Looking at the list of games appearing at PAX East, I was not expecting a procedurally generated narrative rogue-like experience with Dark Souls mechanics from Harebrained Schemes (developers of the Shadowrun games), but lo and behold they had such a game and I was intrigued. I checked out Necropolis at their small booth on the show floor and I have to say I was very impressed with what they have come up with. It truly is a game that delivers on those descriptions in a way that is both interesting and fun.
Necropolis is set in a world that has been derelict for a long time. The protagonist heads there for treasure, finds more than he or she can handle, and wants to escape, but the only way out is to go deeper into the dungeon. The game is an action title with RPG Lite features such as items, costume sets and weapons that can be swapped out.
As the demo started I was plunked into the dungeon and given the chance to choose my outfit (the outfits are very cool-looking) and also determine the gender of the character. Starting the level I was greeted by the caretaker of the place, called the Brazen Head, who really echoed a Whatley vibe from Portal 2 to me – a slightly deluded and crazy personality who guides you through the game with tips and off-center advice.
I was thrown into action right away and attacked by enemies. The controls are very straightforward with light and strong attacks as well as charging variants to deal more damage. You have a shield and can block with it or do a shield bash for some damage and breathing room. There are also potions and buffs available for quick use to restore health or get an edge.
The game is only in alpha but was very impressive already. The dungeons are procedurally generated with some fixed features when necessary and the world is all there from the start, meaning if you gather a flying potion you can skip sections or hit a spot you could see but not reach before. There are also elements of randomness and environmental spontaneity, including the world shifting while you are travelling through it.
The monsters are also adaptive. In particular there was one scene where a huge creature was chasing me but his core enemy is crystal soldiers, and when some crystal soldiers arrived the beast started attacking them instead of me. I could sit back and watch this battle or dive in and take part. This was a really cool feature that adds a lot of potential depth to the title.
The game is still very early so some features such as crafting and book collecting were not in place, but in the final game there will be collectibles and the ability to craft potions or items. The narrative tomes you stumble on will be able to be collected eventually and they will carry over between games after you die. Much like Dark Souls the game is designed to make deaths meaningful; your progress will be restarted when you die, but some aspects of your progression carry over so you can delve deeper next time. The developer assured me that there is an end game, so it is not an endless dungeon scenario, but it will be challenging to progress.
The game is still in its early days and a release format has not been finalized. It may hit Kickstarter like the Shadowrun titles or Early Access as many growing titles do but this game is worth watching however they decide to release it. The game shows a lot of promise with smartly generated worlds, a really cool art design and gameplay that is challenging and familiar all at once. It is a big paradigm shift from Harebrained Schemes’ other games, but one that is now definitely on my radar to play when it releases for PC/Mac and Linux later this year.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00EQNP8F4][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00K59HKIQ]