Monday 3 October 2022

ScourgeBringer Review (Switch)

Review by Thomas G.J. Sharpe

We each have our own requirements for the one-more-try. Achievement hunting, mastery, speed, a desire to be in the game world just a bit more. ScourgeBringer scratches my particular itches. A beautifully drawn up world, with a characterful character, satisfying controls, and pacing that urges you on with thoughtful progression. ScourgeBringer has been added to my own personal faves of the genre, which admittedly is a bloated sac these days. HadesIsaacCaveblazers, FTL, Nuclear Throne and Risk of Rain refuse to be uninstalled from my library. ScourgeBringer is now inducted into this pantheon of effective and satisfying rogues.

A dotty story that centres around a planetary cataclysm caused by a portal-dimensional-hellmouth thing spurs our warrior protagonist to find the source. The prologue is lovingly depicted, and gives a compelling enough backstory skeleton to dangle world-flesh on. Within the crawlin’ thru’ rooms gameplay, a more Enter The Gungeon vibe appears with characters trapped in the interior portal world; shopkeepers bartering in life-blood, or the ersatz currency, with little relationships. Also, an old guide style character who sits in the hub area where you can access the bestiary and upgrade your passive abilities.

In the tried and tested way, when you are defeated you return to the hub and begin again to progress deeper into the mob infested world. Each area, with its own scenic flavour, has a grid of rooms (not very maze-like), with special rooms and regular “battle” rooms, leading to a boss room. As Kyhra, you wield a sword and a ranged weapon, the latter of which can be swapped out for other types. There is a simplicity in the set up that makes this game far more pick-up-and-play than, in particular, Nuclear Throne and Enter The Gungeon, which can baffle the player until you experiment at length. Perhaps, though we don’t have much variety on this end which can feel a touch dry, as this is not at the forefront of the primary loop.

The game, at its slicey-shooty heart, is slicin’ and shootin’. ScourgeBringer shines in its control response. It is succinct and direct, giving a great connection to Kyhra’s action for the player. Concurrently the player feels powerful, yet responsible. To summon the feeling of Doom (2016), would be one way to describe it. Continually, the combat feels that you’re just hanging in there, just about made that move. The immediacy is compelling and addictive. The dynamic music absolutely slaps as well (incidentally very reminiscent of Mick Gordon’s Doom masterwork), whirring up when with enemies, and slipping back to give some sensory respite. A lot is done with a little.

There is an ability tree that you slowly unlock by collecting the ominously labelled Judge Blood. This gives you access to new stat buffs, but also new combos. This blossoms into a modest, but easy to remember move set that feels intuitive. Your smash (essentially a stun in its unevolved form) adapts into a way to deflect back enemy fire, for instance. These small tweaks and additions as you play run after run keep you involved in the arms and progression race. There is also a neat feature where the difficulty is adaptive. Again, keeping you just on the side of challenging.

It is telling that negatives or gripes come down to non-deal-breakers. Some hit-boxes for projectiles felt unfair to me. Maybe there are some telegraphing issues with enemy attacks. Are there a couple too many rooms in this area or that? Could that be solved with a sprinkling of secret rooms I have to bust in to?

These are gripes with more in-common with musings on design choices. Simply put, ScourgeBringer is tight, defined, beautiful, satisfying, and exciting. A great step up from the already fantastic Neurovoider. Heartily recommend.

Overall 9/10

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