Review – City of Brass (Switch)

I’m a pretty big fan of the roguelike/lite genre. They provide great short bursts of gameplay whilst also being highly replayable. From the excellent Dead Cells to Prey‘s Mooncrash expansion and BELOW, we had a great year for roguelikes last year. Now Switch is getting the latest roguelite, City of Brass from Uppercut Games.

Some effects look pretty bad on Switch.

City of Brass doesn’t really have a story to follow. There’s a very simple set up of arriving at the city looking for riches and a few supernatural relics to track down. I don’t mind the absence of a story since most roguelikes just drop you right into the action, though it would have been nice to have a plot that ties back into such an interesting setting.

Artistically, City of Brass looks amazing. The design of the city looks great and there’s a solid variety of enemy designs. The city itself looks wonderful and makes great use of colour. Unfortunately it doesn’t translate to Switch very well. The opening cutscene gives you a terrible first impression running at close to fifteen frames per second. Thankfully the gameplay runs much better, but still not as smooth as I would like with some framerate drops that impact the gameplay.

The core gameplay loop has you running through over ten levels to reach the end. Each level is procedurally generated and changes the environment layouts, trap placements, and enemies with each new run. If you die you’re dragged all the way back to the start. It’s a fine gameplay loop, but the randomly generated maps don’t really do much to extend the game’s playable lifespan beyond a couple of playthroughs. Every run through will feel the same as the last and the environments get tiresome. Your health carries over from the previous level and there aren’t many chances for you to recover the health. Over time it becomes a battle of just holding onto all your hearts for as long as possible, rather than focusing on progressing forward. It makes every action feel important to your run. Do you risk going for more loot to help you later or save all your hearts? It’s a good approach in theory but taking damage early on has devastating effects in the long term. It doesn’t help that there are so few opportunities to recover your health.

Decent amount of visual variety, though it will still get old quick.

Combat is pretty straight forward: you attack enemies whilst avoiding damage. The whip is the main weapon in the game, and it’s quite a good one. You can use the whip for mobility, to stun enemies, or even pull them towards you and trigger traps. It’s a great multi-purpose tool that adds a lot to the game. Every few levels you will need to fight a boss fight that will have it’s own gimmick from invulnerability phases to spawning waves of enemies in. They aren’t bad bosses but none of them are particularly memorable.

A merchant will spawn throughout the levels who will sell a number of upgrades and items. Ranging from new weapons to the removal of traps in that particular level. Occasionally you will get the option to store items for your next run.

There are a few difficulty modifiers to remove features such as the timer or reduce the amount of enemies on screen. It’s a nice option that allows you to tailor the experience without butchering it. If you’re playing mostly in tablet mode with the Joy-cons attached I would highly recommend setting a few of these options on. Aiming can a bit awkward otherwise.

The visual direction is great.

The sound design is also completely forgettable and is ultimately background noise that I honestly didn’t notice that much. The other sound effects I found to be just okay. The whip has a nice little crackle to it but enemy grunts get rather repetitive.

City of Brass is a competent roguelike. The great artistic direction and decent combat come together nicely, though it does little to standout from the crowd of other roguelites and it’s tough to recommend the Switch version.

Graphics: 7

Great artistic direction that doesn’t scale well with the switch.

Gameplay: 6

Competent gameplay with an interesting gimmick

Sound: 5

Not terrible but they could have done a lot more.

Fun Factor: 6.5

City of Brass doesn’t innovate but it is a reasonable roguelike experience

Final Verdict: 6.5

City of Brass is available now on PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One & Switch
A copy of City of Brass was provided by the publisher.