Fancy heading on a deadly romp through a few trap-filled temples, all whilst your body slowly becomes corrupted and sets upon you some vicious curses? Well, you’re in luck; Passtech Games’ roguelite dungeon-crawler Curse of the Dead Gods has just left early access and officially launched on PC and consoles.
We were lucky enough to get our hands on the Nintendo Switch version of the game… a platform which is home to an abundance of roguelite dungeon-crawlers. Does Curse of the Dead Gods do enough to stand out in the crowd? Definitely, with it bringing with it plenty of cool ideas that don’t necessarily re-invent the roguelite wheel but do enough neat things to ensure that the game remains fun throughout.
On the narrative front, there’s not a whole lot to find in Curse of the Dead Gods. You’re put in the role of a nameless adventurer who finds themselves trapped within the temples of the game and… yeah, that’s it really. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that the game is devoid of any real plotline to hook yourself into, but it does see it lacking the personality and flair found in similar titles such as Hades. It’s a bit of a shame too, especially since the game manages to nail every other element of its design.
Curse of the Dead Gods’ gameplay utilises the classic roguelite approach that sees players working through a dungeon made up of different rooms that bring with them things like new gear, riches, upgrades, or even a good ol’ bit of mystery to keep them on their toes. That dungeon is randomly generated, of course, with players seeing each run through the game vary up with different room layouts, traps, and groups of enemies to face off against. When they die? They start from scratch, but not without taking some treasures with them that can be used to purchase upgrades to make their next attempt that little bit easier to get through.
The game doesn’t try to evolve upon the roguelite formula too much really, so if you’re familiar with the genre you should feel comfortable straight away. There’s a bit of extra variety added to Curse of the Dead Gods thanks to the three different temples you can work through though, with each bringing with it a unique visual style and different enemies and hazards to be wary of. There’s also the unique idea of having two different currencies in the game: gold and blood, with different situations in the game requiring the use of one or the other. Gold is used exactly as you’d expect it to be (spend, spend, spend) but the blood is a bit more unique and brings with it corruption to the player…
Using your blood as a currency might sound a little bit grim, but it actually ties in well with one of the game’s neatest ideas. Players will see their bodies building up in corruption as they expend blood throughout a run through Curse of the Dead Gods and when that meter is filled, they get struck with a curse.
Now some of these curses can bring with them benefits that may help you out depending on how you play the game, but for the most part you’ll have to deal with an impairment that can make progress a little bit more difficult. It adds this extra difficulty curve to the experience where a moderately straightforward run through a temple can quickly flip on its head and leave you in a real battle for survival, with the unpredictability of each curse’s affliction leaving players facing the unexpected. It might sound a little daunting, and sure, there were times when a bad curse could see my run through a quest come to a swift end, but they also add this layer of unpredictability to the game that adds more desperation and excitement to the overall experience – heck, there were one or two curses that actually made the game a LOT easier for me, so who knows how they’ll play out.
It’ll probably be hit-and-miss with players, but the system works well and brings an extra notch of difficulty for players who might have gotten too comfortable. That curse that sees your life draining away, though? Yeah, I hated that…
There are plenty of vicious villains to face off against on these temple runs, so it’s a good job that Curse of the Dead Gods brings with it some great combat mechanics. It’s fairly simple in design for the most part with players able to string together a mixture of melee and ranged attacks, whilst on the defensive side of things they can parry incoming attacks or dodge roll out of the way. There’s a decent selection of weapon types to come across through each temple that brings with them different variations of buffs too, so there’s plenty of room for creativity on the player’s part depending on their loadout.
It ensures each showdown with enemies feels varied and fun, but players will have to be careful as far as their stamina consumption is concerned. Any action you perform in the game will see you expending stamina and if you run out, you can be left vulnerable to attacks or unable to hit that killing blow on an enemy until it recharges. Recharging your stamina can be simply done by waiting it out, but those who really want to survive during their runs will have to be a bit more proactive; you can recharge your stamina by hitting a perfectly timed parry or dodge roll for example, which is the perfect ways to keep yourself out of harm’s way whilst still maintaining enough energy to keep your battling momentum going.
It all comes together nicely and ensures battles with enemies are exciting throughout, especially the boss encounters which can really push your skills. You’ll always feel like you can handle everything that the game throws at you, but it demands a level of skill and precision that you’ll satisfyingly adapt to the more you play the game.
With its varied temples and curse system, Curse of the Dead Gods already has enough going on to help it stand out in the crowd. However, it also brings with it one more unique mechanic to keep players on their toes: the light and dark. You know how you’d expect these temples to be all dark and grimy? Well, some of them are shrouded in a blanket of darkness and if you find yourself in it you can expect to take double-damage from enemies. Yep, it turns out the protagonist MUST be scared of the dark, so you’ll want to stay in the light as often as possible for the best chance of survival. Of course, this can often be easier said than done, though there are plenty of braziers around that you can spark with fire to give yourself a small area of safety if enemies are starting to surround you. Be warned, though; those fires CAN be extinguished so don’t get too comfortable in these safe spots. Again, it’s a neat little idea that adds an extra bit of punch to Curse of the Dead Gods’ gameplay, with the player’s position in each room adding an extra touch of strategy to the game’s battling.
Everything in Curse of the Dead Gods comes together nicely to make for an enjoyable experience, with the exciting combat and unpredictability of the curses making for a really good time. I was a big fan of the game’s almost cartoon-stylised visuals too, whilst it held up well on both the Nintendo Switch’s docked and handheld modes. Obviously, things are a bit prettier and smoother on the more powerful platforms, but it’s certainly an impressive port.
The roguelite genre might be a bustling one on the Nintendo Switch, but Curse of the Dead Gods offers enough entertainment and unique ideas to make it worth your while. Sure, it might not necessarily evolve upon the dungeon-crawling roguelite genre in any real way, but ideas such as the curses and the dark-and-light mechanics shows that it isn’t afraid to do things a bit differently (though the fact that it absolutely nails all of the basic elements of the genre helps too).
The small innovations pay off in the long run, with Curse of the Dead Gods proving to be an addictive and fun dungeon-crawler that has kept me hooked to my Nintendo Switch for hours on end as of late. It’s a little bit of a shame that it doesn’t have an exciting personality-fuelled narrative to follow, but gamers won’t be disappointed with the perilous yet satisfying escapades they’ll endure when battling through Curse of the Dead Gods’ deadly temples.
Developer: Passtech Games
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC