City of Brass Review
Do you miss Bioshock? Remember watching Aladdin as a child and seeing that iconic Arabian architecture? How about the thrill of Indiana Jones, exploring ruins and using his trusty whip to get out of tight spots? Lastly, do you remember how hard Prince of Persia actually was? Well now you can to relive all of these icons of the past by seeing them rolled into one in City of Brass. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen so many inspirations stand out so clearly in one game, but City of Brass (CoB) seems like it obviously took inspiration from all the above.
Still new into Steam Early Access, CoB is the indie game from some of the team that brought us the Bioshock series. Set in a dead (undead?) Arabian city, it is an arcade runner in first person. It feels like a Mario experience, but in first person 3D; stupid but overwhelming enemies and an environment that you have to run and time just right or it will kill you.
Ten levels lead to the heart of the city, you have four hearts (lives) to get there, and a trusty whip and saber are your main weapons. An interesting addition of a timer for each level make the core experience, but no two runs will be the same; the levels are procedurally generated, my favorite term in gaming right now. many varieties of Arabian zombies will try to stop you and the occasional red genie will absolutely wreck you if you give him the chance.
Another obstacle, and sometimes a helping hand, are the endless traps throughout the levels. The standard floor spikes, sand or poison blasting wall vents, trapdoors, poisoned chests, and more wait for you. The nice thing is that they all work on your enemies too. Pull an enemy onto a trap with your whip, or pull off a cool Indiana Jones whip swing over a deadly stake pit. The graphics, though cartoony, can look pretty sharp on the best settings, and scale down quite low and grainy for when you need to play on a laptop, though stability problems do exist.
The most surprising thing about this game is how freaking hard it is. A like a little challenge in my games, but I’m far from a Dark Souls or Bloodborne player, and this is almost as difficult. With each level lasting a few minutes, it took me about four hours to get to level three, where I immediately died. In addition, you can unlock “Divine burdens” for future playthroughs. These only make the game harder, adding enemies or traps, doubling enemy damage or health. I can see a future in this game for those who love the struggle and despair so common in the Dark Souls series.
I couldn’t figure out at first if the game was accidentally funny, like a terrible horror movie, or purposely funny. A great strategy is to whip the feet of enemies so they fall, but they end up falling on their face with their butt in the air, looking hilarious. Tortured soul enemies have a cage on their head and attack by bullrushing you. If they bounce off walls or an enemy they look and sound funny. After noticing my character was whistling like he was just strolling through the office, I decided that the humor was certainly on purpose and I like it. playing through more I noticed more bits of comedy and hope to see more added by the developers.
Overall, this game has a great base of gameplay and by that, I mean solid mechanics and sufficient challenges to warrant many replays. Unfortunately, the game’s base stability isn’t great. I have had crashes to desktop almost every time I play. Most have been on my Intel integrated graphics laptop, but I have gotten quite a few on my i7, 1080ti desktop as well. In a game that’s about seamlessly beating multiple levels, it really sucked when I was on a run in the third level with only one heart missing only to suddenly see my desktop.
I’m not the slightest bit worried about the future of CoB. The crashes are simply time-consuming problems that will be figured out eventually. There is already plenty of variety in weapon upgrades and enemies, with maybe some more creativity to come in the traps, so I can only imagine the new additions in the works. CoB is ruthlessly difficult, but it’s still easy to pick up and play for an hour, even if you never get halfway to the endgame. For hardcore gamers, CoB is already a challenge, but a whole host of Divine Burdens is ready to pile on the punishment for that thrilling feel of success if you ever manage to win.