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You’re going to die early and often when playing ScourgeBringer. Not only is it a roguelike, but it also takes a lot of cues from precision platformers that are sometimes known as splatformers. Combining never knowing where you’re going with the need for precision to stay alive means that ScourgeBringer has a steeper learning curve than most. Thankfully, it’s in the hands of Flying Oak Games, the developers who previously developed NeuroVoider. The team knows how to make a tough but fair procedural game, and that’s why it is easy to look forward to what comes of this stylish splatformer.
ScourgeBringer Preview | Gotta watch out for sky portals
You play as Kyhra, one of those last human warrior types seeking out ancient secrets. However, I got to play a very early alpha of ScourgeBringer so I didn’t get to see a lot of worldbuilding firsthand. What is already in the game does tell the story though. The title screen shows Kyhra looking out over a ledge towards one of those laser pillars, not unlike Master Chief in all those Halo 3 trailers. In levels, you’re dashing through grown over ruins and dismantling ancient guard robots and various mutated flies. The simple pixel art style is expressive, getting across a sense of place even without dialogue.
As you’d expect from an early alpha, most of the story beats are yet to arrive. Although ScourgeBringer does have a fully formed and completely exacting gameplay loop. You have several attacks right from the jump, and you’ll need to master them immediately if you want to get anywhere. Your sword can slash in all directions or slam foes away to stun them. An ever-present drone buddy can shoot out bullets on command. Your dash doubles as another attack, much like the stomp in Dead Cells. One thing to note is that there’s no dedicated dodge and no way to block attacks. With these three moves, you have to string together a set of attacks that takes out every enemy and dodges every attack. Needless to say, that’s easier said than done.
ScourgeBringer Preview | Once more into the void
My first round with ScourgeBringer felt like it lasted about 20 seconds. Each room features a swarm of foes, and most of them can get on top of you instantly if you’re not moving. Once I got the hang of the sword slashing, I could explore much of the first world without falling, although there isn’t much to see at this juncture. There is a store that offers health recovery (the only way to do so in this build), but the items always seemed out of my price range. It would have been nice to see enemies drop some sort of pickups, as the rooms in place now can bleed together after a while.
It was also relatively easy to stumble into the boss room without any warning. There are small markings on the maps of special rooms, but they don’t pop out as they should in a game this fast-paced. The boss itself is no slouch. You need a hardy level of patience to get damage in, as charging without a plan will only drain whatever health you have remaining. Even at full health, the boss will destroy you long before you take it down. It’s a reflection of the entire mindset that ScourgeBringer wants you in. Like other precision platforms, the game needs you own your toes at all times while also planning every move to the letter. One false slash and you might as well start from the top.
ScourgeBringer Preview | Brutal beginnings
Even though it’s hard to get the full picture with this alpha preview of ScourgeBringer, there are already plenty of little things that speak to the game’s quality. Take the soundtrack, a driving guitar beat that matches the need for constant attacking. Whenever you get hit, there a sudden silence that highlights your failure. You want to do everything to avoid that feeling, but you’ve got no time to wallow. Let your guard down for a second and it’s all over. This high tempo beat transitions beautifully into more mellow atmospheric tunes when the combat ceases. It’s not something brand new, but it still works well here, especially considering how much else is missing from the equation.
Looking at what Flying Oak Games plans on implementing over time, it seems like ScourgeBringer will be much more welcoming when it eventually hits a more public state. It probably won’t be easier, as NeuroVoider was similarly tough as nails for good reason. However, it will at least have some roguelite progress to keep people going even when they’re throwing themselves against a brick wall. If you ever wondered what Meat Boy might look like with a katana, ScourgeBringer could be what you’ve been waiting for, and it’s certainly worth some attention going forward.