Indietail – Skul: The Hero Slayer

Roguelites can be rather difficult and sometimes even frustrating. At times it’s very important to see what you already and what you still need in terms of specific stats or items. Knowledge is key more often than not and can turn a bad run into a good run. That part specifically is what makes me appreciate roguelikes so much. I really like them. More importantly, it’s important to remain calm and not lose your head… or maybe you need to do exactly that like in Skul: The Hero Slayer!

Developer: SouthPAW Games
Publisher: NEOWIZ
Genre: Action, Roguelite, 2D, Platformer, Indie
Release Date: January 21st, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

After the Adventurers joined forces with the Imperial Army and the “Hero of Caerleon”, the Demon King’s castle has fallen. All of the castle’s demons were taken prisoner except for one lone skeleton named “Skul”… So, it’s time for us to step into the role of Skul who’s doing his best to save the Demon King by himself!

BEASTMODE ACTIVATED

Skul is a challenging Action-Roguelite-Platformer that seems to have taken some inspiration from Dead Cells and maybe even Majora’s Mask. Your character may not be the strongest but you can switch out your head throughout your journey and enable yourself to inherit its unique abilities and characteristics. There are 30 different skulls to find throughout your journey, ranging from a fast-hitting and agile thief to a slow archmage to a Dead Cells cameo. Being able to swap skulls on a button press, enables you to change your playstyle on a whim and pick a bone with enemies while covering your weaknesses with different synergies between characters. At the same time, you can enhance your character by acquiring items that on their own also feature unique abilities like dropping a bomb upon swapping or enhancing your physical/magical attack but that also feature synergies in the form of traits. Traits add another layer to builds and strategies in Skul: The Hero Slayer as they can stack and form your build as you move on. You can equip up to nine different weapons and two skulls as well as one equipment piece that you can actively use in combat. The traits you have work in a lot of different ways. The Chase Trait enhances your damage based on the distance to your enemy while the Endure Trait reduces the damage taken. There are also more elaborate traits in the game that summon spirits, magma balls or even increase the damage you take and deal by a percentage, enabling you to really add a lot of synergies and develop incredibly strong runs, which is amazing!

Is that a Naruto-reference? Of course it is!

On another note, you’ll encounter doors to other maps after you complete a map and clear the encounter. Similar to games like Slay The Spire and Curse of the Dead Gods, you can choose where you go and shape your build even more based on what you need. Are you in need of more gold or a new item? Do you want more bones or rather a new character? The doors lead the way. Duh. I like these small additions that on their own may not contribute to a lot but overall give you a lot of freedom as to how your build will shape out and how you want to play the game. There are also special maps like the Bazaar where you can heal up, buy items, get a skull or even other powerful pieces of equipment. There are also mini-bosses in the form of Adventurers that have been hired to deal with you, challenge rooms that can award you with amazing additions to your build but that will also pose a serious threat to you and your run, or even boss encounters where you face off against the Elder Treant or a mad Alchemist. There are five different areas in the game, each with their unique mechanics and enemies. The further you proceed, the more dark quartz and money you’ll earn. Money can be spent in the run itself while Dark Quartz is a permanent currency you use to improve your skull or get a headstart into your run through the power of vendors that you unlock as time goes on.

So many enemies… and only one lone skul.

Skul not only shines through the strategic potential and the challenging yet satisfying combat but also through the Art it uses. Each skull feels unique and looks amazing. The spell effects of your skills range from powerful energy balls and summons to blink and slash effects, and overall also look powerful. That’s something that is just as important to me as gunplay in shooters. If you use a spell and it doesn’t feel as strong as it is, it takes away from the overall experience. In Skul, however, you can summon a giant meteor and feel the impact through the screen as you see your enemies get obliterated. Your slashes feel fast and satisfying. Your stomps feel heavy and strong. Your arrows are alright. I love the art style and the effects and while the music in the game is nothing special, it still adds to the experience, at least a little bit.

UwU it’s a witch and a cute one at that! OwO

But apart from that, there are also a few weaknesses to Skul… For starters, the major bosses you encounter feel nice when you beat them for the first time but they eventually turn into annoying roadblocks instead of actual foes that you need to slay. They still are challenging but I would have liked to see modifiers in the game that make the bosses more challenging or add unique attacks to it, similar to how Hades does it or even Risk of Rain 2. At the same time, I’d like to make another comparison to Hades as that game showed how well story-telling can be done in Roguelites, so it’s kind of bad to see how poorly the (rather obvious) story is executed in Skul. I either would have liked a better story with more interesting dialogue or just no story at all. It’s a bit of a bummer but can’t be helped. 

