Roguelike and dungeon crawler fans have likely had their eyes glued steadfast to Necropolis for some time now, as the procedurally-generated slasher has looked promising throughout its development cycle. The game is a product of Harebrained Schemes, a studio which has previously enjoyed plenty of success on Kickstarter, and as the foreboding name implies, Necropolis is a death-heavy title, with permadeath playing a key roll in the challenge.
Those new to Necropolis are thrown into the mix from the get-go: the controls are scrawled onto the dungeon wall at the start of the game, though testing out the best combat strategies and how to actually survive is strictly trial-and-error. New players are destined to experience the permadeath mechanic early and often as they figure out how to properly play the game, which sets a good precedent for not getting attached to a particular character or their collected equipment. In Necropolis, all will fall eventually.
Players will be forced to learn quickly from their mistakes, lest they be stuck forever in the first level. As players earn tokens of favor by performing random tasks given by a sarcastic (and very humorous) God, they can unlock bonuses that will be available for later lives to take advantage of – which is as close to progression as one can hope. Confusingly, the permadeath feature that is so core to the gameplay’s intensity seems to be undone by the game’s drop-in 4 player multiplayer, which invokes a party member revive system.
In any event, it doesn’t take long to get acclimated to the controls and the concept of the game. The game plays host to a fatigue system, so that players can’t simply spam the attack button at every cluster of enemies. Players must also time when to block incoming attacks with a shield, when to counterattack, and when to dodge incoming blows. What seems like a simple battle can quickly escalate into a harrowing experience, especially when some enemies can spawn right behind the player.
As players progress through the procedurally generated dungeons, they will find a variety of enemies, which get progressively more difficult as the player eventually continues down into the depths of Necropolis. To survive, players must gather resources to craft a variety of items, though the most common by far are health-healing rations. Scavenging supplies is often the difference between life and death, and no gem is worth leaving behind. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the randomly generated dungeon to feel painfully familiar: everything tends to look the same after an hour or so, and having to fight the same group of hoardmen over and over again doesn’t help.
This is the Achilles heel of Necropolis: the gameplay relies too much on repetitive action. If there was some more variety in terms of the setting or the enemies, the game would stay interesting throughout. Unfortunately, as time goes on defeating repetitive groups of enemies becomes overly simple, especially once players learn which attacks to block, when to dodge, and how to time those charged power attacks that blitzkrieg through any tight groups of enemies.
At its heart, Necropolis is a dungeon crawler with plenty of potential. The premise of a procedurally generated rogue-like experience sounds fun, and it certainly starts off that way – but once things start to get repetitive and the game slows down to a familiar grind, the brittle bones of Necropolis are exposed. Despite a delightfully sarcastic narrator and a promising idea, Necropolis needed more unique content to prevent its dungeons from growing too similar, which ultimately makes the end game fizzle out. That’s not to say it wasn’t an enjoyable experience, but it could have been much more.
Necropolis is available now for PC and Mac. Game Rant was provided a Steam code for this review.