Most people would jump at the chance to play as Indiana Jones. While games like Tomb Raider and Uncharted allow you to play as the adventurer finding lost treasures and killing people indiscriminately, they lack one of the most iconic parts of the character, the whip. City of Brass is here to rectify that by giving you all the whip and sword action you can ask for as you break into a cursed city to kill some stuff and get some loot. There is marginally more story than that, but it is irrelevant really.
Loosely based on an Arabian Nights story, City of Brass is a first person Rogue-lite that tasks the player with getting through it’s levels, dodging traps and killing undead, maybe throwing in some ethereal chickens on the way. The levels are procedurally generated and it really feels like it; the rooms look largely the same due to the setting and you will basically just be following the compass arrow as you progress through to your objective. There are traps placed in different places, but they all fall within what begins to feel like a fairly narrow selection of places. While some games can have the random levels feel exciting and new, the ones here feel predictable and uninspired.
The combat also suffers with it’s own issues and ends up feeling very sloppy despite some interesting ideas. You can use your whip to pull enemies towards you, disarm them, stun them, knock them over and even pull treasure towards you. There are lots of cool things on display, but on console at least, the controls feel slow and unresponsive and the aiming requires infuriating precision. While making it too easy would obviously be absurd, the surgical precision required to perform the specific actions here are more akin to operating on someone’s brain than hitting a dead thing in the head.
Using the sword is similarly troubled. While using a sword in any other game generally feels fast, responsive and like you are unleashing a waterfall of slashing hell upon your enemy, using your weapon here feels like your sword arm gets stuck to your head for a second between slashes. Instead of being fast and responsive you have what ends up feeling like perpetual input delay and it leaves the fighting feeling needlessly difficult, not because the enemies are a challenge, but because the controls are beating you more than the enemies.
Despite all of this there are some cool things here, the ability to start a game with a bunch of blessings means that if Rogue-lites aren’t your thing then you have the option to make the game a bit easier. Of course, as you play you unlock burdens which are great if you want more of a challenge. The traps can also be fun to play around with because you can drag enemies on to them which makes for some cool moments, but the traps still tend to be placed next to doors, so it isn’t always ideal.
With an awesome inspiration and some very cool ideas, it’s an immense shame that City of Brass game ends up being as dull as it is. With lacklustre combat, enemy design, rooms and movement, City of Brass feels like a chore to play. With the smorgasbord of Rogue-lites to play these days, some of which are among the best games you can play, City of Brass is an easy pass.
Version tested: PS4 – Also available on Xbox One & PC