City of Brass, the upcoming release from Uppercut Games, is what would happen if you put an Arabian Nights story inside a Bioshock game. Based on one of the tales that Scheherazade tells to stall her own death, the story speaks of a cursed city filled with djinn, statues that come to life, and the corpses of everyone who once lived there, all destroyed because of their greed. You as the player are also cursed, and forced to live your life again and again until you can break the curse on this once proud city.
When I met with Andrew James, Uppercut Games co-founder at PAX, and I mentioned the Bioshock feel, he admitted it openly, and said that it was a great inspiration in making this game. He then had me jump into a play test where I got to see all the ways that this builds on that inspiration, and makes a game that might share a ruined city feel, but expands on that formula quite a bit.
My character, armed with a scimitar and whip, felt sturdy and measured. This is not a speed hacking game, where mashing the triggers will chain together a massive combo, but instead a much more tactical fight. Your sword swings slowly, and feels great when it connects with an enemy. I used my left trigger whip as a form of crowd control – knocking skeletons back to give me more time to set up a devastating counter attack. I also used it to grab onto enemies, and drag them closer, or directly into the path of the many traps the City has along its streets.
One word about traps – they killed me, a lot. It makes sense that the environment in a cursed city would have quite a bit of danger built into it, and the devs have done a great job of making you constantly scan your surroundings. You’ll be keeping your eyes on incoming enemies, spike traps, sand funnels, and if your time runs down – some little bastard dervishes that will wreck you in no time flat. Also, the whip can be Indiana Jonesed to climb up to high places, and pull items towards you, so in many cases the trap avoidance actively makes you see the City from a new view. It’s a great tactic to build that sense of dread.
Another amazing factor in this build is that it has some roguelite elements built-in, as the city keeps shifting as you die and are reborn to try again. This keeps the sense of discovery high, as you can’t rely on your memory to churn through an early level and get to the point of your last collapse.
I was impressed with the polish, the excellent graphics, and the fun I had scimitaring and whipping my way through this cursed city. The enemies look menacing, the setting is unsettling, and the slow sword swings and whip as defensive tool made this a fun 20 minute deep dive. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a full build for a review in the near future.
City of Brass is currently available on Steam Early Access, and releases for Xbox One, PS4, and PC on May 4th. Bring your whip.