Scourgebringer PS Vita Review: Finishing Strong
Scourgebringer, developed by Flying Oak Games, has been out in the wild since October 2020, but it has only just this month migrated onto PlayStation platforms, including the one platform where it feels most at home: the PlayStation Vita.
Scourgebringer is the other deeply challenging roguelike that's made its way to PlayStation consoles since early April, and Flying Oak Games delivers an experience well worth mentioning alongside the best of roguelikes on any console.
On PS Vita, however, the developer takes it a step further with clever use of the platform’s features, making Scourgebringer on Vita an absolute must-own for anyone still rocking Sony’s handheld phoenix.
Scourgebringer PS Vita Review: Finishing Strong
It’s amazing how a change in environment can affect our experience with something. Even though Scourgebringer released in October 2020, and I enjoyed the game on other platforms, the difference between my first experience of it and my experience on Vita is almost like night and day.
Scourgebringer suits the PS Vita’s form factor so well, and though it’s definitely the smallest version of the game, nothing feels small or understated about it.
The many colors of Scourgebringer pop beautifully on my OLED model PS Vita, and the screen size feels just right, rendering each room without losing any important environmental storytelling details or minimizing important text. It's an important element to consider, since, like other roguelikes, Scourgebringer’s story is discovered over the course of multiple runs and fed to the player through droplets of dialogue from past explorers.
The jumping-off point is that you, Kyhra, are tasked with saving your people from certain death and putting an end to what seems like biblical levels of judgment. Once you enter the monolith, though, that’s when the mystery truly begins.
The story, however, is ultimately not the focal point of Scourgebringer. The gameplay is the star of the show, and it shines brightly. Scourgebringer is by no means an easy game, but the combat is so addicting it’s difficult to ever put it down.
Throughout the game, you constantly receive random buffs and item drops either from NPCs, by clearing a room full of enemies, or by completing challenges within the different levels. As with every roguelike, Scourgebringer has a number of important and not-so-important buffs. Here they're called blessings, and each run is greatly affected by what you have available to you. You don’t need the best blessings to make it deep into Scourgebringer, but some make things much easier. The only constant to remember is, you can't get hit -- ever.
And this is where Scourgebringer’s challenge starts to show. Almost every room you explore in the monolith is chock full of well-designed demons, devils, robots, bugs, and all manner of creatures hell-bent on killing you dead.
You start the game only able to endure six hits before you die and start again, though you can increase it to a max of 10 by unlocking higher starting health through the skill tree. It's vital to unlock certain skills early on like Lethal Club, which lets you send enemy bullets back at them. Thankfully, the most important skills are near the beginning of each branch, and even if it's unlocked, you can still read the skill's description, so you can have an idea of where you want to invest your skill points.
Despite the challenge, Scourgebringer is hardly frustrating because I was genuinely having too much fun to care. It helps that the upgrades you receive make it feel like the game wants you to succeed, and supportive NPC characters providing the odd pep talk, as well as plenty of status buffs, don’t hurt either.
Kyhra’s mobility is Scourgebringer’s key. There’s a certain precision required to master Scourgebringer’s gameplay. Whereas I initially thought controlling Kyhra's dash might slow down the speed of combat, clever and timely use of their gun and fury attacks keeps the pace fast and fluid, creating an immense level of creativity in how each combat encounter plays out.
All of this sounds great, but what makes Scourgebringer unique on the PS Vita?
Flying Oak goes the extra mile on Vita with how well they use the platform's toolbox. The back touchpad is used for Khyra's gun and fury attacks, and swiping or tapping your fingers to activate them is extremely intuitive. Though something like that may seem like a small change, it’s this change that makes Scourgebringer a must-own for anyone with a PS Vita; it's an experience unlike any other.
Scourgebringer PS Vita Review -- The Bottom Line
- Excellent combat and core gameplay loop
- Clever and intuitive use of the PS Vita's features and form factor
- Wonderful pixel art design and engaging soundtrack
- This particular experience is only available on a niche platform, one that most won't be able to acquire
- The occasional frame dip traveling across rooms
If the wonderful design, intuitive controls, engaging combat, and addictive core loop weren’t enough to make Scourgebringer a fantastic roguelike, there are a few other aspects that give the game an invariable charm.
There’s a large focus on blood within the story and world of Scourgebringer. Blood is your currency, blood acts your skill points, and the blessings you get are from blood, all working in concert to give the impression that Scourgebringer is in some way influenced by Bloodborne. And the music that cracks like a bolt of lightning in every room is reminiscent of the intensity of the Doom soundtrack. Whether or not Flying Oak Games took inspiration from these titles, they feel like intentional nods from one game to another, and it's very charming to see.
Altogether, there is a lot to love about Scourgebringer. On the PS Vita, there’s even more to love because like so many other indie games, it feels at home on Sony’s handheld. The ease with which combos can be created and how multipliers work to keep the game's frenetic pace is unmatched thanks to the controls on PS Vita non-existent on other consoles.
In short, Scourgebringer is the latest game best played on PS Vita. If this is the last game to release on the PS Vita, the console has surely gone out on one of its strongest notes it possibly could have.
[Note: Flying Oak Games provided the copy of Scourgebring used for this review.]