ScourgeBringer opens with what can only be described as incomprehensible sci-fi nonsense. There’s something about an apocalyptic event that results in the arrival of the bringer of scourges… or maybe just a single scourge, it’s hard to tell. All you really need to know is that you play as the most powerful warrior of your tribe, Kyhra, tasked with the redemption of humankind. No pressure.
The game is a roguelite, and by this point you should all know that entails running through levels of chambers that change in layout every time you die, which you will be doing a lot. However, ScourgeBringer does bring in an unusual element to this already potent cocktail: a slight dash of bullet hell. Most enemies have projectiles of sorts, and you have projectile abilities alongside a smash attack capable of sending enemy projectiles back at them. It’s satisfying when you manage to nail the timing of this, but to the game’s intense discredit, that timing can be a little off on occasion.
The problem here is that the bullet hell gameplay doesn’t honestly add anything to the roguelite formula that its better off without. If anything it adds an overly hectic element to a title that’s already a little too frenetic. You can dash to enemies and hit them with the smash attack to stun them to stop them from firing, but if you time this poorly you will likely get hit because ScourgeBringer isn’t graceful enough to grant the player invincibility on their dashes.
Each death sees you cycling back to this title’s hub, The Chiming Tree, to use any of the resources dropped by boss encounters to gain permanent skills to use in later runs, talk to the mostly-useless exposition character, or look over the files you have collected in the levels. There’s not much to the location, but this is justified by how little time you spend here.
What hits you whilst playing is how quickly each game loop cycles around. You jump into the portal, slash and shoot your way through various chambers and bosses, invariably die, and then a quick breather at The Chiming Tree before jumping in again. You reach an odd state of flow playing ScourgeBringer; it’s not an especially satisfying gameplay loop, but yet you get absolutely absorbed into the overall experience.
One thing that’s certain is that this game is, at times, unfairly punishing. You start with a mere five hit points, and any hit from an enemy will know one chunk from that, whether that be from a tiny gnat bite or the fist of a giant golem. As such, until you unlock more hit points from the skill tree (which doesn’t give you too much anyway) or find boosts in the levels, you’re distressingly squishy for the best warrior of your tribe.
Now, confession time: I needed to lower the difficulty a smidge in this game. I know, I’m a complete travesty. Well, by “lower the difficulty” I mean that I altered a couple of things in the robust (and excellent) in-game accessibility menu to make it a bit more manageable and enjoyable to play. This menu is incredible, allowing the player to tinker with minor elements of the game to allow ease of all players to enjoy.
For instance, ScourgeBringer at full speed can be difficult to play effectively, especially with the bullet hell aspect. You can alter the game and enemy projectile speed, which I did (by 20%, then by 40%) to give a more forgiving window to ricochet the bullets back. As well as this you can remove screen shake and even the possibility of dying at all, if you fancy.
Visually simplistic and (mostly) striking, the game uses neon splashes in its pixel art for distinction and the result is something with a painfully 80s sensibility. The only real criticism here is that the aesthetic style doesn’t quite mark out things clearly enough to allow the player to follow when it gets really hectic, resulting in a fair few cheap deaths and hits.