[Review] ScourgeBringer – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Flying Oak
  • Publisher: Plug In Digital
  • Release Date: 21/10/2020
  • Price: £15.29 / $16.99
  • Code provided by Plug In Digital

Introducing ScourgeBringer Switch Review

I’ll be honest. Out of the few roguelikes I’ve tried, only one managed to truly capture my interest – Risk of Rain 2. Even then, I feel that was largely in part due to its fantastic multiplayer. But I still decided to pick this up, because from what I had seen of the combat, it just looked so fun. So, did ScourgeBringer manage to finally get me invested in the genre? Or will this be yet another roguelike that rots in my “dropped games” pile?

A Scourge On Humanity


When it comes to story, ScourgeBringer essentially allows you to engage with however much of it that you so desire. There’s an introductory cutscene at the beginning which introduces the titular ScourgeBringer. It’s a mysterious entity which, true to its name, scourged the entirety of humanity, leaving only a few behind.

The game takes place after this, where a white-haired girl named Kyhra is sent to put an end to all this suffering. Now of course, this is the very basic gist of things, because there are plenty of collectable logs, tablets you cannot read without an upgrade, and even multiple endings, all with their own bits of lore about previous explorers in the dungeon, what humanity tried to do to survive, and whatnot.

While I wasn’t exactly invested in the story, I should note I am nowhere near close to uncovering anything, so that could very well change. You only get one log every few runs or so, and I haven’t even gotten the upgrade that lets you read all the tablets, so even after you are done with the game, if the story has grabbed you there’s still incentive to go for another run, beyond the gameplay incentives (which I will touch upon at the end).

On Another Level


So when it comes to gameplay, let me just get something out of the way. ScourgeBringer is phenomenal. When it comes to brass tacks, it’s actually pretty simple. You can jump, double jump and wall jump with B, slash with Y, smash with X, dash with R, and shoot with ZR. You can unlock a few extra things such as an attack with hits every enemy on screen, or a combo meter, but this is the core of the gameplay.

However, all of these moves are just so flexible. Instead of wall jumping, you can wall run instead. Smashing can be used not only to stun enemies while they’re vulnerable, but can also be used to send bullets hurtling back towards the enemy that shot it. Instead of dashing down, you can unlock a ground pound – or even combine your dash with a smash for a devastating attack. And there are tons of different guns you can unlock. (Though admittedly, I still find myself using guns way less than I should…)

Ammo (and the unlockable fury move) refills with heavy hitting attacks, so the game always encourages you to play aggressively. And oh boy, it is an absolute joy. It’s a bit hard to wrap your head around at first (my first run lasted 3 minutes…) But every room is an absolute rush and nailing every stun, smash, and dash never got old. It taps into the part of me that loves fast-paced combat – where you’re constantly making decisions about how to maintain and maximise your combo, and are going from one enemy to the next in the blind of an eye. It’s mesmerising.

Unforgiving Yet Accommodating


ScourgeBringer puts in the work to make this an approachable roguelike. Through better combos in gameplay, you get blood, which you can use at shops to purchase better weapons, gain ability slots, etc. You can also trade in health (if you’re a madman) at certain shops, and there are pedestals which give you 1 of 3 blessings (such as more invulnerability, more damage at full health, etc) you pick from for free. While losing all this at the end of a run is part of the territory, there’s a permanent upgrade tree where you can spend a currency you get every time you defeat a boss.

For instance, you can buy the ability to fast travel, the ability to smash enemies into other ones (leading to some amazing chain reactions where you feel like you’re bowling with enemy-shaped pins), start runs with some blood or have more health, etc. So no matter what, both you and your character improve as you play. There’s even an NPC which rewards you for beating a World of the dungeon quickly, or even gives you lots of items for free at the beginning if your last run was short-lived.

And those aforementioned blessings seem to adapt depending on your current circumstances. Low on health? There’s bound to be a health refill blessing. And even if there isn’t, there’s quite a variety of accessibility options in case you need it – you can choose to get more health drops, full-on invulnerability, non-pixelated text, fully remappable controls – I really do appreciate when games have these options.

Tough as Nails


The game has five floors (with a secret sixth one that I have yet to encounter!), each of which is randomly generated. Every floor has one boss which requires beating at least 1 mini-boss to access, while most other rooms contain either enemies or a shop. Your first encounter with a new enemy will almost certainly lead to some health lost, but after a dozen runs of dealing with that enemy, you know exactly when it will fire at you, when you can stun it, and when you can attack, and it feels amazing. Enemies don’t respawn, so once you’ve dealt with a room, you can rest easy.

The map system also makes it easy to revisit a room in case you want to tackle an optional encounter or something. The boss fights are also great. From the fourth world onwards they admittedly have so much health that it begins to feel punishing, but it’s rewarding to finally learn the pattern to a boss which has ended so many of your previous runs. And get used to your runs ending – this is quite possibly the hardest game I have played this year. And yet, I still kept coming back to it.

This review has been full of positives, but there is one thing which I really am not a fan of, and that’s level gimmicks. Worlds 1 and 2, aside from looking different, don’t offer much in the way of variety. World 3 focuses on poison and bombs, which is a bit tricky, but really fun once you get the hang of things. However, World 4 and 5 are what I take issue with, beyond the extremely tricky bosses.

An Ever-Changing World


Throughout the game, if you are not able to perform a smash to some bullets in time, you could quickly hide behind cover. But in World 4, bullets go through walls, and in World 5, bullets teleport to to the other side when they reach the edge of the screen. While I welcome variety, this leads to the combat being so, so brutal. You have to rewire your brain in terms of how you played in the first 3 Worlds, making sure to keep an eye on much more than just your immediate surroundings. Of course, once I’ve improved I feel I’ll enjoy it, but it’s another crushing obstacle in an already relentless game.

But back to the positives. Aside from the gameplay, it has a stunning presentation, with crisp and colourful pixel art, flashy and fluid animation, and some wonderful music which adapts to whether you’re calmly exploring or if you’re in the middle of an extremely tense boss fight. It really is a treat in all regards. This also applies to the technical side of things. A far cry from most of the other games I have reviewed thus far, this is a buttery smooth 60fps with not a single exception, as far as I could tell.

There was however one game breaking glitch I encountered twice – where in World 5, I somehow got off screen after using a fury attack, and had to end my run. But, this was when I had cranked all the accessibility options to just see what lay ahead, so by all means this could have been a result of that, but regardless I do hope that gets patched before somebody potentially encounters it in an actual run.

Conclusion


I’m wrapping up this review and I still feel as though I have so much more to say – like about how once you have gotten an ending, you can toggle different modifiers to make things harder, or how mysterious the few NPC’s in the game are. That’s how much there is to this game. To be honest, if it wasn’t for my lack of free time, this would 100% be a roguelike I would keep on coming back to.

It truly is punishing, and in that regard it is somewhat demotivating and off-putting. Putting in your best in a run, only to not encounter a single health item because of RNG, sucks. But this game’s combat makes even those terrible runs feel great. So yes, I, Mr “Can’t Get Into Roguelikes”, enjoyed ScourgeBringer.

Pros

  • Hyper-aggressive and extremely fast-paced combat
  • Permanent upgrades and help if you’re struggling
  • A joy to look at and listen to

Cons

  • Unrelentingly difficult towards the end
  • Comes with the territory, but the RNG can lead to frustration

Verdict
ScourgeBringer is not for the faint of heart, but its combat makes it a must-have for platformer and roguelike fans

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