The roguelite genre is the champion of replayability, being built around tough, rewarding gameplay that’s going to kick you over and over again. That statement kind of makes it sound a bit masochistic but the intense feeling of satisfaction you get from making it just a little bit farther each time is gratifying. All that said, it’s important that the game is actually fun, and I’m happy to report that Scourgebringer is definitely fun.
Scourgebringer is out now on Xbox One and it’s a fast-paced 2D platformer set in a post-apocalyptic world. You take control of Kyhra – a girl with bright white hair who has been trained to climb the mysterious tower that is the source of humanity’s oppression, all in order to defeat the monsters that lay in wait there.
The combat is the defining feature of Scourgebringer. It is some of the most mobile and fast-paced action you’ll find. Not only can you jump and climb walls, but you can also make frequent high-speed dashes as well as quick melee attacks, and you can even take down enemies at long range with your gun. Enemies can be defeated rather quickly, and when you think you can take a break, more spawn out of nowhere.
The abundance of combat options can ensure Scourgebringer seems a bit overwhelming at first and it’s easy to fall into a trap where you just constantly mash buttons to fight. But you’ll quickly run into issues if that’s how you try to make it through the game, because at the end of each level you’ll encounter a Judge. Judges are the boss of each stage, with distinct attack patterns and moves that can’t be interrupted.
To access a Judge you have to defeat the guardian, or guardians, that will randomly spawn in each area. These guys will have their own designated room and they aren’t terribly difficult to beat, but you can expect them to get a few hits in, especially when you’re still learning the controls.
Another unique element of the combat system is the ability to use a smash attack that lets you hit bullets back at your enemies. This is one of the trickiest abilities to take advantage of because the time between using smashes is a lot longer than most other movements. Use it too early and you miss the attack and get hit; use it too late and you get the same result. It’s a high risk, high reward situation though, especially during the boss fights where a well-timed strike can do massive amounts of damage.
It took me a few attempts to actually beat the first Judge, with death being the much more common outcome. But failure comes with its own rewards. Dying sends you back to the Chiming Tree – a rest area that will serve as a base of operations for your repeated forays back into the tower. It also works as a skill tree where you can spend Judge Blood that you accumulate over your run.
Judge Blood is earned from defeating the Judges and guardians and with it comes different abilities, HP increases, and new mechanics; one of which is a combo meter that rewards speed and variety. The faster you defeat enemies and the more attack types you use, the more your combo meter rises, which in turn increases the drop rate of regular Blood that standard enemies drop. Blood is the in-game currency used to buy standard upgrades.
There really are a good variety of systems put into place and I have nothing to complain about when it comes to the mechanics. The controls are tight, movement is fluid, and the combat is just fun. There are only a couple of things I do wish Scourgebringer would improve on.
The first is the variety of bosses. Now I’m not saying there aren’t enough to get through, as there are more than enough to keep you busy. However, it would be nice if each floor had a rotation of Judges that would be swapped out so it was a little bit of a surprise each time. This isn’t a huge issue; it’s more a quality of life update that I think would go a long way in adding to the replayability. I think roguelites are a lot more fun when the bosses you encounter each time aren’t the same.
Second is the room layout design. The rooms themselves are designed well, there aren’t any issues that make playing unfair, but there also isn’t anything very special about most of them. Some rooms will have an obelisk that summons waves of enemies to fight through for item drops, some will have a pedestal that grants a special ability for the run, and there are interactable items that will provide more lore on the world. But the overall design of these rooms isn’t anything special: to my knowledge, there aren’t any secret rooms or trap-filled ones that require you to test your dexterity more. But I do like having those skill-based challenges present.
Again, this would be more of a value-added change than an actual fix. Scourgebringer is fun as it is and I really only want these things in the game because other roguelites I enjoy include them.
The last thing I wish for is a slightly higher quality of writing. The character dialogue is a bit clunky, and the same goes for the dialogue for some of the lore items, which puts a bit of a damper on wanting to learn about the world. It’s still a cool world and the design is unique, but the writing could be stronger. As you can tell this has no bearing on the actual gameplay, so most players will find it inconsequential, but it could be a stronger aspect of the game.
All-in-all, Scourgebringer on Xbox One is a challenging game that is easy to get sucked into. The mechanics are solid, the artstyle clean, and there is a ton of replayability because, frankly, you’ll need to play it a ton if you want to get to the last boss. If you’re a fan of games like Enter the Gungeon and you’re open to a shift in perspective, then make sure Scourgebringer is the next game you play.