Focus Home Interactive releases an amazing roguelike action based on madness, darkness and cruel pre-Columbian gods.
That in the world of roguelikes – and perhaps not only in that – there should be a before and after Hades is an almost established fact. It is unthinkable, moreover, to think that the Supergiant Games masterpiece (by the way, here is the review by Hades) did not leave a very deep mark, immediately becoming an absolute term of comparison as well as a model to try to aspire to. In short, a real milestone to deal with, both in terms of feedback from critics and audiences and pure game design.
A lesson that the French of Passtech Games, a small independent team founded in Lyon in 2012 (here you can find our review of Masters of Anima, an action-strategy inspired by Overlord), seem to have kept in mind when giving life to Curse of the Dead Gods. A roguelike with an isometric view full of action, undoubtedly inspired by the undisputed masterpiece of the creators of Bastion and Transistor, but with surprisingly further references even to less banal titles than expected.
Heart of Darkness
Curse of the Dead Gods is not in any case to be traced back only and only to something already seen and experienced elsewhere, because on the contrary, net of the more or less evident inspirations, it is certainly not the personality and character a
miss the title published a few weeks ago by Focus Home Interactive. The title follows the story of an adventurer blinded by gold fever, willing to venture into the dark meanders of the impious underground temples of Central America in order to obtain glory and riches. It goes without saying that, in the darkness of labyrinths consecrated to lost Aztec gods, our alter ego will find above all suffering, endless curses and a huge amount of brutal deaths repeatedly. In short, roughly the standard kit that we have now learned to expect from a self-respecting roguelike (to learn more, retrieve our review of Enter The Gungeon).
Let’s start from the setting of Curse of the Dead Gods, somewhat suggestive in its potential exoticism but at the same time remained strongly unexpressed in the practical act. A pity since the pre-Columbian civilizations are and still remain a guilty underestimated theme at a videogame level, which with their distinctive folklore made of feathered snakes, step pyramids and human sacrifices would lend themselves wonderfully for something memorable. The production of Passtech Games stops at some timid references made of bas-reliefs, tribal weapons and little else, opting moreover for a cel-shading that harks back all too closely to Mike Mignola’s comic-book gloom from Darkest Dungeon.
The result is therefore a game that is nevertheless pleasant to see, but with much less flair and originality than expected, than with its violent chiaroscuro. at times it really openly leads to plagiarism RedHook Studios’ excellent debut feature (just in case, our Darkest Dungeon review is just a click away). It should be noted that in reality the inspiration from the Lovecrafian-style Mephistophelic roguelike does not end with the artistic direction alone, also recovering the mechanics of the madness that had characterized the Canadian cult. In fact, a special bar of sanity will always be visible on the screen, inexorably destined to fill up both by suffering a certain type of attacks – marked by a purple halo – and by progressing towards the heart of the gloomy mazes consecrated to who knows what divinity.
Upon completion of the indicator you will receive as a gift up to a maximum of five random curses, with tasty creative misfortunes that will vary from chests destined to hurt you once opened to sudden reversals in the conformation of the levels, passing through an increase in the range of action of the frequent traps and a thousand other sadistic devilry. A nuance that adds a tasty touch of unpredictability to raids, forcing in the meantime to pay particular attention to the madness factor – because, especially on longer descents, accumulating too many curses is equivalent to an almost obvious game over.
It should be noted that in reality there is also another way to lose sanity, which is to offer one’s blood at special altars. To accumulate relics capable of triggering very useful passive abilities, acquire new weapons (divided into three types and alternating them at any time, with significant differences in terms of gameplay) or even increase the statistics of your hero you can in fact pay a tribute in gold or in blood. Doubloons obviously represent the safest and ideally preferred way, but you will not always have sufficient resources to support the growth of your character: in short, expect to perform tremendous sacrilegious gestures, seduced by the sinister charm of the shadows.
Glows in the dark
About darkness: darkness and light are another of the basic concepts of Curse of the Dead Gods, because wounds taken in the dark will cause extra damage. This is why you will always have to try to stay lit by a flame, perhaps interacting with the scenario to set fire to a brazier or, at worst, to set an unfortunate opponent on fire for a few moments. And here comes the beauty, because to hold your trusty torch you will have to sheathe any other weapon (complete with a good second to switch from one object to another).
Taking risks, understanding when to give up the salvation of the light and when instead to use the flashlight to operate some traps scattered here and there to your advantage are just some of the peculiar mechanics of Curse of the Dead Gods. A title that manages to stand out and show one very palpable and almost surprising pleasure in its fighting dynamics. It is precisely pad in hand that all the substantial differences with the aforementioned Hades are strongly grasped, since the action here is decidedly heavier, less snappy and above all perversely constrained by the presence of stamina.
At the feet of the protagonist you will in fact see five pellets that can be used to shoot, for powerful charged shots or for ranged attacks. The management of the same is essential to say the least, and part of the undertaking will lie precisely in figuring out how to alternate evasive and offensive maneuvers. Maybe by taking advantage of the parade (which if performed with perfect timing instantly recharges a unit of stamina), or by taking time and space in the midst of clashes that will see you punctually alone against everyone.
With an intriguing loot system, a good degree of rewards between runs and a high but not prohibitive challenge rate – at least at first, because from mid-game onwards you will really need patience, reflexes and skill to survive – Curse of the Dead Gods is a roguelike of undoubted value, unjustly passed over in silence. A game that for absolute value does not even come close to a masterpiece like the award-winning Hades by mistake, still managing to deserve a space of its own in the hearts of fans – especially those who have been orphaned by Zagreus and his escapes from the underworld.
Curse of the Dead GodsVersion Analyzed PlayStation 4 ProCurse of the Dead Gods it is certainly not a perfect or top-of-the-range title, but it is a production of tasty ones, which with intelligence, application and good ideas prove to be able to go beyond their natural limits. It is clear that, if you have not yet played it, the priority should go without thinking even for a moment to Hades, yet Passtech Games has been able to follow the path shown successfully by Supergiant to get to something of its own. By proposing an alternative that is absolutely not on the same level in terms of quality, but in any case of undoubted value. In short, arm yourself with courage, recover your flashlight and fearlessly invest the required € 19.99 (perhaps on new generation consoles, where the game runs smoothly at 60 fps).