Necropolis - PS4 Review

Necropolis gets off to a good start, evoking the dark feel of the Souls games while adding in some unique roguelike elements to boot. One does not generally associate the word 'accessible' with either of those two inspirations, but by and large Necropolis actually has a surprisingly low barrier of entry. However, over time that accessibility gives way to a somewhat shallow and ultimately less satisfying experience than the games that clearly inspire it.

I am a tremendous fan of all things Souls - and by the time I had written my review for Dark Souls 3 had already beaten the game twice. I sunk that much time into it. I am willing to invest serious time into these games because I can appreciate their dark atmospheres, challenging enemies, clever level designs and surprisingly deep and interesting stories for those who pay close attention to the details beneath the surface.

Necropolis is clearly looking to the Souls games for inspiration, but sets out to do its own thing as well. You are still looking at plenty of action as you see many of the same hallmarks that makes the Souls games so interesting. You watch enemies for patterns so you can learn when to jump in and attack or when to dart backwards and avoid taking a hit. Different enemies have different patterns and learning how to anticipate and counter those guys is one of the best things about Souls and that carries over to Necropolis as well.

The idea to take the core Souls formula and turn it into a roguelike is actually a really interesting idea, nice both the Souls games and roguelikes anticipate you dying - often. To a lesser degree the Souls games with the potential loss of your hard earned souls even feels like a callback to the roguelike genre, forcing you to find your point of death to recover them. The idea that you will learn, and grow your knowledge of the world, or your enemies and be better for it the next time through is at the heart of both Souls titles and roguelikes.

The gameplay structure of Necropolis is one where you set out to try and complete tasks and advance through the sprawling labyrinth you find yourself in. The first step is to pick which type of character you want to play, and then you venture into the starting area. Instead of a lengthy tutorial like many action/RPG style games, you basically get a screen right off of the bat that tells you what the controls are. The combat is fast and surprisingly quick and easy to pick up, making it approachable. Your character then ventures out into a randomly generated world to try and advance through the Necropolis.

These elements work really well, and initially they made a really good early impression on me. You do not level up your character, but you try to find better gear that will improve your odds of success. You can find currency along the way useful for advancing the stage or buying new gear and potions. Each new run, your character is assigned some optional tasks that will help him or her to earn favor, which allows you to unlock permanent perks for later use. This favor serves as one of the best means of progression, since you do not earn experience and levels like a traditional RPG that wants to see you grinding for victory. However, when you die, you lose the weapons and armor you picked up along the way, your new character starting with the same basic gear his or her predecessor did.

This cycle actually works really well, creating an addictive cycle of 'just one more run'... because you know that odds are you will die, but maybe you'll get just a little bit further. Perhaps you'll get just a little bit closer to escaping the Necropolis. The carrot being dangled here is an effective one, and that combined with a unique and incredibly appealing art style really hooked me early on in the game.

It was with time however, that Necropolis began to show some weaknesses that were not readily apparent to me in the beginning. Having randomly generated level design keeps things different each time, but also somewhat bland. One of my favorite aspects of the Souls games is the creative level design. Finding shortcuts and hidden areas makes exploration a joy in those games, but here exploration is simply a means to an end. There are very few points of genuine interest along the way. The hubs at each level are consistent from one playthrough to the next, giving you a clear goal to attain, but while the journey is a pretty one due to the previously mentioned visual aesthetics, it also is a surprisingly linear one that is occasionally littered with empty spaces that don't mean or do anything of interest. Areas are designed by chance, and lack the lore and flavor that intentional level design allows for and that I personally prefer.

The combat has hallmarks of the Souls games as well, with bars for health and stamina as you try to time attacks and dodges as you learn enemy patterns. But the weapon variety is rather shallow, and there are only a handful of ways to attack. It does not help that enemy AI is painfully shallow and that loot from killing enemies is seldom interesting. If you are lucky one or two enemies will drop equipment of interest / higher level than what you are using each level. I quit taking the time to examine the gear however, because it felt like a waste of time. I just assumed that if I wanted something worthwhile, I would get it from a chest or buy it from the hub vendor.

By no means is Necropolis a bad game - in fact with a score of five being average by our standards, I would go ahead and say that I view Necropolis as an above-average action adventure with some wonderful aesthetics and some good ideas. Necropolis makes a great first impression, it was only with time that I started to notice the little things that bothered me and held the game back. The experience is entertaining, but in the end somewhat shallow and failed to provide me with the same sense of satisfaction that the Souls games do upon completion.

Game Information

PlayStation 4
Harebrained Schemes
Harebrained Schemes
Bandai Namco
Single Player
Other Platform(s):
Xbox One

Provided by Publisher

Article by Chris H.