Out now on Xbox, Blazing Beaks is a roguelite game made by developer Applava. The premise is as straightforward as many other roguelites in the genre in which you proceed through a series of rooms, fighting enemies, coming across shops, and taking down bosses. What sets Blazing Beaks apart from others though is found in its explicit use of a system that can reward and punish greedy gameplay.
Upon booting up Blazing Beaks for the first time you are given a brief tutorial on how to play. You learn how to shoot, grab artifacts, and then turn them in at the stores that you’ll find scattered throughout the dungeon. But as quickly as the tutorial starts, it ends, and the real dungeon crawl begins.
Right off the bat, Blazing Beaks is a challenging and unforgiving game. Each beaked bedfellow that you can play as will have a different weapon, amount of health, and quirk that you need to accommodate. For example, the Duck has a much shorter attack range than the other characters but has 5 HP. The penguin, on the other hand, has a chance to spawn a copy of any enemy that they kill. But, they have a normal shooting range and only 4 HP. The character you choose will dictate a lot of how you play each playthrough, so it’s important to choose wisely. Or you could just pick the bird you like the most. Let’s be honest, penguins are adorable and if a game let’s me play as one, I’m sold.
As stated earlier, the premise of Blazing Beaks is about the same as any other roguelike dungeon crawler. The one thing that caught me off guard though is the lack of a dodge roll mechanic. Well, technically it’s the lack of a dedicated dodge roll. Instead of being a bound button that you always have access to, dodging is actually done through an active ability that you can trade out for others. I was initially put off by this because I was used to games like Enter the Gungeon where dodging is always an option. But the straightforward designs of the rooms, as well as the manageable movement speeds of both projectiles and enemies, means it’s worth trading it out for other abilities.
What really sets Blazing Beaks apart from other games though is its greed system. The way this system works is that as you kill enemies there is a chance that they drop an artifact. These artifacts can be given to the Crow that hangs out in the shops.
Each artifact will contribute to your greed level, and the amount it is increased by is proportional to the danger that comes with picking it up. This can range from needing to wait seven seconds once you enter a level to start shooting, to immediately dying if an enemy touches you. But the higher your greed level, the greater the rewards. Turn on a lot of artifacts at once and you’ll get multiple items, hearts, coins, and sometimes even more artifacts – which is a weird business strategy to say the least.
This is a great system for multiple reasons – chief among them is that it is a completely optional system that the player chooses to take advantage of. Do I need to pick up the item that will cause enemies to throw bombs at me when I kill them? Absolutely not. Am I going to because I am excited at the notion of getting more loot? You betcha.
And then when I die a few levels later because I kept getting bombs hurled at me, I can take comfort in knowing it’s my fault. Especially since the game explicitly mentions that I was going to constantly get bombs thrown at me if I picked the item up.
The only real negative is that these systems are briefly explained, and even then in very little detail. Which means there is some guesstimating that goes on while you get used to the mechanics. But all of this contributes to the difficulty of Blazing Beaks, and it is definitely a challenging game.
There are difficulty options for easy, normal, and hard which is nice, but even on easy you shouldn’t expect to just breeze through Blazing Beaks without a care in the world. Especially since that greed system has a tendency to look even more enticing when you know the enemies are going to be easier to kill.
There are also some local gameplay options and it does support up to four players. Too many games have abandoned local co-op, so I am always happy to see new games that still support it.
Blazing Beaks on Xbox is definitely worth picking up. It’s challenging, well put together, and just a fun way to kill some time. It’s helped by the fact that the risk and reward mechanics are extremely well-done, especially since the amount of risk is tailored to what the player decides.
You’ll be able to grab Blazing Beaks on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S from the Xbox Store on May 7th 2021