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May 2021

I, Dracula: Genesis

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Moregames
Release Date: Summer 2021


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by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 17, 2020 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

I, Dracula: Genesis is a hard-as-nails roguelike twin-stick shooter set in a rather unusual universe which combines magic and post-apocalyptic ultra-modern weapons and devices.

The name I, Dracula: Genesis might make you picture something like Castlevania: gothic, brooding, and possibly starring a vampire.

That couldn't be less true.

I, Dracula is a weird and wild postapocalyptic title where mad science and magic have destroyed the world, and the only humans left are those who spawn from a laboratory. Their goal is to destroy Dracula. The Lord of Vampires is now Lord of the Wasteland, and it is up to your plucky maybe-humans to take him down once and for all — assuming they aren't burnt, dissolved, exploded, frozen, shot, or stabbed first.

I, Dracula is a twin-stick shooter/roguelike, very much in the vein of Binding of Isaac. You choose from a group of characters and go to town on increasingly difficult swarms of enemies. Each character has different starting weapon and abilities, the most distinctive of which is their "jump" ability, which can vary from a jump to the ability to temporarily freeze time. It's a minor thing that adds a nice element of skill, and it can even be used to find shortcuts.

One thing that makes the title stand out is the weapon selection. Sure, the game has traditional machine guns and pistols, but it also has goofy weapons, such as guns that release a swarm of devouring bugs, shoot out mines, spew electricity, and more. Even in the game's incomplete state, there are a huge number of weapons, and each weapon can have modifiers to make it stronger or weaker. Half the fun is seeing what ridiculous tool you'll get next, especially since you can equip mods to further upgrade the gun until you have something genuinely ridiculous.

Weapons come in a few forms. You have a sidearm, which is weak but has infinite ammo; one or more regular weapons that have their own ammunition; and a special weapon that is often powerful but requires mana. Each weapon type has a massive selection of weapons that you can customize to your play style. Maybe you prefer the short-range but powerful drill over something more shooty for a sidearm. Maybe you want an explosive weapon (despite the risk of self-immolation) over something weaker and safer, especially since explosives can be used to break special boxes. It takes some mixing and matching to figure out your preference, but once you do, it's all gravy.

The levels are divided into islands that are linked by teleporters, effectively creating rooms. Unlike similar games, there aren't invisible barriers between rooms, but a massive sea of radioactive waste covers pretty much everything. This isn't too different from a wall, but sometimes you can take the hit and gain some radiation to skip an area or find cool hidden items. Each stage continues until you find and defeat the boss, at which point you'll move to the next level until you die or conquer the biome. It's straightforward enough!

The game has a selection of distinctive characters, but only a handful are available in the current build. Your default hunter character has a gun, can jump, and has a better chance to find items. One of the other characters, a sentient hand, can hop on radioactive water, regenerate ammo, and dodge-roll around but only starts with a cruddy pipe weapon. The third is a scientist who has temporary shields and canb stop time, and he specializes in … uhh, special weapons. There are plenty more to come based on the character selection screen, and I look forward to seeing what other wacky ideas they include.

I can't really talk about I, Dracula without discussing the beautiful art of extremely ugly things, but the sprites are huge, well animated, and incredibly distinctive. It reminds me, perhaps intentionally, of the old-school Genesis art style for some of its weirder games, just with a modern flair. Even if the game wasn't fun to play (and it is), the artwork alone would make you give it a second look.

I, Dracula: Genesis is a great example of an Early Access game. It has enough content to be enjoyable if you decide to hop in, and it's getting regular updates. It's still perhaps too early to recommend without reservation, but everything about it thus far is impressive, especially for the very reasonable $16 price tag. Even if you're not willing to hop on the Early Access train, I recommend that fans of twin-stick roguelikes keep an eye on this quirky game, which has the potential to be just as addictive as Binding of Isaac.

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