Taking the best elements of Diablo, Dark Souls, and more, Curse of the Dead Gods has a lot of potential for roguelike lovers.
The roguelike genre in the past generation has seen an explosion in popularity from the success of games like The Binding of Isaac, Rogue Legacy, Dead Cells, and many others. With so many new titles incorporating roguelike elements into their gameplay, this has also had the effect of making the roguelike genre a competitive one, increasing the need for developers to find new ways to approach making them and keeping the genre’s signature elements fresh. Though this can pose a big development challenge, even from its early stages the upcoming Curse of the Dead Gods already seems to have a solid foundation that fans of the roguelike genre can look forward to.
During PAX East 2020 this week in Boston, I played through the showfloor demo of Curse of the Dead Gods, which is set to arrive on Steam Early Access next week. Recently announced by publisher Focus Home Interactive, Curse of the Dead Gods is an action-RPG roguelike in development by Passtech Games, known previously for their adventure game Masters of Anima. Even from the brief time that I played the game at PAX East, it’s a title that I would surely keep an eye on over the course of its development. Granted, I died during most of it, but each run kept me wanting to come back to it again, and you won’t have to wait too much longer to start playing it.
Curse of the Dead Gods puts players through a series of tombs and crypts as they explore a labyrinth-like dungeon with their character, who wields a range of weapons and abilities to help him make it through alive. At the start of each run, the equipment that you can start with is relatively basic with a machete for close-range melee combat and a pistol to take out enemies from afar. Players can eventually pick up new equipment from fallen enemies, including a secondary weapon that can be used in tandem with your other gear for combo attacks.
Right from the beginning, I was impressed with how fluid and satisfying that the combat in Curse of the Dead Gods felt, with just the right mix of being easy to grasp but with enough depth to match its challenging difficulty. The melee combat was precise and each of the weapons that I used felt like they opened up a lot of options for taking out enemies. This included a pair of poison-tipped claws that could slowly whittle away an enemy’s health, and a spear that gave me the option to take on enemies from a bit of a distance. My favorite element of the combat though came from the pistol, which features an Active Reload-like mechanic where players can time their shot to unleash a more powerful blast against enemies. To me, this felt like the perfect mix of making ranged weapons feel like an important part of your character’s build, but with a bit of a risk-reward system at play when using them.
Essentially, Curse of the Dead Gods feels in a lot of ways like a Diablo Soulslike, taking a lot of the elements that players love from games like Diablo and Dark Souls and combining them into a nearly-perfect mixture. Taking on enemies has a similar feel to the sense of danger that lurks in a Souls game where players have to precise and thoughtful, while the isometric perspective enhances the sense of exploration and discovery as players find new loot and equipment.
Though Diablo and Dark Souls are probably the strongest comparisons that will come to mind, I especially had a strong sense of Darkest Dungeon influences when playing Curse of the Dead Gods. This especially came through one of the core elements of the game, which is that upgrading and improving your character’s abilities in Curse of the Dead Gods comes at a cost in other ways. Each time that you discover a relic in Curse of the Dead Gods, you will get the benefit of new items or gear or upgrades to your character’s abilities and stats, but will contribute to a meter that will have adverse effects on your character, making him lose a small bit of his humanity each time throughout the game. This will also impact the stats and abilities of enemies that you’ll face in the next area, making each new environment just a little bit more challenging than the last.
Much like the way that status effects and insanity would effect your characters in Darkest Dungeon, every decision and path that I chose in Curse of the Dead Gods had me pause for a second to consider what the best path forward was. Given that the game relies so heavily on roguelike elements, it seems like a smart way to not only encourage players to try different builds and effects (while adding to the game’s difficulty), but also ensuring that each run through the game feels fresh and dynamic. Despite the game’s often brutal challenge, the developers from Passtech Games explained that players will be able to gain items from each failed run that can be put towards new abilities with a more lasting effect, giving a sense of progress in a similar way to Dead Cells.
Roguelikes are a genre that I’ve often had a difficult time really getting into due to the constant loop of death and repetition, and most of the genre’s most popular titles tend to be hit and miss with me. But much like Dead Cells — a roguelike that I love — what I played so far from Curse of the Dead Gods has me encouraged that it might just be the right mix of what I am looking for in the genre. The game’s core loop (so far) of exploration and combat already feels like it’s in a great place even from such an early point in development. Though it’s surely challenging already, I’m interested to see how developer Passtech Games continues to build on the game in its Early Access state throughout the coming months. Even though Curse of the Dead Gods seems like it has the player’s suffering in mind, I think there is already a lot there to love in all the pain.
Curse of the Dead Gods will arrive for PC through Steam Early Access on March 3, 2020.