City of Brass
Before you read
This game is very flexible when it comes to setting your own difficulty. I initially played on the normal difficulty, but also messed around a bit with making it harder- or easier. I’ve done some playthroughs on normal and others on easy, but I haven’t done a full playthrough with all burdens enabled. Therefore I also haven’t obtained all achievements, but I have played as every character and I’m pretty sure I’ve used every weapon- and item at least once. I didn’t really bother with the daily challenges though, so I won’t cover it in this review. I’ve played this game on Steam, and it’s available on every modern console. Oh, and there is no music this time to listen to as the game barely has any OST. Sorry for that.
You know what I like to do? Screenshot shopping. It’s in concept a very similar thing to what you do when you go to an actual game store: you look at the cover of the game, check the description and then you decide to buy it or not. I’m not the only one who did that right? City of Brass was one of the games I used in a past project being ”Upcoming games of …”, and then I mentioned that I had not played this game yet. I did look at the screenshots though, and it immediately reminded me of another game I hold pretty close to my heart being Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. Aside from that, I knew nothing apart from it having an Arabian Nights setting. Was the comparison to a loved game by me a justified one? Let’s find out!
A rogue in a roguelike adventure
What I didn’t expect City of Brass to be without having any knowledge of the game, is for it to be a first-person roguelike game. It’s not something you see often since most roguelike games are in 2D, and I also saw that this game was made by senior BioShock developers so I thought it would have a campaign like them. That definitely does not mean I was against the idea though. This game handles the roguelike element as well as most 2D games do: you start from scratch and make your way through a random procedurally-generated world with all items being random as well. This makes City of Brass pretty replayable as every new adventure will be different from the last. Environments don’t suffer from it either as they’re rich with stuff in them, and rewarding for the gamers with a keen eye on their surroundings. Paying attention is always a necessity anyway since dangerous traps hide around every corner. For as much as I enjoyed going through this world inspired by the stories of the Arabian Nights, the traps did eventually overstay their welcome. They are everywhere, do a good amount of damage and you occasionally have to manually trigger them to activate so you can walk past them safely. I understand why they’re here and what their purpose is, but it becomes a drag when you’re playing through a new game for the so-manieth time and just want to speed through it, only to be stopped by an arrow in the knee. Putting traps aside from now, the rest of the roguelike elements work as expected. There’s gold to be found everywhere, which can be exchanged for a whole lot of services from the random genies. Buying items is the usual business, but you can also store items or claim insurance for the next playthrough to make it easier for yourself. And yes, there are also genies that disable traps thank god. By using the 3-wishes system, which is totally not a reference to the Arabian Nights, you can even boost the benefits from a specific genie for that playthrough further. For example, more rare items appear in shops or you can store more items for the next playthrough. I really adore this wish system, which actually segues me nicely into the next segment!
Perfectly customizable difficulty
This game is very beginner-friendly, yet can be made a challenge to those who seek it. I already mentioned the 3-wishes system before to boost benefits from genies, but they can also be used at the start of a new playthrough to fast-travel to somewhere deeper into the city if you have been there already at least once. This means that you can always go to the area before the final boss at the cost of three wishes. This is already a great benefit to people who just want to beat the game as they don’t have to start all over again, and it can be completely ignored by people who want to play the entire game in one go. Adding further to this is the ”blessing and burden” system, passive (de)buffs that will make your playthrough easier- or a burden. By default none are activated and only the blessings are unlocked, with none activated essentially functioning as the normal mode of the game. With blessings, you can turn the time limit off for example or my favourite of all: less traps. I did eventually put some blessings on because I feel they helped me enjoy the game more. I am someone who enjoys completely discovering an area, and therefore the time limit was just not beneficial to me. But when I’ve done multiple playthroughs and explored everything, I put it on again because then I could race through the game at a faster pace. Burdens are unlocked by doing specific objectives in-game like stunning enemies. I guess it’s a bummer for people who want to play on the hardest difficulty straight away, but the burdens are fairly easy to unlock so it didn’t bother me in the slightest. I feel as though they’re something to activate after you’ve beaten the game at least once anyway, since then you got a good hang of the game and its mechanics. Furthermore, there isn’t really a punishment for playing on any difficulty except for that you’re not eligible for the leaderboards. Eh, that’s a sacrifice I’m gladly willing to make.
