With a simplistic design and randomly generated dungeons that vaguely reminded me of The Binding of Issac, Necropolis gives us a new dungeon experience that’s a solid experience in its own right. From Harebrained Schemes, the creators of Shadowrun, you can start by getting yourself prepared for a whole ton of starting from scratch. A fast-paced, hardcore “magical deathtrap,” Necropolis delivers on one promise… you’ll probably die a lot.
My initial impression was how simple Necropolis seems. You choose what your character looks like, if they are male or female, and what color wardrobe you prefer (the more you play, the more options you have to unlock new color schemes). While you start out in a type of “safe zone”, you’ll quickly choose one of two doors and start your journey that is sure to end in death. You’ll come across the same types of enemies, but the dungeons are randomly generated and different every time you re-spawn (much like The Binding of Issac).
Dead enemies drop weapons or shields, and you collect potions and recipes along the way to aid in your survival. Crafting meat to heal yourself or using other items for various purposes will help you move on. I was crafting a revolving door of consumables because I was burning through them so quickly. Navigating through deadly traps is sometimes tricky, as you’re not always sure what to anticipate. Attacking enemies will quickly burn through your stamina, which does regenerate, but in turn requires precise hits and timed withdraws.
Design-wise, I really enjoyed the simple and clean approach. Where you are able to go is pretty straightforward, and the game will tell you which items you can interact with. Fire damage weapons glow orange, and ice damage weapons leave trails of icy snowflakes. Throughout the game, a spooky narrator’s voice appears out of nowhere with witty little quips, often poking fun at how often you’re dying. The inventory and crafting menus are relatively easy to figure out, but purchased items and recipes do not carry over to your next life. While the design is simple, there are touches of beautiful detail; several times I came across some rooms with sparkling black sand piled in the corners of the room.
One of the best things about this game is that you can play with up to 3 friends (on different consoles). If you die, your friends are able to revive you, provided they are still alive! While you may lose your items, this reviving option will help you progress in the levels. There was one point where I encountered a dirty thief who would attack me and steal my items, which was an interesting problem to encounter.
The downsides to this game however are pretty unfortunate downsides. Playing with your friends can be deadly. Sadly, there is friendly damage, so turns must be taken to bring down your enemies. The other major downside is the perma-death. Dying will cause you to lose all of your items, recipes, weapons, and gear. There are some tokens that carry over, which you can purchase some things with, but all of your weapons and items will be permanently gone, and you will be starting from the beginning.
Overall, Necropolis was an interesting game, a dungeon crawler with a twist. But for me it is difficult to play once the novelty wears off. The perma-deaths are the core identity of this game, and the frustration you feel when dying all the time makes it difficult to invest much time in it.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game pr0vided by the publisher.