Being the youngest writer here at DualShockers, I didn’t really get involved in gaming until the mid 2000’s with my Game Boy Advanced and Xbox (original). That said, I still appreciate what older games did for the industry as a whole. I loved the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series as a kid, but didn’t know I had ASCII dungeon-crawler Rogue to thank for that entire genre of games: The roguelike.
With its ASCII graphics, which uses letters and numbers from the ASCII programming language to simulate the players and other objects in the environment, Rogue left a lot to the players’ imaginations. It was also a tough as nails game, featuring procedurally generated dungeons and permadeath — both of which became staples in the genre it created.
Over 37 years after Rogue, Brut@l has hit the scene on PC, bringing those ASCII visuals made famous by Rogue into 3D, while still retaining the feeling that I believe one would have had playing Rogue all those years ago. The graphics have a very cool style to them that leaves much to the imagination, but is still vibrant and polished enough to fit in and take advantage of modern hardware. The build of Brut@l that I played ran smoothly, and I did not encounter any bugs.
Brut@l’s gameplay is pretty simple when it compares to other roguelikes. Players must navigate through 25 floors of a dungeon, destroying objects and killing enemies to get XP so they can make their way to a portal that will lead them to the next floor. Like most roguelikes, the player has only one life. If and when the player dies, they lose all of their items, and the layout of the dungeon changes, giving players a different experience each time they delve back in.
There are four classes for players to chose from: The Ranger, The Amazon, The Mage, and the Warrior. The Ranger is the most normal one, with decent health and a decently strong attack. The Amazon is a stronger attacker with her fierce kicks. The Warrior, while slow, is the strongest of the bunch. The Mage, can fire a ranged blast of magic at his targets. I found this one to be the most beginner friendly of the classes, as one can play it safe and fire magical blasts from a distance. During the time that I played Brut@l, the Warrior was my favorite class to use.
When the player is first dropped into a dungeon, they only have their fists, a shield, and a torch to fend for themselves. They can also pull off a special move, a groundpound, and more can be unlocked as players collect new weapons, level up, and advance on the skill tree.
Players can also throw their shield Captain America-style to destroy objects and hurt enemies, or block with it. This does not completely eliminate damage, only dampening the amount that enemy attacks do. The game also has a dodge and counter system, although it wasn’t always responsive for me, and I sometimes found myself ignoring it.
Players can also craft weapons by finding a codex and the corresponding ASCII program letters to create it. Players can craft a variety of cool looking swords, bows, clubs, and hammers all made up of letter, numbers, and symbols, which all look very cool. The letters used to create these don’t seem to change on subsequent dungeon attempts, which will most likely make crafting easier from run to run. It is also possible to enchant weapons to give them extra powers and a neat little visual effect on the weapon.
Potions can also be brewed by combining empty potion bottles and some blue-hued items found in the environment. The game doesn’t tell one exactly what the potion does when the player first brews it, which adds a really cool risk-reward system when it comes to brewing. It could put you into a helpful attacking frenzy, or set you ablaze, killing you and ending your run. I had both happen to me during one of my dungeon runs.
Brut@l also features a pretty detailed Stage Creator that allows players to make their own dungeon floors and share them online for other players to traverse through. Players can choose from a variety of floor tiles, objects/props, and enemies to create the most simple or complex of dungeons. This seems pretty easy to use for a dungeon creator, and I am eager to dive into and experiment with it more in the future.
From my time spent with Brut@l on PC, I can tell that it will pay great homage to the classic ASCII PC games of yesteryear. While the gameplay did not seem like anything very innovative or special for the roguelike genre as a whole, it was still very fun and had an undeniable charm to it. The roguelike genre is finally coming full circle with Brut@l coming to PC, the same place where Rogue released 37 years ago, even if computers and the gaming scene in general were much, much different back then.
Brut@l will hit PC on February 9, and is currently available on PS4.