City of Brass, the roguelite title from the team that brought us Bioshock is tough and unforgiving, but it left me disappointed overall.
City of Brass is set in the Arabian desert and despite only having twelve levels, you are going to have to work hard for it, every time you die you’ll have to start your run again, and you won’t have knowledge of the map because each level in the city is procedurally-generated. As you reach the end of each area, you’ll take on a gatekeeper before you can move on. Depending on your skill level, you can make the game easier or more difficult thanks to burdens and blessings. You can increase the difficulty by increasing the damage enemies can deal or make things easier by giving yourself more health, it’s great to experiment with different combinations to give yourself just enough of a challenge.
If you have played any Bioshock title the controls and the general feel of the game will instantly feel familiar. Armed with a sword and a whip you’ll slash your way through skeletons with various skills and armour, adding to the challenge. Your whip is versatile, allowing you to attack your enemies in different ways. Aiming for weapons will disarm your opponents, while attacking their legs will trip them. You can use the whip to grapple around the environment, pull enemies into the various traps trying to defeat you and also grab treasure that are out of reach. It’s a really satisfying mechanic that I’d love to see in other games.
The treasure you collect in game can be used as currency. As you move around the city you’ll encounter friendly genies that you can use to purchase health upgrades, new melee weapons and effects to your whip including fire damage. Getting to, and defeating gatekeepers is key as if you die before reaching them you’ll start from the beginning, although you can purchase perks that allow you to carry over and upgrade or weapon effect. If you do manage to defeat a gatekeeper, you’ll be able to travel via a portal to the section of the game you managed to reach previously.
City of Brass is one of the first titles to integrate Mixer Interaction, while streaming your viewers can help or hinder your run. Kind viewers will give you extra gold to help you buy more upgrades, while those who want to make your life more difficult can do so by throwing more enemies your way, so you can imagine what I saw more of…
Despite the smooth gameplay and the gorgeous visuals, after a few hours I just got a bit bored with it all, there isn’t enough variation in the enemy types and ultimately the gameplay, despite the amazing whip. For me there could have been more of a story, with possibly some puzzles thrown in to keep things interesting. The procedurally-generated city as well as the burdens and blessing system will keep some players coming back for more, especially as it’s a really hard game, but for me there isn’t enough to make me want to come back.