By Gabriel Jones 14.02.2017
In the darkest depths lies the Guardian's crown. It is believed that this adornment grants every wish, whether it's ultimate power or increased sexual potency. In Brut@l, the heroes of the age must prove themselves worthy of the crown by conquering a procedurally-generated dungeon. Twenty-six floors of danger await those who dare to enter. If they fail, it's of little consequence. After all, what's one more body to the pile?
Some games wear their inspiration on their sleeve; this one wears it all over. The art style is a rather unique call-back to the influential classic Rogue. The graphics are in 3D, but the dungeon, along with its inhabitants, is constructed almost entirely in ASCII. It's a very neat look. The stark contrasts and colours help give the game an almost TRON-inspired aesthetic. The music is pretty solid as well.
Essentially, the goal is to reach the bottom of the dungeon. Getting to that point will depend on multiple factors. The player-character must take great care in not just avoiding traps, but also defeating monsters in real-time combat. They have to be thorough in their exploration, making sure that they haven't missed any treasure or secret rooms. Experimenting with potions is a necessity as well, for their effects can help and hinder. Proper shield usage can go a long way. Aside from deflecting attacks with a well-timed block, the shield can be thrown, much like an identity disc. Yep, the TRON references aren't limited to the visuals.
Brut@l features a pretty interesting method for obtaining gear. Weapons must be forged, which involves an intriguing process. Every letter of the alphabet can be collected, and they serve as the materials for crafting a sword, hammer, spear, or bow. Coloured letters allow these same weapons to be enchanted. This is useful not only for destroying foes more efficiently, but also to knock down doors locked by the power of the elements. Oddly enough, armour is less important, although it never hurts to have. This is mainly because the pieces tend to fall apart after so many hits. Besides, as long as the protagonist is somewhat adept at dodging or blocking attacks, they'll be relatively okay.
Despite the perma-death factor, this game isn't really all that difficult. This is due to all of the different ways to increase survivability. The most obvious is that it's possible to stock up on extra lives. Collected gold can be offered to the Gods via altars located on each floor. If they're pleased by the offering, they'll grant an extra life. If not? They'll simply destroy the altar and the money is wasted. All told, it's not a huge deal, because it's not like the hero is going to be burning through their spare lives on every floor.
Furthermore, there are a couple other tricks to take advantage of. One is that there are weapon-specific special moves. These techniques require meter, but that refills easily. They're also invincible, do good damage, and knock enemies down. Needless to say, spamming these attacks almost feels like cheating. There's also a potion that causes a vampire's curse. Basically, what happens is that the all damage the enemies do to the hero is converted to health. There's also a vice versa effect, so don't go swinging a weapon around. It's easy to stock up on these potions and get a full healing, especially later in the game when there's lava everywhere. Yep, the potion works with the environment as well.
The controls are mostly fine; they get the job done. However, there are times where they feel a little too loose. The player should be especially wary when jumping over gaps, because the jumping onto small platforms isn't quite as precise as it should be. Falling into a pit is a guaranteed death. Still, it shouldn't be a big deal, provided there's a large stock of lives to spare.
One of the more unique features is the create-a-dungeon mode. Gamers from all over can design their ideal dungeon, fill it with all of the necessary monsters and traps, and then submit the completed map on the Steam workshop. There's also local co-op play, which is always nice. There are online leaderboards as well. Oddly enough, they just track players that have spent the most time playing the game, gathering loot, and defeating monsters. A leaderboard that tracks the fastest time to complete the game would be more ideal.
Though not without faults and a little too easy, Brut@l is still a fairly amusing game. It's fun exploring the dungeon while crushing its many denizens. The gear system is clever and works quite well. Anyone seeking a greater challenge should probably refrain from exploiting the special attacks and vampire curse potions. This rogue-like arguably won't go down as the classic that it's inspired by, but it isn't a bad way to pass the time.