If Quake had an affair with DOOM, this would be the game that peeps through the window.
I’ve been reviewing games for quite a while now (almost 7 years, time sure flies fast), but sometimes there’s this game that breaks you. Not in a positive way or in a negative way, it just… Completely breaks the way you review games. Today’s game is one of those instances, and trust me: it’s going to be one hell of a ride. Sit tight, because it’s time to review Necro Mutex.
It’s 2003 all over again
If there’s something I really dig in video games, that’s personality. As much as I love games playing it simple and clean (and yes, that was a Kingdom Hearts reference, sue me) when I see a game that screams “stylish as f*ck” you know that I’m going to praise it to kingdom come. And what I felt when I started Necro Mutex was actually a blast from the good old days of flash browser games. Not in a bad way mind you, I’m talking about that sweet feeling of playing the newest release on Newgrounds crafted with sweat and tears. I mean, just look at these enemy designs and tell me they are not nightmare-inducing!
In terms of aesthetics, Necro Mutex looks like one of those bad dreams you get when you eat too much pizza after 2:00 AM. Or maybe I’m just crazy, who knows. But I said browser game, and that also brings some flaws in the gameplay.
Granted, this game can also be enjoyed in VR, and maybe the game feels more immersive if you play it like that, but if you play Necro Mutex as your usual classic FPS you might find that this title is a bare-bones version of DOOM or Quake. The control in this game feels great, yet the mobility doesn’t really combine well with the layout of the levels. And speaking of those, I think it’s time to address my biggest… Issue? I still don’t know how to define this feeling, so I’ll call it “John Joseph” because I like how it sounds.
A lot of dead space
Necro Mutex main premise is that it has 10,000 levels. And this is where things start getting interesting: you don’t have to play all levels. In all my years playing video games, this is the first time one literally tells me that I shouldn’t play all the levels.
While it’s true that you can play all sectors the moment you play Start, it’s something really weird for a game with 10K levels to tell the player “you know what? Just don’t bother man, play whatever you want, I don’t really care”. And if you are wondering why bothering playing all these levels, well…
You see, my concern about this game is that your objective in every single sector never changes: reach the escape pod before the sector explodes or before you die. That’s it. The enemies you face are either really slow without weapons or f*cking snipers trained to hit flies with a Gatling from the other side of the planet, and there’s no sense of challenge escalation at all. You go from too easy to Welcome to DOOM Ultra Nightmare in a really short period of time, and if you think you can just train in failed levels guess what: you can’t!
The moment a sector blows up or you die on it, you are unable to retry that sector (unless you unlock a certain skill, which I’ll cover in a moment), and you also lose the money earned in that level in the process. Fun. This would make me mad if the game didn’t have, again, 10,000 levels to play, but at the same time, it makes me ask why is this a thing. If you offer a chance to replay sectors (which are also really dull in terms of structure and design as they all feel and look almost the same), just do that in order to incentivize replayability of levels instead of this weird “use and discard” system. And for the most part, the challenge doesn’t come from the level structure or fair challenge, is just more enemies and more assholes shooting at you the higher the number of the sector you are in. It adds some interesting stuff like not having a compass to guide you towards the escape pod (which makes the levels more tense yet at the same time more infuriating to navigate through) or less ammo. And speaking about ammo, I think it’s a good time to talk about the skill system and the weapons.
To skill or not to skill
This section also makes me feel quite odd because it feels both interesting and disappointing. After completing a sector, we are rewarded with a set amount of money, which also increases with the number of enemies obliterated. This is really nice because you need cash in order to upgrade your character. But the skills don’t feel really useful when you get them, and that’s really bad.
Aside from the skills being really dull in terms of what they do (more shields, medkits and all of that usual things), the more skills we buy the more things we unlock for our character, and that also means weapons. And the weapons are really, REALLY lackluster.
The first gun we get is a pistol. Reliable, with unlimited ammo and the ability to turn into a small SMG once we upgrade it enough. You can also unlock other weapons, but those guns use ammunition, so you don’t really want to bother with those. But no matter which tool of destruction you are using, all of them feel really dull to use. Sure, they have different sounds and bullet trajectory, but that doesn’t mean they feel fun to use aside from stop hearing the constant sound of the pistol in every level.
The skills and the weapons feel like an excuse to keep playing the game and improve yourself, but in the end, the effect done is actually not that pleasant. Sure, now my shotgun shoots faster, but what’s the point if the enemies keep falling like old people fainting due to extreme heat? This could be fixed with something really simple: make the weapons pack a real punch. If you see a gun from an FPS like DOOM, Serious Sam, Quake and all of these games that encourage the player to keep shooting at the things appearing in front of them, these weapons make you feel like you are powerful and you want to unload a full clip on the head of a tough boss or enemy. But here there’s no feedback whatsoever, they just… Faint.
This is not over yet!
You must be thinking “Wow Ray, you sure as hell must hate this game”. And the truth is that I… don’t. At all. In fact, I really think Necro Mutex has some really good potential hidden beneath it! But the major issue that I see is that the game lacks many aspects that made classic FPS fun and enjoyable. 10,000 levels are something great to have, but if those levels look completely the same and the challenge is basically measured by “how many enemies can I fit in a room” that doesn’t make anyone keep playing it after an hour.
Necro Mutex is a game that has plenty of flaws: the weapons don’t have enough kick to feel useful, the levels are dull in terms of layouts and the enemies lack of proper feedback when shot at are some of these problems, but they can be fixed. If there’s something I’ve learned about games is that feedback can make a game become a really amazing title when devs want to improve their work. And Necro Mutex is a game that I really want to love, but in this state, I can only say that this is just a decent game. Is it as bad as Feudal Alloy? Not at all, as Necro Mutex has a clear premise from the beginning, but the lack of the already mentioned points makes it just another game on Steam. Hope this is not the last thing I see from its developer though, because at least Necro Mutex will be a game that will linger inside my head like the Specter of Games Past.