Delve into the Necropolis and have fun dying with friends
Yours truly approached the much-hyped Necropolis with a serious mixture of excitement and trepidation.
I was expecting to either hate this game with a fiery passion or perhaps unexpectedly fall in absolute love.
Mixing Different Genres
How could it be so, you ask? Well, for starters, I absolutely adore Harebrained Schemes and have been following the developer closely since the Kickstarter for Shadowrun Returns way back in 2012.
Without being graphical powerhouses, those games still managed to overtake my life for extended periods, so it seemed like Necropolis would be more than capable of doing the same. On the other end, I wasn't excited about early descriptions of the gameplay, citing Darks Souls meeting the Roguelike genre.
Although I dig Darkest Dungeon despite its insane difficulty, my feelings towards the Souls series of “games” is probably best described as “active dislike” (frustration simulators aren't actually games, folks – they are work that you don't get paid for).
Add in the procedural Roguelike elements and offbeat art style and it was a total tossup whether this game would be worth playing.
Knowing What To Expect
After having spent a good amount of time playing both solo and multiplayer, I can now say that Necropolis is a lot of fun – even for people like me who don't enjoy Dark Souls - but definitely not a perfect game.
Unlike either of the previously mentioned devastatingly difficult games, Necropolis doesn't shy away from the humor at all, adding in a darkly comedic element as the game's all-seeing god called the Brazen Head openly mocks you (or entirely forgets what's going on).
The graphical presentation is also much different than one might expect for the gameplay, with the visuals somehow meeting at the intersection of Minimalist Boulevard and Hyper Stylized Avenue.
While some don't care for them or feel they aren't advanced enough, those people seem to be missing the point. The minimalist lines and empty spaces are meant to evoke a graphical rendition of those old ASCII text Roguelike games, and viewed in that light Necropolis is a good mix of nostaglic wonder and modern gaming.
Although the game can be played solo, Necropolis is clearly meant for groups of 2 – 4 friends to get together and play online, and the experience does radically change in that format.
Sadly, there doesn't seem to be matchmaking at this point, and you must play solely with Steam friends. If you manage to have a group of buddies to help revive you though, unlike with Dark Souls, you aren't going to see the “You Have Died” screen every 90 seconds.
That's not to say there isn't a steep difficulty here to keep fans glued to the screen, though. At first the mobs of monsters will roll right over you, but after a few tries its not tough to learn the attack patterns and figure out when to block or dodge and counterattack.
The real challenge here is staying out of your companions' way! That's right – friendly fire is always on, and it's a killer.
Using a super charged spin attack for instance is incredibly effective -- although highly stamina draining -- when getting swarmed, but you are pretty well guaranteed to hit somebody else who is also trying to deal with that same mob of enemies.
When you get into a groove with your party though, there's a serious sense of accomplishment when grabbing nifty new equipment and making it alive through an area.
There is one challenge that seems a bit unintentional, however, and that's the spastic camera that moves at blazing light speed. Seriously, the camera man has apparently acquired quite a meth habit and can't seem to stop twitching and overreacting.
When trying to slightly shift my view point to face an enemy coming from the side I repeatedly ended up doing a near 360, facing away from the enemy and swinging at empty air while they pummeled my exposed back. It's a system that takes getting used to while dying repeatedly.
No Hand Holding
Much of the game is purposefully shrouded in mystery, sometimes to an infuriating degree, which could be a pro or a con depending on how you like to play games.
On the one hand, it's fun to learn by trial and error what each weapon does and how many hits they generally take to destroy each type of enemy -- while on the other, it seems inevitable RPG fans will get frustrated by having no idea what items do or what a weapon's stats look like.
Is that potion going to help me right now when I need it or kill me dead? No idea, just drink it. Will this sword be useless? Could be, better pick it up and start swinging anyway. What the heck do these codexes do that I unlocked after hours of playing? Couldn't tell ya, but I'm sure gonna equip 'em.
A crafting system is present that's much more clear, however, so there's some solid RPG ground to find your footing on that front.
The Bottom Line
As a procedurally-generated entry, your group of dungeon delvers does start over at the top of the maze each time there's a total party wipe, but thankfully the layout and creatures significantly change on each successive trip, so there's less repetition than you might imagine.
With the lack of level progression (outside of finding higher tier equipment), skill trees, or any sort of stat building, Necropolis is essentially some good old mindless fun for hacking and slashing with friends, rather than something to sink hundreds of hours into.
Now that this game is finally finished, the devs from Harebrained can get on wrapping up that amazing looking Battletech reboot they've got going...
Note: GameSkinny was provided a copy of this game to review.