Developer/Publisher: Uppercut Games || Overall: 8.5/10
Welcome to Brass City. Please, take our shit. We don’t need it anymore. WE’RE ALL DEAD! Actually, that poodle statue is mine — don’t touch it, you asshole!
City of Brass is a roguelike that puts you in the first person perspective of some dude who has found a long lost city, rumored to have riches beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. While slicing your way through cuddly and adorable undead skeletons, you’ll loot lots of what I guess is brass, and maybe some gold. There must be some sort of recycling plant nearby that will buy your brass for top dollar. Really, though, you don’t even want to keep the money you find. You want to give it to genies who will give you equipment and blessings — thus the roguelike experience comes alive.
As you trek through Brass City, humming a parody version of Tyga’s Rack City (“BRASS CITY BITCH BRASS BRASS BRASS CITY BITCH”), you’ll use your trusty whip and sword to smack and cut down enemies that come before you. The undead citizens of Brass City are protecting their chests full of riches, as well as statues of the phenomenally popular “man,” “horse,” “box,” and “ash tray.” As the theme of the game is based on the “Arabian Nights,” you’ll see a lot of decorative items you notice from your local hookah bars, such as abandoned hookahs, heat lamps, and large plastic pots. Other features from your local hookah bars that show up are trap doors, secret rooms, and large spike traps.
The maps are procedurally generated, so you’ll never see the same map more than once. The procedural generation is pretty good in this instance and keeps the game relatively fresh despite replaying the early levels over and over, as what typically happens in a roguelike. The whip is a very unique tool in this game, as it is used as a ranged weapon and grabs items from far away. The whip can be used to stun, blind, disarm, or drag your enemies over traps. There is also a mobility use, in which you can grab onto rings that are floating in the air, and move quickly across the room. The whip is so much fun that I actually would have rather just used the whip the whole time instead of other melee weapons, but there are some cool melee weapons that do a variety of things.
As you progress through the game, you’ll notice it is segmented into different sub-themes within the city. At first you’ll be in the Outskirts, make your way into the Marketplace, then you’ll be in the Garden, and so forth. As you make your way into the center of the city, presumably where the biggest payload of recyclable brass will be (good thing you brought your friend’s pickup truck), you’ll see different enemies, different fauna, and different traps. Every third level, there will be a boss character to defeat that will unlock the next level, adding a unique challenge to your progress. To prepare, you’ll want to collect as many buffs as you can manage to afford by collecting items and opening chests for currency. Once you eat the sand, you’ll start over again from scratch.
City of Brass is also pretty liberal in how it allows you to play the game. There are a number of modifiers, called Burdens & Blessings, that can make the game either more difficult or easier. There are specific things like, “more loot,” “more health,” “respawn enemies,” “more enemy health,” etc. There are 8 Burdens and 8 Blessings, and some are unlocked through particular tasks done in-game. There is also a daily challenge that has everyone playing on the same map and ranking on leaderboards. You only have one attempt at the Daily Challenge, however.
The graphics and sound are pretty high quality, as well. I wouldn’t say there’s anything that is particularly pretty, as you’ll see a lot of the same assets used over and over. There’s probably an overuse of falling streams of sand coming off roofs, like there’s an infinite amount of sand on top of these buildings. The art style definitely gives you the “Arabian Nights” feeling, down to the skeletons wearing fezzes and other obviously Middle Eastern clothing. Some skeletons just run around naked and yell, which I guess is also a Middle Eastern thing? The only downfall of the procedural generation in regards to how the art works, is that most of the rooms don’t feel like things that would have been designed for a practical use, so they retain a “fake” game design feel to them. There probably isn’t a use for several warehouse-sized rooms in the middle of the city that are full of nothing but bookshelves. This hardly takes anything away from the game proper, but sort of downgrades the idea that you are visiting an actual city.
City of Brass is pretty enjoyable if you get really into the weeds of learning every aspect of the gear you find. While its not a particularly complex game on its surface, there is a lot of challenge to be had and having the inclination to learn the most efficient way of progressing through levels is a reward in itself. Allowing for an experience that is custom to the player allows for a lot less frustration if you just want to have a nice time smacking skellies in the head, or if you find yourself wanting a bit more of a challenge, letting the skellies bonk you on the head instead. Look for City of Brass on Steam, or perhaps your local Hookah bar.