I look so evil! I love it!

The characters in the game, though, are more than endearing and adorable. There is a shapeshifting witch and an ogre merchant as well as an evil druid that all help you out on your runs. Similarly, you get to free people and get rewarded for it and there are special encounters at times that are challenging but fun. The whole narrative of the bad guys (aka us, the skeletons, demons and the Demon King) actually being the good guys is something I love and adore and I want more of that. It’s nice to see a change of pace. The Pixel Art and Gameplay are amazing and while I would have liked a better story and more variety in the boss fights… and while some of the translation errors bother me at times, I can look past those weaknesses and say proudly that I love Skul: The Hero Slayer and that I can highly recommend it.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Indietail – Curse of the Dead Gods

You seek untold riches, eternal life, divine powers and in your attempt to satisfy your greed, you step into an accursed temple only to be trapped in a seemingly infinite labyrinth of bottomless pits, deadly traps, and various monsters. Today we’re taking a look at Curse of the Dead Gods, an isometric rogue-lite game that I’ve been eyeing for quite a while now. On February 23rd, it left Early Access which is why I figured that it was time for a review. Enjoy!

Developer: Passtech Games
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Genre: Action, Roguelite, Isometric, Dark Fantasy, Challenging
Release Date: February 23rd, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch, XB1, PS4
Copy was purchased.

Curse of the Dead Gods doesn’t offer you much when it comes to lore. You’re trapped in this temple and you want to get out. Your only way out is the temple itself that is filled to the brim with riches for you to collect and challenges for you to overcome. One misstep, however, can cost you your life and bring you all the way back to the starting point. Death isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning. So, your job is to do your best in these different temples and become stronger by using a variety of resources to unlock new weapons, features and skills for your next runs. The premise is simple, the game itself, however, is quite challenging.

While you start off with 1000 hitpoints, which is a lot compared to other games in the genre, enemies are many and most of them are vicious. Fight your way through waves in each room, dodge traps and utilize your environment in order to survive. As you move through the temple and conquer rooms, you build up corruption. Once corruption reaches 100, you’ll reset the corruption meter and obtain a curse in the next room. Curses are a bit of a double-edged sword. The fifth curse you obtain is the deadliest as it reduces your health every second… the other curses, however, can actually benefit you even when they’re designed to make the game harder for you. I personally really liked this system, especially as it gives incentive to avoiding damage, collecting gold or offering items to the gods to prevent corruption. Once you beat one of the bosses, you’ll be able to collect a weapon, remove a curse and get some riches. Overall, really fun mechanics!

Combat itself can be a bit overwhelming with projectiles flying at you while you’re dodging traps and lighting braziers, etc. You have a torch that illuminates the area and can light things on fire, which is important as you take more damage in the darkness. Meanwhile, you also have a combination of two single-handed weapons that you can use to chain attacks together and finish off enemies. During any time of your combos, you can weave in attacks from your main or secondary weapon, allowing for some rather satisfying moments and a nice skill-ceiling. Performing finishers and killing things quickly, awards you with so-called “greed kills” and more gold. While, obviously, riskier it’s also more rewarding to go for those as you need gold later on down the line. And then there’s also heavy/two-handed weapons that require stamina upon usage but hit rather hard. While Stamina recovers rather fast, it’s a bit tricky to not get hit for a while and know when you’re able to take a quick break in order to regain it.

Curse of the Dead Gods provides you with a map of sorts that enables you to choose your own path through the temples in a Slay The Spire like fashion. There are special rooms and guaranteed rewards at the end of them, allowing you to choose your own adventure, in a way. Do you want to go for more gold or maybe a new weapon? Do you want more relics to enhance your build or would you rather like to get a weapon upgrade instead? The choice is yours, which feels amazing and adds a bit of a strategic layer to the game.

Your build, your choices, your relics, your weapons – everything can be customised to your needs if you find the right items. Relics can be switched out for new effects and better properties that work better with your choice of weapon. At times, I had very bad runs but opted in for the two-handed hammer I was wielding, specialising into relics and stats that worked well with it… and I actually really liked the feel of it, despite me enjoying swift attacks more than heavy hitters.

The magic of Curse of the Dead Gods is that you can turn every run around. You get a bad run with weapons you don’t like that much? You can still win it and end up creating an amazing synergy of sorts that you wouldn’t have expected in the first place or you switch it up later through weapon or relic drops from enemies. I feel like there’s less RNG involved in Curse of the Dead Gods compared to other games. You know what bosses you’ll face and it’s mostly based on your skill.

