Guten tag, dapper dungeon delvers! I come to you with a brutal and satisfying little adventure into the depths of a mysterious underworld of Necropolis. Imagine, if you will, a pseudo-magical world that has faced some sort of arcane apocalypse. You are a faceless specter of a warrior, armed with a thin sword and a ragged shield that appears to be built of scraps. A pyramid shaped entity watches you with a single unblinking eye as it requests you dive into the lowest depths of The Necropolis to recover a sacred amulet. Each floor is a vast and sprawling maze that takes many forms; at times it is a dungeon, while in other instances it can be a moist bog or a wintry forest suspended above some indiscernible landmass that you are certainly miles away from.
Necropolis is a dungeon crawler roguelike wherein you die frequently and begin your adventure anew, over and over, taking very little with you. What you do take with you are tokens that are harder to earn than regular money, and can be spent on permanent access to gear and alternate color schemes. Beyond that, every new life is just as bare and menacing as the last.
One of Necropolis’ key features is its roguelike difficulty. It is intentionally difficult while stopping just short of being unfair. Attacks have a definite tempo you will need to plan for. They take even longer to charge up a harder hit. Your shield will deflect a wide manner of projectiles and axe swings; however better, higher tier shields are more likely to be successful more often as well as less likely to drain your stamina. Because of this, combat in Necropolis is rarely high octane and is mostly a matter of reading your surroundings and your many many opponents in order to dodge, swing, block and dodge again. It is slow and methodical. Fighting different opponents often benefits from different strategies when approaching them. If you have ever played a Dark Souls game or a Monster Hunter title, the careful timing of a fight will feel familiar. Necropolis is however far less destructive than Dark Souls; don’t let that name drop scare you off just yet.
The finest feature of Necropolis is its multiplayer. Each randomly generated dungeon is wrought with perils; wouldn’t it be grand to face those perils with a pal? How about three? Multiplayer is just as unforgiving as single player playthroughs, however, mainly because your sword swings can damage your friends. There is no friendly fire damage reduction, by the by; if your buddy has a flaming greatsword and manages to scrape you with the thing, it’s going to hurt. Bad. This means engaging in fights with a few pals requires more restraint than most games. You wait for an opening and get a poke or two. You may find yourself the primary target of an enemy and gifted with even more open time to attack. With a full team of four, some of the narrow hallways and slim rooms get clogged up quickly and it gets to be more and more difficult to just fight monsters when you’re worrying about each other. So far, this game seems to be a lot more fun as a two-player experience. Though we have had some success in the deeper more maze like floors when we split into pairs and took advantage of our dungeoneering buddy system.
The art of the Necropolis is a bit on the minimalist side. Textures are low resolution, mostly flat colors. It’s a dusty, decrepit sort of spin on the artstyle of Journey. There is little more than ambient music that doesn’t stand out much. Then again, it wouldn’t be ambient if it stood out, I suppose. It does serve to add tension to certain biomes in the game.
I describe Necropolis as simple, but this is not a negative point at all. It looks great. There is a creepy, lonesome feeling everywhere you go. Beside’s your friends, your only company is a disembodied voice that is certainly more interested in seeing you fail. There is evidence of previous adventurers having challenged the labyrinth and failed before you in the form of scrawlings on the walls. They serve as little signs of Necropolis’ silly sense of humor.
“Let it be here that the warrior Sheoth’s last words be written, “I can make that jump”
“In a time where women were women, men were men, and the rat-like humanoid were-… Well you get the idea”
This game is a bit more action than RPG, and there is a wide selection of gear to choose from. Again, they intended to keep things extra simple. Your starter gear is labeled as Tier 0, and as you find new swords, shields, axes, or even a flame belching pistol, you will see they are labeled with a tier value. Higher tier does more damage. That being said, there are some low tier weapons with features that make them more preferable even in late game.
New armor is handled with simplicity in mind. Rather than finding parts and pieces, like boots and helmets, you find entire outfits. Each armor set gives you some combination of extra health, extra stamina, or some new passive ability. So far my favorite set made my attacks more likely to knock down an opponent, buying me all sorts of free time to think about my next move, as well as being able to kick a bunch of hoardmen prone for my allies to swarm on. A vampire set, by contrast, made every successful attack leech a teeny sliver of life into yourself. The fact that these sets come complete and ready for deployment keeps players where they should be – in the action, fighting for their lives.
One of my most favorite features is that the developers are quite active in this game, even after release. My team and I were early adopters, and since then have seen a myriad of updates tweaking and balancing the game for the better. The Brutal Edition added a new playable class, logically titled the Brute. He plays fundamentally the same, with some adjustments here as there. The hulking beast of a hero breaks small objects without swinging his sword, only walking into them. His shield bash sometimes has an extra power attack. Of course he (or she, by the way) hits like a truck and is plump with extra life force making him about as agile as a brick through a window.
With current up to date dev support, an easy to learn yet difficult to master combat system, and emphasis on slow calculated cooperative action, Necropolis is safely walking the line between being a truly unique experience and being familiar. Its art style and expression are gorgeous in their simplicity. It’s simultaneously deadpan silly with a dash of spooky delight. This game is worth checking out for both multiplayer and independent game study by yourself. Expect low stakes, high difficulty, and a dark chuckle.