Slick and fast combat. A desolate world full of hazards. Vicious enemies. Constant dying and starting over again. Sounds like your typical roguelite, right? Well, that’s what you can expect in ScourgeBringer, the challenging adventure from developer Flying Oak Games that brings all of the hallmarks of the genre together into one brutally satisfying package.
ScourgeBringer takes place in a post-apocalyptic world that has been destroyed by a mysterious entity known as the ScourgeBringer that towers over the land in the sky. As a last hope for humanity, you lead the brave warrior Khyra through the structure in order to bring down the ancient machine and give the world a fighting chance at survival.
ScourgeBringer’s gameplay offers fast-paced frantic action where just one lapse of concentration or wrong move can see players pulverised by all sorts of enemy attacks. Fortunately, you’re well-equipped for the challenges ahead of you, with players able to string together an array of melee and ranged attacks in quick succession that see Khrya leap and glide her way between each enemy that is found in the rooms of the world that you’re exploring. You’re pretty nimble when simply trekking around too, with players able to dash, jump, and bounce their way across levels as they avoid incoming fire or simply leap their way towards the next enemy. It’s all very slick in design and ensures that combat encounters remain brutal, wild, and ultimately very fun.
There are six worlds to explore in total across ScourgeBringer, with each bringing with them more vicious enemies to battle that are sure to send you to your grave over and over again. Admittedly, I would have liked a bit more enemy variety given that some types do get repeated regularly, but it isn’t a huge problem since they always prove challenging to conquer. This isn’t an easy going experience, with encounters against the game’s standard enemies even proving difficult to beat – then you’ve got the mini-bosses and bosses that each offer a stern test of your combat prowess and will be sure to kill you on MORE than a few occasions. Did I mention ScourgeBringer has perma-death too? Yep, if you die, you’re going back to the beginning of the first world and starting your journey all over again.
Fortunately, there is a progression system in place that allows you to earn upgrades to make subsequent playthroughs a lot easier to handle. When you vanquish mini-bosses or bosses, you’ll earn a special blood which can be used to improve your capabilities – this could be to unlock new attacks that dish out more damage, increase your stats so that you can take a lot more damage before dying, or even letting you deflect enemy attacks back at them so the bullet-hell-like rooms won’t overwhelm you as much. The sense of improvement that you’ll feel as you unlock these upgrades never stops feeling rewarding and it gives you that glimmer of hope that you’ll actually manage to progress that bit further on your next attempt.
Whilst the difficulty of ScourgeBringer is tough, it never feels overwhelming. Sure, you can expect to die a lot, and yes, there will be times where it can feel a little bit frustrating. However, between the upgrades you unlock and just understanding the mechanics of the game better with time, the experience never stops feeling satisfying. It’s all complimented by some clever level design that brings together all sorts of different challenges for the player to face, various shops that offer a myriad of helpful items during the adventure, and even mysterious altars that allow players to earn a permanent boost to their capabilities. Exploration brings with it fortunes in ScourgeBringer… you’ve just got to make sure you don’t die along the way.
With its slick combat, satisfying sense of progression, and great level design, ScourgeBringer has everything in place to be an enjoyable roguelite adventure. However, it does have one glaring flaw: it doesn’t offer anything that wouldn’t have seen before. There was no real aspect of the game which felt wholly unique, with most elements of its design found in other roguelites that you can play on the Nintendo Switch. It’s not a problem by any means, but it would have been nice if it had a unique hook of its own to help it stand out within the already crowded genre.
It is certainly a pretty game to look at though, with ScourgeBringer’s desolate world brought to life with some impressive pixel art that offers a nice blend of simplicity and style. It’s definitely one of the stand out features of the experience, whilst the fact that everything looks sharp and runs smoothly in both the Nintendo Switch’s handheld and docked modes is a plus too. Add to that the creative enemy and boss designs and you’ll find it easy to be mesmerised by the game’s world.
ScourgeBringer offers a fast and frantic roguelite adventure that’s a blast to play – it’s just a shame that it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre. Between the slick combat, solid level design, and satisfying sense of progress though, there’s plenty here to keep players completely hooked into Khyra’s adventure. Even after spending an hour dying over and over, I kept coming back for more, which really does show the level of depth offered by the gameplay mechanics.
Still, with the roguelite genre a crowded one, it is a bit of a shame it couldn’t offer that ONE unique hook. It shouldn’t be a problem for most and if you’re a fan of the genre you’ll definitely want to play it – it does make ScourgeBringer feel more like a ‘very good’ game as opposed to an ‘unmissable’ one, though.
Developer: Flying Oak Games
Publisher: Dear Villagers, Plug In Digital
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC