Dark Souls and Zelda are two of those opposing franchises which go remarkably well together. Despite obvious thematic differences, level structures and an approach to boss battles, the world-building, quest and inventory similarities are undeniable. As such, it was only a matter of time before someone tried to create a lovechild of these two franchises.
Best known for their work on Shadowrun, Harebrained Schemes’ project here is ambitious to say the least. Both much more costly and directly action orientated as opposed to the Shadowrun series, it is clearly challenging for the developer. On the positive side, the basic skeleton of a roguelike Dark Souls esque game has been nailed. Retaining the stamina meter but focusing upon much more mobile combat, it keeps what works but ensures it retains its own identity. What’s more, the semi-cel-shaded designs allow it to retain a true sense of wonder as you traverse through the randomly generated environments. With no end of secrets or foes, you can spend hours at a time on a single area. The items themselves are plentiful; both from fallen foes and hidden chests, and the sheer variety of weapons will satisfy all comers.
Sadly however, there’s more bad than good here. For starters, the game is vastly harder in single player than in co-op. While friends can resuscitate allies upon falling, dying on your lonesome means requires you to start over from square one. This puts a serious damper upon the Dark Souls “die and learn” approach, forcing players to cycle through the same content over and over again. Such problems are only made far worse thanks to the game obfuscating certain details surrounding weapons and adding some rather unfair RNG moments like items which might kill the user upon being equipped.
Even without these issues, there are an unusually high number of circumstances which can slay a player at random. Enemies can spawn in anywhere in force, meaning an unlucky player might clear a room only to run into a mob of foes teleporting in seconds later. Such hordes can be impossible to stop thanks to a few bugs surrounding problematic invincibility frames, items disappearing and even players falling through the world. Such issues are hardly a fun thing to have in a game which is already intentionally unfair.
Overall, Necropolis is a rough-hewn diamond of the roguelike genre. It has a glimmering core and plenty of potential, but it’s evidently unfinished and extremely jagged about the edges. While you would do well to keep an eye on this one in months to come, and co-op mode is well worth your time, you might want to wait for a few patches before picking this one up.
NECROPOLIS: A DIABOLICAL DUNGEON DELVE/ DEVELOPER: HAREBRAINED SCHEMES / PUBLISHER: NAMCO BANDAI / PLATFORM: PC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW