City of Brass Review

Despite of numerous major releases such as Detroit: Become Human and State of Decay 2, May appears to be the month of rogue-likes, and games centered on procedural generation. And that’s because the upcoming Everspace appears to be one of the two such titles, to be released this month. And surprisingly enough, Everspace which is set to be released on the 29th will not be the first of the two – as City of Brass has been sneakily released just last week, to little to no hype, nor public attention.

City of Brass, is a product of Uppercut Games – a studio composed of ex 2K developers who have previously worked on the Bioshock franchise. And while City of Brass is a first person perspective title, just like the aforementioned Bioshock, then it has to be underlined that City of Brass couldn’t be any different, even if it tried. As unlike the former, this particular title is not a first person shooter, but a first person brawler, as all of the in-game combat revolves around physical, hand-to-hand encounters. And those are spiced up with a dose of random generation, core gameplay modifiers, and last but not least, a plethora of loot.

Despite of the plane on which City of Brass takes place, it feels a lot like mix between The Binding of Isaac and Spelunky. As at its core, all the sections of the titular City of Brass are divided into rooms, which you have to traverse in order to reach the exit – just like in the Binding of Isaac. However, where McMillen’s masterpiece forces you to clear each and every room in order to proceed further, then City of Brass allows you to traverse its streets freely from one to another – but just like in Spelunky, all hostiles who haven’t been terminated will follow you until you decide to exit the stage.

On paper, the core premise of City of Brass sounds rather exciting – as in theory, it combines the excellence of The Binding of Isaac, with the thrill of Spelunky. However, in practice, without any modifiers, City of Brass is far from excellence or thrill. And that’s because the combination of the two above-mentioned approached to game design results in an experience which can get incredibly messy, and at times, downright unpleasant.

City of Brass is a 3D title, and this means that it is potent to all the flaws, glitches, and imperfections of this particular plane. Meaning that you, as a  player, are more than likely to come across numerous instances which will either ease your venture through the city of brass, or hamper it completely. But it has to be underlined that the title’s rather unimpressive AI, will more often than not give you a completely free reign over the proceedings. As all in-game skeletons, ghouls, djins, and Minotaurs have a tendency to get lost themselves, walk into traps, or simply forget about you.

As you had a chance to read above, City of Brass can be as easy as a walking simulator at times, as its AI’s constant struggle, will in most cases allow you to moonwalk through the game. But once you reach the halfway point of the game, you will have to stop impersonating Michael Jackson, and ironically face enough face the music, as from the third stage onward, City of Brass’ level design gets a little chaotic, and within an instant, it will become your greatest adversary.

The early stages of the City of Brass are rather straight forward, as they simply require you to go from point A to point B, while facing foes and a variety of lethal traps. However, once you’ll begin to encounter new biomes such as the luxury one, which is riddled with poison; and the hellish catacombs filled with lava – you’ll find yourself frantically dodging traps, which in some instances are within a touching distance from one another. And the City of Brass’ end game, is basically an elaborate and largely incoherent jumping puzzle, where you are forced to dodge vacuums, lava pits, spike traps, poisoned wells, and the ‘ol classic blow darts. And while you personally may be a connoisseur of jumping puzzles – who also happens to be a sadomasochist – then to you, City of Brass will sound like a right treat. However, most who will have a chance to have a go at it, will be rather disappointed with its procedural level design.

City of Brass’ level design can be a little chaotic at times, but no matter how messy it gets, it is relatively consistent from one playthrough to another. So the more time you’ll spend with it, then surely the more it will grow on you. But unlike Final Fantasy XV, City of Brass is not a 30 hour-long RPG, and it simply doesn’t have the privilege to feature a slow burning introduction. And unfortunately, most will  probably turn their backs on this particular title, as City of Brass is a little hard to get into, as it simply lacks any form of instant gratification, which in turn nullifies any potential long-term enjoyment.

On paper, City of Brass appears to be the next big hit. It is a rogue-like first person action game, which combines many popular elements of other titles of the genre, while adding a cherry on the top in a form of rather unique lasso-and-melee combat. So from it description, City of Brass sounds like an incredibly appetizing cake – but once you take its cover off, you’ll notice that it is nothing more than a rather shambolic cupcake, which clearly lacks the final touches of a Michelin star chef – but hey, at least the cherry is still in excellent shape.

City of Brass, may look and play like a premium indie game. But unfortunately, it is as wide as an ocean, but as shallow as muddy puddle. And there would be nothing wrong with its lack of complexity or additional content. But in comparison to The Binding of Isaac it comes across more like rush-job of ideas, rather than a fully-fledged and complete title. And if not for its fun and engaging combat, which evolves with the few in-game upgrades which are available, then City of Brass would be nothing more than a bang-average 5/10, ‘wait for a sale’ kind of a title. But ultimately the combination of the numerous lassos and melee weapons, ultimately lifts the rather lowly 5, to a slightly better looking 6.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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