Necropolis, the latest creation from indie game studio Harebrained Schemes, is marketed as ‘A Diabolical Dungeon Delve’, in which the aim is to find the exit, although an encounter with death is more likely.
The core feature of Necropolis is perma-death, meaning that you start from the beginning with a new character, equipped with only the most basic items, following each defeat. In a time when many games offer the ability to save your progress at any point, this is a refreshing mechanic welcomed by players looking for more of a challenge. However, while the random level generation attempts to keep the game fresh upon every new reincarnation, repeating the same levels quickly becomes frustrating and monotonous. It can often feel inconsistent – two playthroughs of the same opening level may yield drastically different quantities of item drops and enemies, making it feel on certain runs like the odds are stacked against you. Rooms can appear completely empty one minute, before a large hoard of enemies materialises and overwhelms you; it is at this point when perma-death becomes grating.
Despite this, there are features that make Necropolis a promising prospect. The art design is beautiful, and stylised with environmental features which help to reinforce a sense of Godliness. The notes littered around the walls, along with commentary from ‘The Brazen Head’, frequently offer humour with a pinch of sass, and help to create a sense of personality and character. Different weapons can have different speeds, varying the combat style, and the game boasts both single player and co-operative modes.
Do these aspects make Necropolis worth £23? In short, no. Unfortunately, there are also multiple drawbacks: various and frequent glitches ranging from jewels you just can’t pick up to enemies that get stuck in the environment and glitch while running to attack. In fact, while I’ve admittedly died many times due to my own error, I’ve met defeat on several occasions when enemies were able to attack but the hits I landed weren’t doing any damage. These glitches are one of several factors which suggest that Necropolis is somewhat underdeveloped. The weapons and characters often clip through the environment, and the camera seems unable to cope with confined spaces. Admittedly, a fair few of the issues I have with Necropolis concern glitches which could be fixed with an update, but it falls short elsewhere. While the combat and exploration is enjoyable and enthralling, the protagonist is dropped into the Necropolis with no explanation or backstory, and the fragments of information which can be gleaned from inscriptions on walls lack context and structure, making it difficult to develop a meaningful connection to the world.
Necropolis is definitely most suited to players who are competitive and persistent, but the short length – apparent in a no-death run – and various other issues mean that it’s not worth the current price tag. If the bugs are quashed, and you’re looking for a challenge, then it’s worth a look at in a sale, but I’ve been left with the feeling that the emphasis on difficulty, and progression through practice, exists to compensate for a lack of purpose, story and length.
Necropolis has promise, and the framework of an enjoyable and challenging game, but is currently overshadowed by an abundance of glitches and a lack of story and overall polish.