How to kill enemies 101
Remember when I said that this game looked very similar to Dark Messiah of Might and Magic when I browsed through the screenshots? It’s probably about time I talk about that since we’re getting pretty close to the end of this review. It’s also time to talk about traps again since I haven’t done that enough now have I! What reminded me of Dark Messiah is that the environment is your weapon. Urns and other objects can be picked up and thrown with various effects and indeed, you can kick enemies into traps. While I still am not a fan of how frequent traps are and that I constantly have to be on alert, luring enemies into insta-kill traps is always satisfying. There are multiple ways to do this as the main playable characters are all equipped with a handy-dandy Arabian Belmont whip. Pull enemies towards you or shove them away, or stun them by hitting their head and kicking them into the trap yourself. Or are you not a fan of using traps? There are a total of 5 characters to choose from, each with their own weapon aside from the whip. Be it a sword or a crossbow, they are all very fun to use and each has a good amount of variations in the shops, each with their own status effects. I personally enjoyed using the spear wielder the most because she couldn’t just poke enemies in their belly, but also throw it from a distance to impale multiple enemies at once. I had a lot of fun using every single character, and there is a good amount of variety in enemies as well to further differentiate them from each other. The bosses each had their own strategies to beat as well, though ”haha bomb urn go brrr” worked on almost every boss as an insta-kill attack so that made them kind of pathetic at the same time. When I first encountered the third boss I had such an urn in hand and it killed him right away without me even knowing what attacks he would use. They were still fun to fight for sure though. Combat overall felt very fluid and with the roguelike nature plus variety in combat for each character, City of Brass is a highly replayable game.
I highly enjoyed my time with City of Brass. I mainly have to thank the perfectly customizable difficulty for this as I often get frustrated at how a lot of roguelike games pretty much force RNG and consecutive playthroughs on you. This is not the case with City of Brass as you can choose from the get-go whether you want to play just to have a good time or get challenged as much as you want to. The 3-wishes system is a brilliant addition to this as well as you don’t have to start every playthrough from the very beginning if you so desire and of course, all of this is optional. The randomly generated world is also handled pretty well as every level feels just different enough every new playthrough. I won’t deny that traps do eventually become an annoyance more than a hindrance over time though, as I always had to remain careful instead of being able to speed through the game with my gained experience. The only thing I can give them credit for is that they’re fun for luring enemies into, which is a strong point of the game as the combat overall feels very satisfying with a total of five different characters. With high replayability, I definitely recommend doing at least one full playthrough of City of Brass, and if you enjoyed it definitely check out the other characters as well!
This was definitely a fun and surprising title to play. I must admit that despite my optimism, I’m not the biggest fan of the Arabian Nights in general, though some games- and anime have taken a unique spin on it. The anime Magi for example also does a great job at it. So despite me not being a fan of its origin, I am always willing to try out games that take inspiration from it. The next review is already in the works, and I’m also going to work on the review after that straight away before I run behind again. I have a tendency to forget stuff fast after all~.
Games like City of Brass:
Dark Messiah of Might and Magic – I mentioned a few times that the combat reminded me a bit of Dark Messiah, so it should come as no surprise that I recommend it. Dark Messiah has one of the best first-person combat systems in any western RPG if you ask me, and is definitely amongst my favourites as well. There is a demo and it’s currently on sale as well!
Dead Cells – While not a first-person game, Dead Cells still has great combat in a randomly generated Metroidvania-esque world. I feel like this game is the closest to what a 2D City of Brass would be.
Prince of Persia – A franchise of platforming games with action elements, and has some inspirations from the Arabian Nights while telling its own tale. It’s a franchise consisting of multiple games, and definitely something to consider.
Question of the Review: What is your favourite game inspired by the Arabian Nights? Let me know down below or reply to me on Twitter and/or Discord!