DFTG Reviews City Of Brass (PC) – “A Deceptively Complex Romp Through A Perilous City”
When I first heard about City of Brass I was thrilled to partake in what I assumed would be a sweeping tale featuring a thief attempting to either break a curse, loot some treasure…maybe a little of both. Throw in the fact that the game was created by “senior BioShock developers” and one would assume that the plot would be effortlessly woven into the story, perhaps with a “would you kindly” level plot twist thrown in. Alas, the only plot twist within City of Brass is that there is no plot to speak of.
At its heart City of Brass is a rogue-lite, through and through. While the premise of the game’s plot – which is handed to you via placards throughout the tutorial – is very ‘Arabian Nights’ in nature, it simply exists to explain why there happens to be a moderate assortment of skeletons and angry genies walking about intent on gnawing on your head. Players looking to have an enjoyable time with a pick up and play rogue-lite need look no further, just remember that there is no story to speak of. This is only punctuated by the fact that the levels within the game are all timed, so stopping to smell the desert roses is a serious faux pas here.
City of Brass does manage to hit its mark as a rogue-lite, though only if players are dedicated enough to stick around and force their way past the game’s difficulty. As with many in this particular genre, the difficulty of the game is part of the fun; just keep chipping away at the mechanics, all the while leveling up your character’s base gear until what used to be a challenge is now a walk through the park. Naturally, the amount of opposing elements are stacked up against the player, though some seem only slightly intentional.
While simply having to deal with the occasional skeleton or three would be fine on its own, the player must also contend with the controls, in particular the inconsistency of the players’ weapons, the whip and the sword. One swing of the sword may completely vanquish a skeleton one moment, while in the next the thief swings at nothing but air despite the similarity of said sword swings. The whip naturally requires pinpoint accuracy, though its unforgivable nature can easily turn a simple encounter against one basic skeleton into losing important chunks of health for silly reasons. Aim assist – which is automatically enabled – does little to help, enough so that the difficulty feels more manageable with it turned off.
The developer at some point seemed to have realized how potentially difficult it could be to actually use the whip and the sword, and implemented a system that replaced the player’s cursor with small symbols that pop up when players are within range to use certain actions, such as grabbing treasure, or pushing an enemy. While the system itself wasn’t necessarily designed to alert players when a strike will hit the enemy, it works well enough that the wonky hit boxes are only slightly bothersome at times.
The purchasable gear from friendly genies lends even more versatility to the gameplay, enough so that there is plenty of room for players to purchase items more befitting their preferred play-styles. While these items cannot be kept from one run to the next, friendly genie features such as ‘Insurance’ and banking items will help set up a players’ next run for success, should they feel that it is unlikely they will complete their current run.
While the sound is overall pleasant and properly befitting an Arabian Nights setting, the incessant cackling of the skeletons gets old very, very quickly. The laughter in itself does an excellent job of warning players when enemies – or spectral chickens – are near, though being constantly subjected to that cackling – especially after being killed and starting once again from the very beginning – is more than enough to send a player on a skeleton killing spree, regardless of the risks.
Speaking of risks, the actual environment and visuals within City of Brass are beautiful, if repetitive. Unfortunately, players must keep their eyes aimed at the floor always on the look out for spike pits and spike traps (and worse later on), because they are everywhere. It is entirely understandable that a mythical place resembling those found in the Prince of Persia games would feature a vast assortment of traps, though the sheer number of them found within a single room does nothing but interrupt the pacing of the game.
For those looking to lessen the challenge found within City of Brass, players can utilize a benefit/penalty system known as “divine blessings” which offer assorted tweaks like increased player health, weaker enemies, etc. Unfortunately the difficulty of the game makes these divine blessings almost a requirement for those looking to forgo the grind in favor of level progression, though not without disappointing players that were hoping to clear the game on their own mettle.
For those interested in attempting to free the City of Brass from its looming curse, players must dedicate a significant amount of time to clearing the numerous levels within the game. There is no save feature, so it’s an all-or-none kind of deal. Should the final boss be cleared, players are treated to a gratifying cutscene and then thrown back to the main menu, where players can either run the gauntlet once more or partake in the game’s daily challenge, which is essentially the game but with a leadboard.
Overall, City of Brass represents a meaningful departure from the typical rogue-like, one that ends up being a deceptively complex romp through a perilous city where the player is rewarded moreso for their adaptable use of the environment rather than repetitively grinding out weapon and armor improvements. If players are able to make it past the wonky controls – which are touted as “carefully tuned,” by the way – a straightforward, if extremely difficult game awaits them. “Are you tenacious enough to reach the heart of the City of Brass?”
City of Brass is now available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One for $19.99.
Ryan "Cinna" Carrier1516 Posts
Ryan is an editor and writer for Don't Feed the Gamers. When he isn't reading and writing, Ryan is likely considering yet another playthrough of Final Fantasy IX. He's also the DFTG cinnamon bun.