (or shoot ‘em ups). You will be spending hours dodging projectiles while working through ScourgeBringer.
Like most roguelikes, you will be dying repeatedly. Upon death, you will lose upgrades from stat pillars and blood. Blood is the currency of ScourgeBringer and is dropped when wiping out enemies. It can be cashed in with Greed, a seedy merchant located somewhere on each map. Greed offers random items ranging from weapon upgrades to health restoration. Some progression carries on after death in the form of a skill tree. These buffs will allow you to grow stronger the more you play and unlock them. They vary from simple max health expansion to combo multipliers. Each branch of the tree is gated behind the boss that ends the given level. Once you clear one of these bosses, you can begin unlocking the tree buffs.
The boss battles themselves are a decent change of pace from the endless screens full of floating enemies, though all of them seem much easier to deal with than the rank and file bad guys because of their identifiable patterns. The randomized nature of the normal levels and the waves of enemies contained within is harder to deal with, in my opinion, as any advantage you gained from knowing the room layout is gone upon your death when a new layout is generated.
The controls feel solid at all times, which is helpful as you’ll need every bit of finger dexterity to dodge the billions of projectiles that rain down on you in each room. It is possible that I have reached old fart territory when it comes to my gaming skills, but I found ScourgeBringer to be incredibly difficult to work through. Regular bullet hell games are mentally taxing enough, but when you add in randomized room layouts, it can feel cruel.
Dying to die yet again
ScourgeBringer manages to work on the strength of its controls and the overall smoothness of its combat. While its visual presentation can be bland when put against its contemporaries and the secluded room design of its worlds is disappointingly confining, it can scratch the itch of side-scrolling roguelike fans. The unfulfilled promise of compelling platforming hurts but leaves room to grow in the future. ScourgeBringer started life in Steam Early Access and Flying Oak Games claims that community feedback drives development, so there is a chance the game’s foundation can be expanded in the future. 7/10 broken controllers
This review is based on the PC Steam release. The game key was provided by the publisher for review consideration. ScourgeBringer releases for PC, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on October 21, 2020.
- Solid controls
- Satisfying combat
- An effective mix of roguellike and bullet hell
- Map design is very bland and limiting
- Boss battles feel easier than normal enemies
- Promised platforming is nearly nonexistent