Bandai Namco Entertainment America has teamed up with Harebrained Schemes to publish Necropolis, a dungeon-crawling game that shares something in common with Bandai Namco’s popular Dark Souls series. In both, it’s very hard to stay alive. We got a hands-on demo of the game recently, and as you might expect, it’s not easy.
Necropolis lets you become a rogue-like character who explores a dungeon. You can slice and dice enemies that you come across. But if you die anywhere in the game, you have to start over. While this may seem maddening, it turned into a riveting contest of skill in a recent playtest with a bunch of game journalists. The longer you stay alive, the more powerful your character becomes — and the more frustrating it is when your character finally bites the dust. This is called “permadeath,” and for some god-awful reason, gamers seem to like it this days.
The cruel game developers who came up with this beastly game are from Seattle-based Harebrained Schemes, cofounded by Mitch Gitelman and Jordan Weisman, who have created big game franchises over the decades such as BattleTech, Mechwarrior, and Crimson Skies. I didn’t get very far at all into the console version. But my colleague Giancarlo Valdes had much better timing skills, so he was able to strike with his sword at the exact right times when the enemies had dropped their guard. That skill kept him alive for the better part of an hour.
Bandai Namco plans to publish the third-person action game on the consoles in the summer, while Harebrained Schemes is publishing the title on Steam on the PC on its won. The game has minimalist art style, with large, geometric dungeon rooms and simply-illustrated creatures. The dungeons are procedural, which means are different every time and are infinitely replayable.
The game also has characters with a plenty of sardonic attitude. It has easy in-and-out co-op mode.These features, along with the permadeath, caught the attention of Bandai Namco Entertainment America at the PAX East fan event last year.
“Simply put, we were impressed and excited when we discovered Necropolis at PAX East”, said Eric Hartness, vice president of marketing at Bandai Namco Entertainment America. “Blending a skill-based 3D action game with a roguelike means it’s never the same experience twice. Necropolis’ off-kilter humor and unique visuals add perfectly to the mix, making it the perfect companion game for Dark Souls fans and a great addition to our game portfolio.”
Jordan Weisman, Harebrained Schemes’ chief creative officer said, in a statement “We couldn’t think of a better partner to help us bring our team’s vision for Necropolis to consoles. Bandai Namco Entertainment America Inc. is a terrific publisher and truly understands how to collaborate with an independent studio like ours.”
Harebrained Schemes originally planned to release the PC version on March 17, but it postponed the launch to ship simultaneously on the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One this summer.
“One thing I’ve noticed here is that when people die, as long as they feel like it was their fault and not the game’s fault, they tend to go back in,” said Mitch Gitelman, president of Harebrained Schemes, in an interview with GamesBeat. “Also, it’s a matter of—you do these little mini-quests for the brazen heads and you get these little tokens of favor to use for persistent stuff. It’s this little circle that goes down. Get stuff, buy stuff, find cool stuff, learn new things. There’s a lot to learn in this game. As long as people see new content and learn and die in different ways, they don’t mind. If they die the same way every time and they feel like that’s not their fault, then you’re screwed.”
The game has crafting — though I didn’t live long enough to do this — exploration, and plenty of fighting with all sorts of monsters, from spiders to changelings. Giancarlo stayed alive for quite a while, but he was still stuck on level one since he didn’t realize that the elevator was the way to advance to the next level.
We came up with quite a few tips for staying alive. If you’re attacked by spiders or a bunch of crawling things, you can jump up on elevated positions and take your time whacking them on their heads. You shouldn’t fall for tricks, like a treasure sitting on top of a marked area on the floor. It could be a death trap. Before you drink a potion, you should check to see if it’s poisonous.
You can also run away when you’re faced with too many enemies. Chances are you will escape. And you should always pay attention to exactly when you should strike an enemy, rather than just randomly mash the buttons as much as possible.
If you do these things, you may stay alive … for a few minutes longer.
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