Not surprisingly, there was a Steam sale for Halloween, and one of the games that’s been on my wish list for a long time was really cheap: Necropolis. They apparently made some changes from the original launch version and now call it the “Brutal Edition.”
I didn’t want to buy it, because even though it was only $4.49, I didn’t want to send the signal that it was “okay” to release an incomplete buggy game at launch and then fix it later. Still, it was supposed to be a “Souls-like” game, and it looked visually interesting, and I’ve heard some good things about it. (And some bad things.) And frankly, I was bored with other games. So for $4.49, surely I could get a little bit of enjoyment out of it.
It turns out that yes, I could in fact get exactly “a little bit” of enjoyment out of it. But only a little bit. Pretty much the bare minimum of enjoyment. Was it worth $4.49 and the hour of time spent playing it? Honestly, no, not really.
I’ll start with something positive. One thing I loved about Necropolis: The mobs could hurt each other. Sometimes they would accidentally hit each other while trying to hit me. They would walk across traps and get killed. Once I saw them ignoring me to fight each other. That was very cool, and I wish more games would do things like that.
The rest isn’t very positive.
The art style turned out to be a lot less appealing inside the game than in the screenshots and videos I’d seen. It looks like a game where they just forgot to put textures on the walls. A lot like a demo game engine project, to be honest. I might be okay with that, because you would think a game with a very basic polygonal style would render really, really fast and be super responsive. But no, not really. Not in this case. Necropolis chugged sometimes and dropped way below 60 fps on my Nvidia 1070. That’s not good for a game that has a bare minimum of graphical detail.
There is no immersive story element in this game at all, as far as I can tell. You don’t know who you are or why you’re running around chopping up monsters, and the game doesn’t tell you at the beginning. There’s nothing particularly interesting about your character that makes you want to learn more, either. You’re just a bunch of polygons. You don’t even get a short paragraph of “character details.”
There’s a disembodied voice that talks to you sometimes with jokey-jokey humor, but it actually doesn’t talk because the sound you hear is an alien language that sort of sounds like words, and you have to read the translation on the screen. There was no explanation for alien-voice-guy in the first hour of the game, and no compelling hook to interest me in figuring it out.
The controls are very similar to Dark Souls (except no backstabbing?), but they didn’t feel as tight. (I played with an Xbox 360 controller, like I play Souls games.) Swings and rolling felt like they were in slow-motion. Jumping felt like there was little or no gravity in the dungeon. Each time I blocked an attack, it wouldn’t let me respond immediately with a swing like I usually do in Dark Souls. I tapped the attack button after letting go of the block, and nothing happened. I don’t know if it’s a deliberate mechanic where you’re “stunned” for a moment after a shield block, or the game is bad at responding to button presses, or maybe I didn’t quite have my finger off the block button yet. In any case it was a bit annoying.
The crafting system is a good idea, but in practice it’s tedious. It didn’t take long for me to wish I didn’t have to craft food to restore my health.
It was a bit difficult to see and compare the items on the floor with the equipment in your inventory. You’d have to stand there and wait for a moment to see what was on the ground before you could make a decision about whether to pick it up or not. Often there would be multiple things on the floor in the same spot and it was difficult to select the one you wanted to look at.
Little UI problems like that make what could be a fun game a bit of a chore to deal with.
Even worse, the combat didn’t feel particularly good, either, which is just about the most important component of a Souls-like game, to me. It was a little slow. I didn’t feel very invested in it. I didn’t feel like I was in any danger. It was mindless button-pushing. It felt a bit like fighting the nameless, faceless enemies in ARPG games which are not so much enemies as they are blocks of pixels that explode into loot, like a Mario game. There was a distinct lack of immersion to the experience. (This is in sharp contrast to Dark Souls games, where every encounter feels meaningful and engaging to me.)
Bottom line: I wasn’t into it. If you have to buy it, wait for it to go on sale for $5.