Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
October 22, 2020
Flying Oak Games
ScourgeBringer is a roguelike platformer developed by Flying Oak Games and published by Dear Villagers. It follows a warrior girl named Kyhra as she tries to defeat the mysterious ancient machines that have driven humans from the world and tries to save humanity in the process.
What immediately stood out to me is that ScourgeBringer is a true roguelike platformer in the sense that you will die, a lot, many, many times over. After you wake up as Kyhra and get ready for your mission, you’ll quickly discover that you’ll have to clear several mysterious ‘realms’ in order to save humankind. Practically, these realms translate to a series of levels. Similar to titles like Dead Cells, Celeste or The Binding of Isaac, each realm includes a number of rooms which you will need to clear in order to advance to the next realm.
While the number of rooms in a realm doesn’t vary, the order in which they appear does, and you’ll have to uncover a new map every time you start a run. However, the types of rooms you’ll encounter are always the same; there will always be rooms filled with regular enemies ranging from bats, to robots, to purple devils, one room with a merchant, one room with a blood altar, and one room with a judge, which is a boss fight. If you die while clearing a realm, you’ll wake up under the Chiming Tree, a tree of life that keeps select warriors like Kyhra from dying and instead lets them take on the enemy realms over and over again. In other words: if you die, you can expect to repeat the same realm over and over again until you finally succeed.
I found the addition of the Chiming Tree a great way to intertwine story elements with ScourgeBringer’s gameplay. While the game’s core gameplay loop itself is simple and revolves heavily around the game’s combat mechanics, ScourgeBringer’s story feels rich and complex with an interesting character. Added to this, the game’s pixel graphics are beautifully detailed, and even though there’s only a limited colour palette, the world still feels mysterious and captivating. Throughout the game, you can discover more about its world through written logs scattered in the environment. These logs contain notes from the last humans on the planet and describe the world before it was taken over by evil machines. I really enjoyed reading these short and simple logs and found it a clever way to highlight the difficulty and importance of Kyhra’s task.
Gameplay-wise, Kyhra’s task is a challenging one. When you start the game Kyhra only has eight hitpoints for the whole realm, and you’ll have to make them last as long as you can. However, you do have the option to buy upgrades with enemies’ blood droplets. These droplets are a valuable currency in ScourgeBringer and can be picked every time you kill an enemy. Usually you’ll be able to collect a few blood droplets at a time. Once you’ve collected enough of them, you can use them to buy items from a merchant called Greed during each run.
Available upgrades range from extra HP and health replenishing upgrades to weapon and ammo upgrades. However, upgrades are expensive and the number of blood droplets you acquire only lasts for the duration of your run. This also goes for any upgrades you acquire at the blood altar, which can only be acquired once a run in a specific room. Depending on the upgrade, it can give you extra HP, damage bonuses, or replenish health and ammo.
“…Kyhra’s controls are easy to learn but hard to master.”
The game doesn’t make things easy for players. By giving Kyhra a limited number of hitpoints and making upgrades excruciatingly expensive, it’s clear that precision and strategy are key when it comes to clearing rooms. ScourgeBringer’s controls are exceptionally tight; missing a beat can result in Kyhra dying in an instant. While this kind of gameplay can be frustrating for some, to me it felt like a clever way to up the stakes. Kyhra’s controls are incredibly responsive which makes for thrilling, fast-paced and satisfying combat. As Kyhra, you’ve got access to a sword which gives you the ability to use quick dash attacks and stun enemies, and a gun which allows you to shoot firebolts. Combined with Kyhra’s power to double-jump, the potential for badass combos is endless.
This type of gameplay is undoubtedly where ScourgeBringer shines: Kyhra’s controls are easy to learn but hard to master. That said, its gameplay is not for the faint of heart. If you’re not usually a fan of roguelikes or precision-driven skill-based combat, chances are ScourgeBringer might be too frustrating for you. If you want to survive all realms in one piece and complete a playthrough, you’ll have to master all the attack abilities in your arsenal perfectly and learn when to dodge attacks at just the right time.
At the same time, ScourgeBringer does a great job of keeping things achievable enough for the game to not become too tedious. While it’ll take a few tries to complete a run, it’s easy to tell when you’re improving thanks to the game’s simple controls. For me, having to try something a few times before succeeding only makes the eventual victory even more satisfying.
- Thrilling, fast-paced combat
- Responsive and satisfying controls
- Gorgeous pixel graphics
- Thumping, high-energy soundtrack
- Gameplay can be frustrating (especially if you’re not used to roguelikes)
ScourgeBringer offers players an engaging roguelike challenge that will be a joy to play for fans of the genre. With its tight controls, beautiful graphics, and thrilling combat, ScourgeBringer is sure to keep you on your toes throughout a run.