Forty minutes in, Necropolis has convinced me that perma-death can be fun and even better, quite funny. This upcoming release by Hairbrained Schemes feels like a Zelda actioner in a cel-shaded world with tons of witty asides. Visually, it's sort of like the blacklight vibe of Tron via The Windwaker. The main goal is to take your sword-wielding adventurer down to lower levels of a dungeon and escape. That’s it. At least as far as this demo was concerned. But the humor peppered throughout made quite an impression.
If you die (which is a lot), you go back to level 1. All your items are gone. The dungeon is "alive" so to speak, so it reconstructs itself each time you play. (Hence the rogue-like vibe.) There is, as far as I could tell, one exception. As you make your way you can spend gems that you collect to purchase texts/books that provide information to further your skills and that can help out with crafting. These books or more specifically, the knowledge they possess, does not go way when you die. Think of it as being respawned with your character still remembering the information on how to do things learned from said books, which is very meta way of acknowledging that the player would, right?
The demo was on a PS4, which had a few hiccups like inconsistent framerate, a minor annoyance at this point. You can quest alone or with up to three friends. (I was only playing solo.) The combat is all about timing, but the tone of the game alleviates the typically oppressive feel of a Dark Souls experience. This is where the clever writing along with the great visual style makes Necropolis special.
As you make your way battling all sorts of undead or just plain unhappy creatures, you can swap out one of two weapons on the fly in your current arsenal, but instead of just comparing your currently equipped sword to an axe left by a felled foe via boring stats, a descriptor will pop up like "Pyramid Hand Axe: A golden axe imbibed with arcane power, and a fresh, minty scent." Other smile-inducing words of wisdom appear throughout: "When choosing between this [knife] and say, a rabbit; a rabbit's more useful in combat."
The beasties might have ominous-sounding names like Gemeaters, Changelings, or Hoardmen, but as you traverse the darkly-lit dungeon, you'll pass by hieroglyphs that soften their hardcoreness. "Serve the brazen head and live forever. Or at least a day or two." This is exactly the kind of vibe that made me want to delve further. It's not just about surviving, but about a keen interest in what other fresh takes on the genre the writers at Hairbrained Schemes have in store. Sign me up. I for one hope that I actually do get to wield some kind of rabbit arsenal.
Necropolis is coming to Steam this summer for PC/Mac with the PS4 and Xbox One versions releasing at the same time too.