The challenging combat of Dark Souls and the perma-death of roguelikes- it’s these two things that Necropolis attempts to bring together in order to create a new kind of dungeon crawler. Unfortunately, while Necropolis succeeds when it highlights its own unique form of dungeon delving, it fails to capture the same magic from the games that it draws its inspiration from.
Before going into any details about what makes Necropolis a bad roguelike, let’s talk a bit about what makes it a good dungeon crawler. The Necropolis features ten floors of procedurally generated dungeons each layered with enemies, traps, and treasure all waiting to be discovered. Each level of the dungeon has its own unique theme associated with it. The exploration element is one of the game’s strongest points. Every chest has the potential to reward you with a new weapon or armor, but in order to get a chance at nabbing some of the sweet loot, you’re going to have to fight your way through a variety of traps and monsters. Necropolis also features co-op multiplayer where you can team up with your friends in order to uncover the mysteries of the dungeon. Like with any other dungeon crawler, Necropolis’ experience is enhanced when playing with others, and I definitely recommend playing this game with a group of friends.
Necropolis tries to draw it’s combat from Dark Souls. Each room in the Necropolis is populated with monsters that will attack the player once they come into view. While the combat in Necropolis clearly draws its inspiration from games like Dark Souls, it doesn’t quite reach the same level. Unlike Dark Souls which has the player approach different enemy encounters in different ways, Necropolis’ enemy encounters don’t really require the same amount of finesse. A lot of the fights that I experienced amounted to nothing more than swinging my weapon around a few times until everything died. I would then heal up using some rations and continue on my way. Necropolis fails to replicate the same tension that comes with Dark Souls’ combat.
Even if it doesn’t quite reach the same level of Dark Souls, Necropolis’ combat still has a lot of good points. There are a lot of different enemy types scattered throughout all ten floors, and they each have their own unique way of harassing you. There are also many different weapon types to be found in the Necropolis each with their own types of attacks. The weapons can be charged up to create a more powerful swing at the cost of some energy, which can be refilled by consuming rations or potions. The charged attacks can’t be spammed since they cost energy, but they’re useful for clearing large groups of enemies. Although it really isn’t necessary to switch up your strategy every once in a while, Necropolis still provides you with the tools to do so if you want.
Throughout my descent into the different floors of the dungeon, I would periodically come across a new weapon or some armor. Aside from having a different appearance, it’s difficult to tell exactly what the difference is between the different types of armor, while the weapons are much more straightforward. It was exciting to discover a new axe or sword after opening a chest and I would always immediately equip it to see what cool new attacks I would be able to dish out. There are also a wealth of potion and bomb recipes that can be bought from vendors scattered around each floor. The crafting system is simple but also surprisingly fun. Crafting bombs and potions is interesting because there are actually quite a few different types, which can help to make enemy encounters more flavorful. Throwing a bomb into a group of enemies or chugging a potion that allows you to regenerate health can help to make the usually mundane fights a bit more interesting. Scrolls, which can’t be crafted, also have very similar effects. Abraxis, the master of the Necropolis as well as the narrator, will also give you challenges which you can complete for currency which you can then exchange for vague tomes (more about that a few paragraphs down) that provide bonuses that you can carry across characters. All of this comes together to make the Necropolis a fun place to explore, at least for the first couple of playthoughs. One of the most disappointing things about the game is that it falls off pretty hard after you’ve already beaten it. I felt like the dungeon didn’t really have anything left to offer me after I had conquered it.
While Necropolis labels itself as a dungeon crawler, it also makes a point to also label itself as a roguelike. Every time your character dies, you lose all of your weapons, items, and crafting recipes, and have to start over with a new character. Unfortunately, Necropolis’ roguelike qualities are easily the game’s weakest point, and it’s hard to believe that hardcore roguelike fans are going to find the same kind of fun in this game that they would from already established roguelike games. The first and most notable point is that Necropolis is easy when compared to games like Enter the Gungeon or The Binding of Isaac. On my first playthough, I had almost no difficulty reaching the sixth floor, and it only took me four playthroughts to beat the game outright. The main reason behind the game’s lack of a challenge is due to its abusable AI. As long as you never run out of crafting materials for rations and potions, there’s rarely ever going to be an enemy encounter that will make you fear for your life. This is even more true when playing with friends. Since you care capable of reviving one another after you are knocked down, dying and having to start over is easily avoidable.
The second major fault in the game’s roguelike mechanics is its pacing. The first time that I died, I was almost three hours into the game. That death made me dread having to crawl through all the previous floors again to reach the same point where I died. One of the biggest draws of roguelikes is the fact they are challenging, but not punishing. In a game like Enter the Gungeon, death happens constantly, but it’s never frustrating, because it never takes more than 30 minutes to get to the same point again. It’s an extremely fast paced game, and Necropolis is the complete opposite when it comes to pacing. The entire game is played at a leisurely pace, which makes death all the more frustrating, despite death being uncommon.
Perhaps the most frustrating element of the game is its refusal to give you any sort of relevant information outside of its controls. Every piece of armor in the game doesn’t reveal any sort of stat bonuses or specific information outside of the armor tier. Most of the time the flavor text doesn’t amount to anything more than a clever quip or reference to another video game. These descriptions are funny, but they never provide anything meaningful. The tomes that the player can buy are even worse. You would think that the items that provide some of the most important stat bonuses or perks would be more informative about what they exactly do, but the descriptions for the tomes are so vague they may as well be blank. Overall, the game tries to sacrifice as much information as possible to try and get players to experiment, but it’s much more annoying than it is challenging.
+ Fun co-op
+ Tons of weapons, armor, and crafting recipes to find
+ Lots of ways to approach combat
– Falls off hard after several playthroughs
– Unclear item and tome descriptions
– Not a very good rougelike
The combat and the exploration do a good job of keeping Necropolis fun for the first couple of playthroughs, and the co-op can help to create some good times with friends as you work to explore and collect the tons of loot waiting in the dungeon. Ultimately though, Necropolis falls off fairly quickly and the unclear item descriptions and the game’s slow pacing only contribute to that. Fans of Dungeon crawlers will definitely see some promise from Necropolis, but roguelike fans should probably give this game a second glance.