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Curse Of The Dead Gods

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Passtech Games
Release Date: Feb. 23, 2021


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PC Preview - 'Curse of the Dead Gods'

by Cody Medellin on April 6, 2020 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

In this rogue-lite, you seek untold riches, eternal life, divine powers - it leads to this accursed temple, a seemingly-infinite labyrinth of bottomless pits, deadly traps, and monsters.

The best roguelikes from the past few years have had at least one well-loved aspect that made them stand out. It has gotten to the point that if you don't offer something new, whether good or bad, you're immediately at a disadvantage. Curse of the Dead Gods eschews this by taking the best bits of several other games and mashing them together into one title. The result is very impressive, even at this early stage.

In Curse of the Dead Gods, you play the role of an adventurer venturing into an ancient temple in South America. You're well aware of the curses there, but the allure of wealth, power, and possibly eternal life is too strong to turn away. Once the door to the temple closes, you realize that you have no choice but to find those riches or die in the process. The story is familiar, but outside of Spelunky, the setting is rarely used in the genre, so the title gets some points for not taking place in the expected medieval fantasy setting.

The game is presented in an isometric viewpoint, similar to dungeon crawlers like Diablo and Torchlight. Unlike those titles, the dungeon isn't long and sprawling but separated into rooms with traps and monster closets, all connected by a map where you can decide which room to invade for specific item types. Action is in real time, and while you can control things with the trusty keyboard and mouse combo, a gamepad is the developer's recommended weapon of choice. That seems strange until you realize that the game employs a stamina-based combat system, so constant clicking might get you killed faster.

The stamina-governed system doesn't mean that the game adheres to the formula made popular by the From Software lineup. Your basic attack costs zero stamina, so you can spam that attack if you're willing to live dangerously. You can carry three weapons at a time, with each attack button directly controlling each weapon attack. For example, you can start with a basic sword or hammer attack, use your two-handed spear to get in heavier hits, and end with a dodge so you have time to aim and use your pistol from a distance. You can also use your torch as an impromptu weapon, which might be the weakest one in your arsenal but is highly useful in setting fire to cobwebs, explosive barrels, and other torches.

It feels fast and fluid like a proper action game, which is something you don't see in too many roguelikes. The stamina meter is also easy to read, so there are no guesses about whether you can perform a move, since everything is measured in units versus a numberless gauge. Successful kill combos mean more gold rewards, so there's an incentive to taking risks.

The big risk in getting hit isn't just limited to your health, as the game takes a page from Darkest Dungeons by adding a corruption meter. It seems harmless at first, but fill up the meter, and you'll give yourself a curse that changes things dramatically. Some cause all traps to activate all the time or let your gold disappear on a timer. Others are more severe, such as hits causing you to lose sight of your meters or having your health drop until you have one hit point left.

Making matters worse is the fact that Curse of the Dead Gods is generous when it comes to giving you corruption. Taking a hit from an enemy gives you corruption, but shopping for item buffs or other powers requires you to take in corruption if you don't have the gold to spend. Even something as simple as entering the next room will give you corruption, so the game all but guarantees that you're going to get hosed.

None of this makes the game feel unfair. All of the different curses give the game even more replay value, as you have no idea which combinations of maladies you'll get in your run. There's some excitement in trying to get combos quickly, since you know that one of your curses has a side effect of decreasing your corruption meter if you hit those combos. The fast combat and hard enemy hits mean that sessions go by quickly. The overall high difficulty level is still present, but the game has an addictive nature, hooking you deep into multiple runs before you realize how much time has passed.

Perhaps more impressive is how deep and polished the game is, despite just entering Early Access. It was only released a month ago, but this is a relatively bug-free experience, with no crashes or errors of any sort. There's only one temple here, but the variety of rooms that you can visit means that there are loads of combinations you can go through before exhausting everything. The same goes for the number of curses and weapons, so even if the team somehow misses its proposed monthly update schedule, there's loads to keep you busy before you start craving for more.

It may be early days, but Curse of the Dead Gods is shaping up to be a new classic in the genre. Taking the interesting parts from a slew of other roguelikes is a shrewd move, but how it combines it all into a cohesive experience is where the game shines the most. The experience is quite polished, which speaks volumes about how this game might make it out of Early Access on time. For those who are interested, this is a safe bet for a purchase — provided you have the patience to die often.

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