It’s not always that you get to play an Arabic themed video game. Despite the interesting lore, history and myths associated with it, game developers never gave the setting much of a chance aside from the Aladdin and Prince of Persia games. Uppercut games, a studio comprised of former Bioshock developers’ solution to this dilemma is City of Brass, a first person roguelike taking cues from Arabic mythologies, especially Arabian Nights. Arabian nights and roguelikes…how do they blend together, you might ask. Well let’s find out shall we?
City of Brass is a roguelike fps developed and published by Uppercut games. The game had been in Steam early access from last year and will be released for Microsoft Windows, PS4 and Xbox One on 4th May, 2018.
CITY OF BRASS
City of Brass puts you into the shoes of a treasure hunter/thief akin to Indiana Jones pillaging a fallen Arabian city. The tutorial lets you into snippets of information as to how greed and paranoia plunged the city into madness. It is then up to you to find your way through various levels of the city fighting the undead and collecting treasures in the process. Since it’s a roguelike, there is little focus on the story or narrative. But the environments covered in sands, traps, treasures and roaming skeletons are enough to establish the tone and atmosphere of the game.
Gameplay & Mechanics
City of Brass, like mentioned above is a roguelike fps. But unlike many rogulikes out there, there is a definite beginning, middle and end. The game features a 12 level campaign with boss fights in between. The relatively small levels are procedurally generated and it’s done well, as they are recognizable yet fresh for each playthrough. The 12 levels in the game are supposed to be completed in one sitting since you can’t save the game in the middle of a level. This, combined with the default time limit for each level (if you don’t complete a mission in time, fireballs called Irfit will chase you until you escape the level) can be a little off putting. But thankfully you can unlock portals every four levels or so that can be used to fast travel to that level the next playthrough. You can also enable mutators (which are unlocked by completing challenges) before starting the game that will disable the timer as well as providing other buffs and debuffs.
The player is armed with a scimitar and a whip for killing or disabling enemies. There is a light parkour system in place which makes traversing the levels seamless and fluid. Controlling your character, as well as the sword takes a little getting used to. But once you learn the flow of the movement system, you can play the game passively as well aggressively. There are a large variety of enemies such as shambling skeletons, skeletal warriors, undead mages, archers etc. Levels are full of these enemies and dangerous traps which you can use to your advantage. The combat, especially with the whip is an absolute blast. Targeting various enemy parts and watch them fall down, shove them to traps and disarming them never ceases to be fun. There are a wide variety of skills and upgrades you can purchase from various genie vendors, such as a longer whip, a sword that does lightning damage, noise reduction, summoning skeletal allies, faster movement speed and a lot more (I mean a lot). These add some desperately needed depth to the game which lacks any form of real progression. But vendors only display the icon of the upgrades most of the time and you’ll have to look up their uses in the glossary. This can sometimes ruin your immersion. But the level and variety of these upgrades are well appreciated, even if some of these seem useless at first.
The game is hard, not because the enemies are tough or because the game punishes you for making mistakes. Like someone once said, “it’s not the fall that kills you; it’s the sudden stop at the end.” 90% of the time you die due to being careless, not paying attention to the environment around you. The traps lying around can literally cost you your entire game. Since you have to restart the game from start when you die, it is advised that you play carefully and use your surroundings to your advantage. It’s a lot like Dark Messiah of Might and Magic in this regard. The game needs only one or two content updates and a few tweaks to make it shine above rogulikes like Immortal Redneck.
Visuals, Performance & Sound
City of Brass runs in Unreal Engine 4 and it shows. For starters, the art style is fantastic and fits the whole Arabian Nights theme. While the levels are a bit small, they are full of atmosphere, featuring lots of small details. The textures for the most part are high res, enemies are well detailed and the lighting and particle effects are pleasing to the eyes. The only problem with the visuals is that the night times are pretty dark and is presented in a blueish tint. This makes identifying enemies and traps during night somewhat difficult.
The game runs pretty well on even a budget gaming pc. It’s a gpu bound title and even with a GTX 750, I was able to get 60+ fps in medium settings with AA off at 1080p. There seems to be a sudden fps spike when some particle effect happens on screen, especially during multiple explosions. Other than this hiccup, the game runs pretty smooth.
City of Brass has a middle eastern soundtrack, just as you’d expect. But these didn’t have any profound role during gameplay. There was hardly any music playing in the background other than ambient sounds. Maybe it’s a bug or maybe that’s the way its intended to be. I would very well appreciate the inclusion of some mystical music straight from the annals of Arabia during exploration and combat.
City of Brass doesn’t reinvent the roguelike fps formula in any means. But what it does well is provide a solid 12 level campaign with engaging gameplay mechanics and an atmospheric overtone. Only thing lacking in the ₹619 game as of now are mid mission saves and a few additional levels. After countless deaths, doing a perfect 12 level run is as satisfying as cracking your hips after a long day at work.