Developer: Passtech Games
Release Date: February 23, 2021
played on XBox GamePass for PC
One of the things I really like about subscription-based gaming is that it lets me dabble outside of my comfort zone in a very low-commitment sort of way. Curse of the Dead Gods is the kind of game I really want to like, but that I also acknowledge that I will probably suck at. The description reminded me a bit of Hades, which I played a bit of all the way back in September of 2020, and which I did like despite being kind of awful at it.
Now, I’m probably not the best person to be talking about action roguelites, because I just lack the experience, but to me, the playstyle is somewhat similar to Hades, but it lacks the character development, and frankly, the charm. Mind, I’m playing at basement floor level, so I wouldn’t be surprised if someone came back to say “Oh my god, Krikket, no, they are so very very different” because they might be, and I’m just flubbing my way through here.
I played through a handful of attempts at the first level, never getting more than about halfway through. Despite that, I was enjoying what I was doing while I was doing it, if that makes sense. The tutorial teaches you the basic mechanics, and then sets you loose to succeed or fail on your own merit. I chose failure, over and over.
There were two game mechanics that – I think – separate this from other similar games. First is the light mechanic. You are given a torch with which to explore the catacombs, and there are various things you can strike with the torch to make light. Light not only reveals traps, which is important, but you take far more damage in the dark. As a result, you will probably have your torch equipped until you have a reason not to, like, things that are trying to eat you. You can hit monsters with your torch, but it’s far less effective than using any of the game’s weapons.
The second mechanic is corruption, which leads to curses. Every time you enter a new room, your corruption increases. You can make blood offerings at various shrines which – you guessed it – increase your corruption. Getting hit with certain attacks will also increase your corruption. When you accumulate 100 corruption, you will be randomly cursed before entering the next room. Some of the curses are brutal, some are merely inconvenient, but almost all of them will change how you interact with the game going forward.
As you go along, you’ll pick up gold, which is useful for acquiring buffs during a run, but doesn’t carry over. You will also pick up a couple of other kinds of currency that does carry over and is used to unlock buffs and new weapons between runs. To me, it felt a little light as far as permanent progression goes, but admittedly, I didn’t get very far.
In fact, I probably would have bailed before I hit an hour of playtime, but I decided to go poking around in the options and discovered assist mode. Turning on assist mode will permanently flag that save file, and will disable achievements, but I even with the restrictions, I love when games include something for those of us who’ve never managed to get good. You can tweak the options to suit your particular weaknesses with the game – I am bad at all varieties of “not getting hit” so I gave myself 50% health restoration between rooms, and an increased window to parry. I left everything that affected curses on the default, and did not turn on invincibility. It was definitely a huge change in the difficulty to my benefit, but I felt like that still let me get a good idea of how the game was supposed to play.
The victory screen (or, more often if you’re me, the defeat screen) clues you in to the things you did well, and the things you need to work on, which I think is a great feature. Even with assist mode on, I still only got through the first dungeon by the skin of my teeth. I found the keyboard controls a little clumsy, at least for me, and didn’t bother to break out the controller for this one. I felt like Curse of the Dead Gods is probably a pretty solid entry into the action roguelite genre, but I don’t know that if it does anything in a more interesting way than other similar games. It’s not one I’m likely to pick up, or even revisit, but I can see the appeal for someone who likes this type of game and is looking for something a little different to mess around with.
SteamDB estimates that Curse of the Dead Gods has sold somewhere between 104,900 and 288,400 copies on Steam (which doesn’t take into account anyone playing it through a subscription service). However, it’s been generally well-reviewed, sitting at Very Positive and that gives it a ranking of 692 out of 10,967 releases in 2021.