Isometric dungeon-crawling RPG games first came onto my radar when I played Diablo. The constant battling, hunting for treasure and dark, desolate worlds got under my skin. It was a joy to place my hero’s life at risk to get a bit more gold, or a slightly better weapon. I always get excited when a new game that is influenced by Diablo gameplay is unleashed onto the market. When I was offered Curse of the Dead Gods (CotDG), I couldn’t wait to get started.
Developed by Passtech Games and published by Focus Home Interactive, this ungodly dungeon-crawling rogue-like game is influenced by many genres, and is unnervingly addictive. It relies on a simple concept, search through a labyrinth of connected rooms to face a monstrous beast. Your path is random, and each attempt is different. Luck will either be with you, or against you, and the only thing you can trust is your own ability.
A simple concept with in-depth mechanics.
Don’t let the simplicity of the idea fool you. Complex mechanics weigh this title down. Curses, corruption, weapons, stats, collectables and more. Death is easy to come by in this tough, unforgiving world. With rogue-lite elements wiping your progress back to zero, you better “get good” or have the patience of a saint while playing.
The game gravitates around mankind’s greed, and its desire to give up everything for; power, treasure and eternal life. Blinded by this madness, you are led to the cursed temple. It offers untold riches and power beyond your wildest dreams, but at what cost? Traps, explosions, monsters and demonic curses await you!
Once you enter the temple, the only escape is death. A perpetual cycle of death and glory lies in front of you. This is your curse for life and there is no walking away from it.
Light and Darkness.
The basic concept of light and darkness has never been so important! Moving away from the safety of the flame enhances the monster’s strengths. Traps are invisible, and the gameplay ramps up considerably. These minor adjustments are seen in nearly every element. Curses increase certain stats at the cost of others, and blessings increase your corruption levels, cursing you at the same time. Offering items to the gods costs you the object, but temporarily increases your stats. It’s a tactical nightmare, and a constant battle.
Yet, this complexity makes it tick. Choose which weapon suits the fight, juggle between; flame, poison and lightning. Acknowledge the rarity, level and ability of each tool, and consider your attributes; Constitution, Dexterity, or Perception. Attack or defend? Parry and maintain stamina, or hack ‘n slash your way to victory. It’s layer upon layer of minor considerations, but it adds up to make an intriguing and complex dungeon-crawler with many gameplay styles.
The path to victory is random and tough.
A procedurally generated maze of rooms is placed before you. You may only pick one at a time, and you must follow the flow of the arrows. Each area has a prize to be awarded; gold, healing, weapons, attributes and so on. You chose which best suits that adventure and hope the gamble pays off. As you pass through doors, your corruption levels increase. Upon hitting 100, you receive one curse. Five can be given per journey and the final one impacts your survival chances vastly. It is unavoidable and will affect how you attempt each run through.
You may think, “It’s light on RPG elements!” Upgradable statistics and weapons improvements are part and parcel of this game and are intertwined with the treasure you collect. Crystal skulls and Jade rings allow you to unlock blessing, improve stats, and allow for other improvements. This part is a slow and tough slog, and it takes an awful lot of skill and hard work to make any real progress.
The table top isometric perspective screams Diablo. A wonderful nod to an amazing franchise, and a great choice that works perfectly. Well designed levels with hidden traps take you by surprise. Using dark and light tones creates a menacing atmosphere that’s both daunting and worrying. The demonic monsters you face will fill you with dread, and their detail models and movement animation is a joy to look at. Visually, this is both spectacular to watch and play.
Passtech Games have continued this brilliance with their use of audio. A “classic” medieval soundtrack plays out alongside the action. It has a familiar tone and beat to it, and it works well. It supports the visual package with definitive changes in pace and tone, emphasising the doomed atmosphere that your character faces.
In-depth and hard to get to grips with.
Because of the complexity of the many layers, it was understandable that it’s challenging to begin with. Weapon choice, timing, and the combination of blessings and curses impacts the gameplay. A very handy tutorial eases some hardship, but practise and patience are your greatest ally to overcome the early learning curve.
The words; rogue-like and dungeon-crawler are synonymous with replay value. So it’ll come as no surprise that CotDG oozes it. Hours and hours will be lost as you try, yet fail to work your way through each theme of the temple. Take into consideration the multitudes of game approaches, and the challenging achievement list, and you have a title that is amazing value for money.
Being cursed has never been so good.
The message that the downfall of mankind is its own greed wasn’t lost on me. However, I was so engrossed by the gameplay that I allowed this curse to infect me. It’s a glorious game that successfully blends a multitude of genres, and a game I strongly recommend. Buy your copy here, you won’t regret it! Choose your approach, select your weapons, and hope that the gods and luck are on your side.