Brut@l is an interesting modernization of the roguelike genre that fully embraces its ASCII roots. Florescent visuals and the endless black sky will bring you back to a time when dungeon crawler games were once built using only text and statistics. Everything within its procedurally generated dungeons are built entirely of alphabetical lettering, including its many hidden secrets and dangers that lurk in every room. I didn’t grow up when these kinds of games were common, but it was easy to understand the appeal of Brut@l’s stylized inspiration and how well it worked together with its simple, yet mildly flawed gameplay.
You have a choice between four different classes of heroes to explore the dungeons with. When I wanted to be a physical powerhouse against enemies, I chose the Warrior or Amazon. If I felt like keeping the action far away from me, then I played with the Mage or Ranger to fit my style. Though each class differs at the start, you can unlock all kinds of abilities by earning experience points from defeating enemies and destroying objects. Every hero eventually becomes somewhat identical with their skills available, but you need to earn a lot of experience to reach that point.
Controlling your character is simple, but has a few small problems. Jumping around is very stiff and can sometimes lead you to fall off a platform unintentionally. Sometimes I needed to jump over a small crevice in-between rooms and I’d often miss my landing and fall into the abyss, frustratingly causing me to restart the entire game.
This is paired with fights against enemies that can lead to a quick death if you aren’t careful. Enemies attack quickly and can’t be staggered when doing so, which can lead to a huge loss of your health bar despite landing a barrage attacks and spells. Fighting against a group of baddies is a sure way to get killed, that is unless you wildly jump around and poke at enemies for small bits of damage.
Brut@l mixes things up with a total of 26 procedurally generated dungeons that differ each time you start a new game. The final floor has a powerful enemy you must defeat to complete the game, but everything you find on the way there won’t be the same on each successive playthrough. My first game had a mixture of small enemies that spawned within the first few floors. However, my second playthrough wasn’t so kind and included a mix of moderately powerful and clever enemies that viciously attacked me. I was always guessing what I would run into next each time I restarted.
Getting to the final 26th floor is a bit more challenging than it sounds. Most of the deaths I experienced didn’t come from fighting monsters in a room, but instead from weirdly placed traps or by falling off the map. You can offer a portion of the loot you find to any altar you discover and receive an extra life, but this doesn’t always help out.
At one point, I offered all of my loot gathered from three previous floors in hopes of gaining an extra life, but I was left with nothing because all of my loot apparently offended the gods. The result is always random, but the risk seems too great even when I’m willing to give up so much.
Exploring the dungeons can drag on a bit too long, especially when the later floors get progressively larger and have more obstacles. You can play with a friend locally in co-op, which adds a new layer to the experience, but you must share all of your items while enduring the same issues found in single player. There is no online modes, but you have leaderboards that track various game stats you can compare to your friends and others around the world. You can also design your own dungeons with the Dungeon Creator and upload them to the internet for others to experience.
The Dungeon Creator editor is fairly simple and has every object, monster, and item available to use when creating your own dungeon. However, the editor isn’t too ambitious to allow multi-leveled scenarios or different dungeons connected to one another. To complete your creation, you need to play through and finish it yourself before you can upload it online, which is a nice touch to make any custom creations fair for everyone who downloads them.
Brut@l isn’t perfect, but it offers an interesting experience with a unique visual style rooted in gaming’s past. The procedurally generated dungeons constantly provide a fresh mix of challenge and exploration each time you boot up the game on your console. Dungeon Creator has the potential to build up a great community of user generated levels and provide endless amounts of content. With the right updates and adjustments, Brut@l can become something special for anyone looking for something different to add to their palette.
This review was based on a digital review code for Brut@l on the PlayStation 4, provided by Stormcloud Games.