Necropolis is one of those games where your first impressions aren’t going to be indicative of your final thoughts on it. Originally, it is a game that grabs you with it’s interesting artstyle, the level of humour in the story and environment, and the general enjoyment to be had from gameplay in those earlier areas. I originally played multiplayer with the game and I think that had a lot to do with my rather positive first impressions as well – everything is better with friends after all, but once I had played for several more hours it’s an experience that quickly fails to satisfy and live up to what you expect.
At it’s core it both fails to meet it’s two main premises of being a good “Souls” like, and even roguelike game. First its roguelike elements are just too minimal, there isn’t enough there to differentiate between each new dungeon run. Each experience feels far too similar and that is a problem for a game that involves running these repeated dungeon runs. The level design is randomly generated, and the paths you take to progress are relatively unique but too often I felt i was retreading the same dungeon spaces. The same corridors and swamps at nearly the exact same levels. The same assets propped throughout these levels and of course the exact same monsters you will fight over and over again – just maybe in greater numbers. The different levels of the dungeon do introduce new, bigger and more dangerous monsters although always surrounded by the same trite you’ve killed tens, hundreds, and thousands of times before – maybe just a different colour. It all becomes a little too stale too quickly.
There is also a distinct lack of variation between weapons, items, potions and spells too and this creates far too much repetition throughout the gameplay. There are only a handful of different weapon types and while they do contain different elements at times it is still the basic form of combat. Swinging in a particular way, a certain amount of damage. The potions and magic give a little more variation but even then they only have a certain small pool to choose from in terms of effects and abilities – and they are often way to cumbersome to use in the heat of battle as well. And don’t get me started on the use of food throughout and how your max endurance level lowers every time you charge a major attack. This means constant down time to craft food and recover which ruins the flow of combat and exploration.
Even the progression aspects feel incredibly limited as well, and this is the aspect that is the most important. When you die you gain a certain currency, and a certain amount depending on how well you did and with this you can spend it to access tomes. These tomes can be equipped to then grant some incredible vague buff to your character but the problem is you can only equip one at a time, and once you have purchased and found the right one for you the overall progression is basically meaningless. Sure you can get skins and such too but nothing to really change or improve the gameplay and that, is it’s greatest failure. Without this progression, and the variation in dungeon runs the main roguelike aspect is just permadeath resetting your progress and in my mind permadeath as a primary mechanics doesn’t make your game a roguelike – it just makes it annoying.
And the we get to the Dark Souls like aspect of the game and how it seemingly fails as well. The combat feels way too floaty with attacks not activating and hitting as smoothly as you expect. The animations janky and unwieldy, and the controls not that well polished either. They would often activate the next chain in an attack when all I wanted was the one or two strikes and this then leaves you incredible open to a counter attack. The hitboxes seem rather off at times too, and aiming attacks not as precise as you would need in something this punishing. The enemies are rather ungainly as well; they have certain specific attack styles but they aren’t particularly predictable at times, attacking at odd times and angles that are against the usual. Everything seemingly lacks impact as well with combat strikes falling through enemies and the environment alike and overall seemingly lacks the strategy it needs.
Movement feels rather unpolished as well. Running and turning feels a little off, sometimes a little sluggish in how it controls. There is an auto aiming mechanic but it can fail and when you are surrounded by enemies it isn’t that helpful. There is a small dash as well but often enough it doesn’t take you out of damage and sometimes the enemy will just auto target wherever you go and get the strike regardless. There are also these rather weird camera issues where the screen will stutter, sometimes your vision is obscured and other times I would find myself completely turned around due to certain visual and graphical glitches.
I really did like the idea behind Necropolis though. A precise and punishing rogue-like dungeon crawler does sound pretty great. The art style is incredible unique and rather striking., It is bright and colourful yet is still able to maintain that dark oppressive feeling while exploring these dungeons. I even enjoyed the humour the game contained with the way the main force, and overseer talks down on you as well as the humorous lore pieces placed around the walls. It creates a more defined distinction between the levity of dungeon crawling and imminent death, and that pure form of fun and whimsy I enjoy from my games. But unfortunately, it falls flat in what it aimed to do and as such I just don’t see any longevity there even in the short term. A few runs is enough to become rather bored with experience. I wanted it to be some much more, it could have been so much more and it’s failure to meet that is rather disappointing.