City of Brass is a rogue like first person action title from Uppercut Games. With an Arabian Nights theme, Skyrim style two handed combat and Mirror’s Edge style movement, the game is a unique experience. It really plays into the mystical side of its Egyptian setting.
Release Date: May 4th 2018
Genre: Action Adventure
Developed By: Uppercut Games
Published By: Uppercut Games Pty Ltd
By using a magical amulet your character gains access to an ancient Arabian city. In this city there are many dangers, ranging from reanimated skeletons to evil Djinn and several varieties of booby traps.
The game’s tutorial does a brilliant job of introducing you to the story and building the lore of the city while also allowing you to learn the vital mechanics of the game. The setting is brutally dark, a city which rose to bountiful heights before collapsing in on itself due to greed. It justifies why a player would want to risk the dangers of the streets; treasure.
The city is absolutely full to the brim of objects, from magical weapons to simple gold coins. Due to their greed, the inhabitants of the city sought immortality. They eventually obtained this, but due to the diminishing quality of life in the city, this meant nothing. To quote the game, ‘Gold cannot be eaten‘.
As the food ran out people died of starvation and returned as the skeletons that you must maneuver past in order to search the streets for treasure. The story is very effective, it justifies the video game aspects of the world while remaining interesting enough that the player is always aware of it.
As a rogue like, you would expect a high emphasis on gameplay. Since progression doesn’t carry over from life to life, each play through starts anew. Each level is procedurally generated to ensure that you never play the same stage twice, despite each of the game’s thirteen areas having a set template.
The main way to progress in City of Brass is to learn from your own failure. The game requires and expects you to improve in your ability every time you play, and you will. As you get further and further into the campaign, you unlock things like portals, which do give you progression through playthroughs.
You also improve at combat, learn what areas it is best to just run through and even learn what items are most effective. Throughout levels you also earn gold. This enables you to purchase upgrades, different weapons and gameplay modifiers; deactivating traps was my go to.
The gameplay does a great job of emphasizing the importance of skill, meaning you never feel overly disadvantaged if you don’t get a particular weapon or upgrade.
The skill element of the game is of course most influenced by the combat. The first person melee combat is an absolute joy in City of Brass. Combined with the free running movement and it’s a truly marvelous experience.
Imagine Mirror’s Edge and Skyrim had a baby which was then adopted by Aladdin and Jasmine. After several loving years of development City of Brass is that unique child.
In your left hand you’re armed with a whip, and a scimitar in your right hand. Both of these have their own set of moves. The scimitar acts as you would expect, using it to kill skeletons and do the real damage as you maneuver through the levels. The whip is the really special part of combat. It is an incredibly versatile tool, hit a skeleton on the head and you can stun them, if there is a trap between you and an enemy, use the whip to pull them onto it. It’s an incredibly satisfying feeling to pull an enemy onto a spike trap, then; if they survive, stunning that enemy with a single lash before striking them down with the scimitar.
The combat flows beautifully, it never feels too slow or floaty but it also never feels so fast that you have to button mash to get results. It is very tactical and this allows the player’s skills to develop.
The movement is similar. The more you play the more you’ll realize you’re able to clear full levels without any interactions with enemies. Most of the time you’ll be able to string ridiculously long jumps that you’ve crafted yourself with tricks using the whip to launch yourself even further. It makes traversing each level downright fun.
Enemy variety ensures the gameplay stays fresh. Boss fights are intense and spread out enough that you never feel burnt out. Regular enemies feel different, encountering a Djinn is a genuinely tense experience whereas walking into a room with six skeletons will see you smile as you plot their demise. Simple techniques such as pushing the enemies into a pit seem dastardly clever as you successfully pull multiple off without taking any damage.
The traps are a massive part of the game, almost to a fault. Sometimes it breaks up the flow of the gameplay as you have to constantly be on the lookout of every floor just incase of a spike trap. Luckily the aforementioned ability to deactivate them all comes in very handy when you’re feeling too lazy to properly explore.
Like most rogue likes the game has immense difficulty. As you start to improve at the game this lowers, however a lot of players will be put off by the original barrier to entry. Another barrier will be the time restrictions on levels. This can actually be removed via the gameplay modifying ‘Burdens & Blessings’, but it felt too integral to the game and experience to play without. Nonetheless it is great that the developers have including this system to allow players to customize their experience, this includes raising and lowering difficulty.
Graphics and Sound
Another area where City of Brass excels: it looks and performs beautifully. I played on an Xbox One X and the game astounded me with its visuals. Lighting effects were magnificent, the frame rate was smooth, enemies react physically and environments are detailed. The game is technically excellent. The developers have really nailed the Arabian Nights aesthetic and it comes alive through the gorgeous art style.
Unfortunately the sound fails to replicate this level of brilliance. Enemies sound generic, the music is what you’d expect from media with an Arabian theme. This isn’t to say it’s bad, on the contrary, it isn’t. It just doesn’t stand out in the same way the visuals or combat does.
City of Brass is an amazing rogue like title. It really captures the spirit of the genre and understands what the strengths and weaknesses of this style of game are. It addresses these superbly by allowing players to customize their experience. The gameplay is fun but does start to feel repetitive after extended periods of play, considering the price of the title though, the hours of fun you’ll get well outweighs the eventual grating. If you are in anyway interesting in rogue like titles like The Binding of Isaac, City of Brass shines as brightly as the best of them.