City of Brass is a first person rouge-like developed by published by Uppercut Games. Borrowing heavily from the mechanics of genre colleagues like Binding of Isaac and combining them with an Arabia Nights styled theme. This, as well as a surprising number of movement options, leads to the overall package of City of Brass being a solid experience, though there are a couple issues that hamper it in the long run.
The game releases on May 4. More info can be found on the PlayStation Blog. The release trailer can be seen below:
In City of Brass you take the role of a thief attempting to steal riches from the titular city. When you arrive, you learn that the city once stood as a pinnacle of wealth and power, but the arrogant attempts of its denizens to enslave the mystical djinns led to its downfall. Now, the cursed spirits of its citizens are forced to remain as guardians of the fallen city.
The premise for the game is good, giving a clear reason why the city has become what it is when the player arrives. The journal provided in the game gives nice flavor text for enemies, items, and other entries. These are decently written, but are also short, and in the long run you’ll be skimming past most of them. Overall the story of City of Brass takes a clear backseat to the gameplay.
As mentioned before, City of Brass is a first person rouge-like. As such, it contains many mechanics that are synonymous with the genre. Your main goal is to reach the end of each level while avoiding traps and enemies, all the while collecting items and gold to assist you. But be careful, because if you die you will have to start over from the very beginning, losing all the progress you made beforehand.
The two main sources of danger that the player will be pitted up against are enemies and traps. Both these hazards take a variety of forms, and from my own experience are both just as likely to kill you as the other. Enemies, while not necessarily too much of a problem in a one on one fight, can quickly become dangerous in groups. Traps , placed randomly throughout the procedurally generated levels, can chip away at your health, put you in compromising positions, or in some cases straight out kill you. Often times the two will end up working in conjunction with each other, with enemies pressuring you into traps.
Combat consists of the players whip and melee weapon, with each being crucial to your survival. Your melee weapon makes up the main source of direct damage, slashing and smacking enemies that try and get to close. Your whip allows you to stun enemies, as well as pushing and pulling them into traps. Proper aim with the whip will also allow you to disarm enemies, helping minimize the damage you’ll receive if you end up having to take a hit.
One of the more unique set of mechanics that city of brass has is its movement options. In addition to basic running and jumping, the player also has access to a slide and the ability to climb up ledges and other platforms. The players whip also plays a part in this, allowing you to grapple up to certain locations or launch you across the room. When you manage to fit these together you’ll find yourself zipping through
enemies and traps alike as you rush towards the exit.
As mentioned before, going through the level will give you the opportunity to collect treasures and items that will assist you. The former of the two, the treasure you collect, acts as a currency that the player can use with the djinns placed throughout the level. The djinns provide a number of different services, such as healing the player, purchasing items, or temporarily disabling traps. You’re also given access to three wishes that can improve the options that the djinns will give you.
Items in the game range from new weapons, armor, and different buffs. Weapons will usually vary in their range, rate of attack, and overall damage. The player can only have one whip, weapon, and set of armor equipped at a time, meanwhile buffs don’t seem to have a limit as to how many you can gain. A nice feature is that the game will not let you purchase an item you already own and have equipped. It’s a small thing, but it’s nice to not have to worry about accidently wasting money.
Another aspect to the game is the ranking system, as well as the use of burdens and blessings. At the end of a run, whether it ends in success or failure, you’ll gain experience based on the amount of treasure you collected. Ranking up will give you access to items at the start of your next attempt. The Burdens and blessings are special buffs the player can equip before they start an attempt, though they are unfortunately one use only. Blessing will give you advantages, like removing the timer or lowering process, while burdens will make the game harder, such as increasing enemy health or making it permanently night time.
While there are some strong positives to City of Brass, there are also some pretty significant issues. The first of them relates to the timer system. The idea behind it is to make the player choose between exploration or progressing faster to avoid risk. The problem comes in the fact that the timer is actually too long, and in most cases you can probably pick up more currency than you’ll ever actually need. In addition, the punishment for going over time, having to death orbs chasing you, it isn’t actually that hard to get past. They move fairly slowly, and I rarely ever found myself being threatened by them.
Another issue comes through the use of the djinns and items. To be quite frank, there are items and djinns that are just outright better than others. For example, there is a djinn that allows you to put away a bit of your money to use in your next attempt. This would be helpful, except the amount you can put away can be collecting twice over within the first level. Meanwhile, using one of your wishes on the djinn that spawns skeletons will turn said skeletons friendly, giving you a huge advantage in the long run.
Items also suffer from the same issue, though to a different degree. Items like the lamp and the companion coin end up making little to no difference, meanwhile things like the bag of heft or the vitality jar make the game significantly easier. There was even one item in particular I used that straight up broke one of the boss fights.
Graphics and Sound
One of the main draws of City of Brass is its Arabian night’s theme. This shines through the games ascetics, with enemies and environments that wouldn’t look out of place in the folk tales they’re based on. There’s a fairly decent amount of variety in the designs while still maintaining consistency, something that plays into the games favor the longer you play it.
The music also takes inspiration from the games theme, making use of a variety of acoustic instruments. As with the art it’s consistent, but not really anything to write home about. I also want to give credit to the sound design of the enemies, who, despite being a bit more cartoonish in style, make some legitimately unsettling sounds throughout the game.
City of Brass has its problems, but it manages to rise above them with overall solid gameplay and an interesting theme. The latter is also helped by a strong art style and decent music that remain consistent with the Arabian nights theme of the game. The addition of Leaderboards to the game will keep a lot of people playing, although people who are more interested in unique mechanics than the theme may leave a bit disappointed,
|+ Solid Gameplay||– Timer proves ineffective|
|+ Interesting theme||– Some items flat out better than others|
|+ Variety of movement options|