City of Brass Review — A Slow-Paced but Fun Run Through Arabian Nights
City of Brass is an incredibly unique and creative experience, but at the end of the day, it's a bit too slow than it deserves to be.
Ever since No Man’s Sky was announced, I’ve been incredibly interested in the idea of procedurally generated games. And even when the game didn’t end up being what was promised, I knew that the concept of procedurally generated games still had potential. My optimism mainly stemmed from the fact that it essentially allows for an unlimited amount of replayability if done correctly, which is something that normal games can’t offer. So when City of Brass was originally announced last year, it almost immediately caught my eye, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.
For those that don’t know, City of Brass is a first-person, action-adventure roguelike game. Inspired by Arabian Nights, you play as a thief and your goal is to make it to the center of a city located in the middle of the desert. As previously mentioned, the twist, however, is that because it’s a roguelike, the world is procedurally generated each time you play the game. Because of this, there’s no walkthrough’s to follow and no layouts to memorize meaning your experience with the game is entirely based on skill, which is something that not a lot of games do nowadays.
Let’s start with the world itself. The game mixes up wall layouts, doors, traps, and enemies in a maze-like fashion. I wanted to put this to the test, so I played through the first level of the game around ten different times and each time the layouts weren’t even similar (besides the types of enemies and traps used), which is incredibly impressive. Of course, this means that every once in a while you’ll have a trap placed in the back corner of the room that you would never visit anyway, but all in all the way City of Brass is laid out is amazing and I hope that Uppercut Games continues to add additional maps in DLC, or explores the subgenre with future titles.
In addition to that, the world and atmosphere itself are interesting as well, at least to me. If you’re a fan of the atmosphere and setting found in Prince of Persia or Uncharted 3, then you’ll find yourself loving this game.
While the procedurally generated world and atmosphere are great, the gameplay could be better. Players are equipped with a whip and a melee weapon on their journey and you need to use both in order to get to the center of the city, with the whip being used to stun enemies and the melee weapon being used to kill them. On one hand, the whip is a ton of fun to use. I spent a few minutes going around and just whipping the skeletons, watching them fall back, and then repeating.
On the other hand, the melee weapons in City of Brass always seems slow. After you press the right trigger to slice, it feels like forever before the blade actually connects with an enemy. While this is fine when only three enemies are around, it can prove to be a bit frustrating if the game chooses to spawn you into a world with 5 or 6 enemies. Because of this, I feel like the game would benefit much more from a faster pace. Even the jumps are a bit slow.
In terms of the controls themselves, it all feels quite natural. The left trigger cracks the whip, while the right trigger controls the melee weapon. One of the more fun features is the left bumper which allows you to pull enemies towards you with the whip. While on the surface this may sound like a way to remain stationary and kill enemies, in actuality you’re able to pull enemies on top of traps and they’ll either set them off so you can safely traverse through them or die because of them.
Another thing I liked about the game is the “difficulty system.” Of course, being a roguelike game, death will result in you having to start the entire game over. Personally, I think this is fine because of all the customization you can do to the difficulty settings. Instead of the standard levels of difficulty, players are able to enable “Burdens & Blessings,” which are modifiers that can be activated at the beginning of the match. Each one will either make your experience easier or will make it harder. This allows for a more customizable experience. Do you want a difficulty that’s harder than normal, but not as hard as the highest difficulty, then you can do just that.
Surprisingly, on the bugs and glitches side of things, I didn’t run in to too many; however, the ones that I did took me out of the experience a lot. One of them would cause enemies to completely freeze if they were lined up in a row. Now, this doesn’t happen very often because usually enemies are placed a distance away from each other, but I’d be lying to say it didn’t take me out of the experience. That all being said, these were few and far between in a world that is, frankly, more complicated than most, so they won’t affect my score too much.
In short, City of Brass has a ton of cool concepts and most, if not all of them, pay off. While the pace of the game is certainly slower than I would like it to be, it’s still a blast to play. And even though there are a few bugs in the game that did annoy me, the vast majority of the time I didn’t experience any. For $24.99, players should pick up the game if they are looking for a challenge and unique experience. As stated before, I hope Uppercut decides to continue with this style in the future.