Friday, October 5, 2012

Brimstone Review for the Xbox 360

On Sept 10th, 2012 a game was released on the Xbox Live Indie Game market called Brimstone by Punchbag Entertainment. It is a procedurally generated multiplayer hack ‘n slash dungeon crawler and a patch has already been released for it entitled “Heroes’ Might” on Sept 30th. How does Brimestone compare to the saturated rogue-like dungeon crawler market? Read on for my detailed review of the game.

Taking one look at a screenshot of the game and one can get a feel for what this game entails. It is a rogue-like game in the same vein of Diablo, with randomly generate dungeons to be explored and similarly themed loot to be acquired as well as enemies to be slain. There are no character classes to be picked from, but players can customize their character by assigning stat points and equipment to define their chosen play style. You can pick from four different avatars to further customize your character.

The game supports the means to have three different types of characters, as well as a blend between these character types if one choose. First is the melee fighter, with strength being their primary attribute to help boost melee damage. The second is a ranged fighter using a ranged attack and equipment to enhance their dexterity, all of which was just released in the new Heroes’ Might patch. The third is a magic base intelligence character, which initially has access to a fire spell, but can eventually find means to cast a holy based healing spell or an ice based frost spell. The two additional magic types were another thing added in the recent patch.

This initial offering presents a five level dungeon with four levels of difficulty. You can take your time to explore each floor, gaining experience and loot to improve your character, or you can run through each floor just looking for the stairs to find and kill the game’s boss. I liken this to doing Mephisto runs in end game Diablo II. Just do the quick runs to get to the boss on the final floor and get all the gear you can fit into you inventory so you can do the same thing over again on the higher difficulties levels. Personally I liked the setup for this. It feels like it takes one aspect of a dungeon crawler and turns it into its own, short burst type game.

One complaint I have about this game is that you can’t sell the gear you don’t need any more or trade it to your lower level friends. The developers expressed that they didn’t want people getting bogged down by selling gear and wanted to prevent duping through player trades. I can understand the trade argument, but as far as selling goes we still have to go into our inventory and discard those items. A developer absolutely does not have to conform to standards of other games and should be willing to try new things, but the pack rat in me regrets having to throw those old items away. Perhaps a crafting system which lets you break down items and use them to create new ones could alleviate this? The store in the game doesn’t really sell anything of note anyway, aside from occasional rare gems, so money sort of losses its purpose.

The controls are simple and do not cause frustration. I found myself hitting the shoulder buttons a lot, which brings up your stats and inventory menus, but that is mostly due to my itchy trigger fingers from my many years of gaming. The select button brings up a mini-map, which is actually a huge map that encompasses the middle of the screen and is a bit obtrusive… I would think making this a bit smaller and having it take up a corner of the screen might make it a bit more manageable.

Another great feature of the game is that it has multiplayer for up to 8 people via Xbox Live. For those of you familiar with this type of game, I don’t think I need to explain how vital a feature like this is. It is always so much more satisfying playing something like this online with friends. Now you can play with up to 7 other friends or random people online. Before the patch people could block the entrances to other rooms and stairs, but this has since been fixed.

This is Punchbag Entertainment’s first game in the Indie Market, and I would say it’s a success. The procedurally generated levels and loot and additional difficulties give the game great replay value, and the short dungeon only enhance this, making runs through the game feel more fun than a chore. Make sure to check it out if you get the chance, because at 80 Microsoft Points (1$) you are getting a great deal.