While the gameplay-side of things is great and all, I would have loved to see at least a bit of lore. Maybe it’ll get added later on down the line, but honestly, I doubt it. The game is very stylised and the music sounds amazing. The temples have at times areas that feel very mystical and mesmerising to the point where I would have loved to read more about the world than just the Bestiary… so that’s a bit of a bummer…

But overall, it’s really enjoyable. It’s fun to get into, has a high skill-ceiling and can provide a lot of enjoyment for bursts of play sessions… I guess another concern for me would be that there isn’t really an end-game since you don’t have a story apart from wanting to get out. You do have challenges and a hard mode in the game as well as a bunch of achievements, unlockables, and even event dungeons and mixed temples… but the end-game may just very much be about challenging yourself rather than beating a story or something, which may be a downside for some people.

Anyways, I personally enjoyed Curse of the Dead Gods a lot. I could recommend this to anyone who’s looking for a bit of fun and a bit of a challenge. Fans of games like Hades or Dead Cells will probably enjoy combat a lot in this game… but the lack of a story can be a bit of a turn-off for a lot of people, so don’t expect any of that.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Roguelikes and Burning Out

I love playing Roguelikes and Roguelites. I like the challenge and the strategic/tactical element of it and how different weapons, skills and items can synergise in unexpected ways. I love how I can play Curse of the Dead Gods and have a very bad run that forces me to use heavy weapons all of a sudden… and it works… and it feels good… and suddenly, I’m more comfortable with taking heavy weapons and focusing builds around those… and I like new and innovative concepts that developers come up with in the genre, allowing players to enjoy new iterations of the same gameplay-formula without the risk of potentially not enjoying it.

But at the same time, Roguelikes and Roguelites (to make it easier for myself, I’ll use “Roguelikes” for both of the terms from now on) end up being quite challenging and sometimes even frustrating. Getting a bad run or not receiving the upgrades, stats or resources you wanted is… unfortunate… luck is a big factor in these games after all… and that can lead to frustration building up to the point where I get tired of it.

It’s a bit of a bad habit of mine to play a roguelike for a lot of hours to the point of burning out from it, only to quit playing for a while and to only pick it up later. Remember that post I did on 100%ing Risk of Rain 2? Well,… I’m half-way done with the next post but I’m just not getting the right seeds for my runs to get some of the achievements, which is… unfortunate.

And Curse of the Dead Gods is amazing but after a run or two, I need a break and play something else. Similarly, I’ll play Loop Hero for maybe an hour or two in a row before eventually deciding to switch things up.

The problem is that you’re not guaranteed any good runs. Rarely do you ever have mechanics in place that allow you to have a guaranteed great start. The Binding of Isaac has some mechanics like that in place… but it doesn’t help a lot when you don’t get the damage you need and end up dying because it takes you too long to kill something… or you’re just way too slow in Risk of Rain and die because you can’t dodge fast enough or manoeuvre fast enough around the map.

But while this may sound dooming,… I feel as if it’s fine. It’s fine to take a break from games and to come back later… and with Roguelikes, I tend to come back more often than with other games. I can play a lot of Hades for hours only to then take a break from it for another two weeks. I love taking breaks and coming back with a fresh mind. Sometimes I crave that Isaac run. Sometimes I crave another expedition in Loop Hero. Sometimes I want to Enter the Gungeon again or to climb the Nuclear Throne. Sometimes I just feel like spinning for more coins in Luck be a Landlord or I want to bring out the big guns in Risk of Rain 2. Sometimes, I want to be evil in Despotism 3k and punish humans… or I want to throw poison daggers in Slay The Spire… or I try to understand Heroes of Hammerwatch and Noita.

I could go on and on about frustrating mechanics in challenging games or I could just take a break and come back to them when I feel like it… and that’s the magic of Roguelikes. It’s kind of for that reason that my dynamic collection of “Roguelikes” on Steam features about 79 entries that all are amazing… well, most of them are.

And I figured I’d share that. Take breaks. Go for a stretch. Get something to eat/drink. Come back to a game later before the frustration and the salt ruins it for you. You can do it, I believe in you! And I encourage breaks. Breaks are important. Burning out is fine… just come back later.

Note: The featured image for this post is the same one as one that I used in a previous post… I figured I could use that one again because the games depicted in it were quite fitting this time as well. Celeste isn’t a roguelike but I also burn out from that game… so,… that’s why… Don’t hold that against me, thanks.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.