City of Brass for PC review
City of Brass for PC review – Since the disbanding of developer Irrational Games, its employees have gone on to a variety of new projects, taking the DNA of the Bioshock games with them. City of Brass from Uppercut Games is one such project. Sure, it’s a first-person actions games 3d, but there are smaller touches that hark back to Bioshock: the shops selling upgrades, the cackling of enemies as you near them, and the emphasis on creative play.
City of Brass for PC review
At first glance, City of Brass looks to be a stealth platformer. Its Arabian Nights setting, sword fighting and an abundance of traps certainly give a Prince of Persia feel. In fact, it’s a rogue-lite that tasks you with reaching the center of the titular city. Along the way, you’ll defeat skeletons and magical enemies, avoid traps and collect treasure to upgrade your equipment and abilities. Die and it’s right back to level one.
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Most of the procedurally generated levels require you to simply find the exit. They’re labyrinths of sun-dappled or moonlit streets and palaces with multiple routes to explore. Using your whip to kill enemies is lots of fun, be it by triggering nearby explosions, pulling them into spikes or pits, or stunning them before a quick stab of your sword. The first-person combat feels a little loose due to the difficulty in detecting distance, but with a multitude of ways to reach the end of a level, no two runs will be the same.
The problem is that this creativity is at odds with the rogue-lite gameplay. You’ll want to take your time exploring and trying out new weapons and abilities, but the random nature of the levels, enemy placement and power-up shops leads to far too much trial and error. Try something new and you risk death and a restart from the very beginning. Throw in a time limit on each level and you’ll soon be rushing through recklessly rather than stealthily exploring, setting up kills and calculating your next move.
Eventually, you’ll reach levels that require you to kill a boss. Far too often, though, you’ll stumble upon it with little health and no idea how to kill it, leading to a swift death and – that’s right – a return to level one. Soon the enemies, level design and visuals become all too repetitive. The random nature of the game is par for the course with this sort of rogue-lite, but that doesn’t make it any less infuriating when you lose your progress.
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City of Brass does provide a ‘Burdens & Blessings’ option – essentially a load of mods to tweak the gameplay and make things easier or more difficult. You can increase your health or your power, reduce the number of traps, or enable enemies to respawn and give them double health. It allows for an interesting twist, but it makes you wonder if it’s actually there to cover up faults in the base game.
City of Brass has a compelling core with an interesting setting and a strong emphasis on creative gameplay. Yet despite that, it’s simply too shallow and repetitive to keep you coming back.
When overwhelmed in situations where your sword and whip are simply not enough, you can use randomly scattered items or the many available traps to turn the tide of the fight. Items like an explosive jar or a lamp can help clear out a big horde of enemies; pushing an enemy into a venom jug will make them easier to kill; docile enemies can be lured or pulled into traps like floor spikes and bottomless pits. There’s a satisfying amount of strategic thinking and creativity allowed within City of Brass’ combat. There is also a sizable roster of enemies and mini-bosses scattered throughout each location, most of whom require different strategies to overcome. The enemy designs aren’t particularly inspired, but the rudimentary AI offers up enough of a challenge to keep you alert, particularly during moments when large groups of enemies relentlessly chase you down.
Memorable and heart-stopping combat moments are also generously sprinkled throughout the City of Brass. One particularly notable encounter has you tailed by a near-indestructible enemy statue that only comes to life when your back is turned and can only be damaged by explosive jars. As soon as you’re within the proximity of an enemy statue, the music immediately hits high-pitched notes, and you’re on edge trying to keep sight of the statue while searching for an explosive jar or the exit.
Death will be a regular occurrence, but the short stages and friendly learning curve help encourage repeated attempts. The City of Brass also allows you to generously tailor difficulty according to your skill level. A total of twenty modifiers aimed at buffing or nerfing both you and enemies alike are available from the beginning, allowing you to be as flexible with the difficulty as you please.
The fantastic sword and whip mechanic is unfortunately tarnished at times by the combat system’s poor hitbox recognition. Several times over the course of a single playthrough, sword swings can pass harmlessly through a skeleton’s head despite standing at point blank range. Similarly, the whip doesn’t have any noticeable effect on enemies outside of small strike zones on their head, feet, or weapon. Skirmishes on PlayStation 4 were also negatively impacted by occasional frame rate drops that interrupted the flow of fights.
But performance issues aside, City of Brass is notable for its impressive balance between its pacing, difficulty curve, and combat systems. Each level takes only a few minutes to complete, but the time limit, the high-paced nature of all enemy encounters, and the constant wariness of traps and ambushes instill high-stakes tension to every stage. In order to combat the progressively tougher enemies, buffs, stronger weapons, and health can be bought from genies scattered throughout each level.
City of Brass’ enemy difficulty and character upgrade system is tuned well enough that you will never be too over- or underpowered at any stage of the game. Treasure used to purchase new weapons and upgrades is easy enough to find, but there’s an element of strategy on how to most effectively spend your coin. There are several times where you’re forced to make a choice between buying an expensive stronger sword or buff, but run the risk of having not enough money for a much-needed health boost later on.
City of Brass is a good dungeon crawler, with some of its best moments and mechanics derived from its rendition of an Arabian Nights theme. While its repetitive scenery and uneven presentation are noticeable tarnishes on its sheen, the satisfying combat, and well-balanced difficulty curve will keep you going back for more.
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