In From Software's Souls series, the constant cycle of death and revival can be frustrating. In fact, I’ve thrown controllers in frustration as I died multiple times at different points in each of the games. Harebrained Scheme’s Necropolis, which was described as a rogue-lite role-playing game, features a similar mechanic: If I died at any point in the journey, I had to start again from the very beginning of the game. However, I didn’t find myself throwing the controller in frustration. Instead, I smiled and laughed because Necropolis added humor to the experience, which in turn made the game more enjoyable to play.
The goal of Necropolis was simple. I had to wade through multiple levels in order to escape the dungeon. However, danger lurked in every corner. When I died, the levels changed shape (that’s game-speak for procedurally-generated levels) so not only did I have to start from the beginning level again, I had to re-learn the new layouts for each area.
It was a constant battle of attrition, with benefits. With every death, I learned something about the enemies I faced or the items I used. For instance, I learned the attack movements of specific foes or figured out that a potion that I was about to drink was poisonous. One of the most valuable items in the game were the Tokens of Favor, which were provided by the pyramid-like figure called The Brazen Head and used to complete side quests in each level.
With every death I spent the tokens in the dungeon’s library, where I could buy books that granted me with unique abilities. Even if I died, these abilities would persist so I didn’t start from scratch every time. It made the game just slightly easier. I still had to figure out my way through a different level each time. The game also had some crafting mechanics, and I could combine a few magical items for different effects. However, I didn’t use them too much, because I was busy fighting off enemies with my melee weapons.
Slow And Steady
Unsurprisingly, I approached the gameplay of Necropolis in the same manner as the Souls games. I tried to approach lone enemies and take them out before reinforcements arrived. If the enemy was in a group, I would try to isolate a single foe before taking it out. Very rarely did I take on multiple opponents. In fact, the only reason why I decided to fight two or three soldiers/creatures was because I already knew that I was capable of killing all of them in a few deadly hits.
The objective was to stay alive long enough to find this elevator and make it to the next area. The path to the next level was marked by a large elevator platform. Most of the journalists in the demo session had some trouble getting through the first level. A select few managed to make their way onto the second level, and there was even one person who let out a yell because he was the first person that day to make it to the third level.
Throughout the entire demo, I was constantly amused by the game’s humorous traits. These would come in the form of interactions with The Brazen Head as well as the numerous descriptions of items or abilities. Even the controls, which were presented as a giant cave painting on the wall at the start of the game, had a humorous title: “The Great Map of Controls.”
By playing defensively, I was able to make my way through the first batch of monsters. As I accrued more items and potions, I became more confident, thinking that I could easily slice my way through more enemies with my newfound skills and items. I was wrong. In the first hour of gameplay, I died four or five times. However, I learned more about my capabilities with each death. I started to use that knowledge to my advantage. Coupled with my attack strategy, I was able to make it to the second level. Minutes before my demo time was up, I was the second person of the day to make it to the elusive third level.
More To Explore
With Necropolis, I was never too angry at myself or the game. It was a challenging experience, to be sure, but I was too interested in many of the game’s features such as my new unlocked abilities, crafting items and the procedurally-generated levels. Even with all of the dangerous creatures, coupled with the fear of restarting the entire journey again and again, the funny parts of the game are what kept me motivated to press on. Granted, I still would have trudged my way through Necropolis without the humorous elements just to prove that I could finish it.
Then again, that would have meant wasting more money to buy controllers to replace the ones I had thrown across the room in anger.
When I play a Souls game, I don’t play it for more than two hours at most, because I eventually hit a wall where I can’t seem to progress further in the game. With Necropolis, that doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, I could see myself playing it for hours on end.