ScourgeBringer has been creating quite the buzz in the gaming world with its fluid and tight controls, as well as its “Dead Cells meets Celeste” gameplay, but all of this buzz has been created from its Early Access gameplay. Is ScourgeBringer‘s final form going to satisfy the masses, or is this a game that will fall prey to the Switch’s flooded indie library, especially among the rogue-likes?
Well, the day is finally here, and I have had plenty of time to dive into the realms and see the true challenge of a rogue-platformer that may genuinely set the bar for games to come. Be prepared for judgment, ScourgeBringer!
ScourgeBringer starts you off with a mind-blowing tutorial. No, it’s not that the tutorial is anything special. It’s the standard in these days, but it is mind-blowing because it quickly takes you through the steps to success in the game while failing to mention that learning all of those things in the tutorial does not properly prepare you for the road ahead.
You see, ScourgeBringer is hard, but as a rogue-platformer, it is the perfect kind of hard. The last rogue-like game that got me this amped despite its difficulty was The Binding of Isaac, and I honestly feel like there are a lot more similarities between these two than meets the eyes.
First of all, ScourgeBringer‘s story only goes as far as you take it. The game does not require you to care about the lore, the reasoning, or the characters, but like in Isaac, all of these things are there for you to dive in and enjoy. The significance of blood, the meaning of Guardians and Judges within the world, and your character and purpose, it’s all there to discover and pine over during your experience. You can be just a pixelated badass, or you can be Kyhra, the deadliest warrior of her clan. In this game, the choice is yours.
Eurogamer described the game as “Dead Cells meets Celeste“, and you can definitely understand what they are saying almost immediately. The frantic bullet-hell nature of the game, where death lingers at seemingly every corner or every room, is combined with some of the best jumping and platforming I have ever played. It doesn’t help that Kyhra is able to double-jump and dash (And then some more jumping and dashing) while simultaneously attacking, deflecting, and stunning enemies, which helps make Eurogamer’s definition sound even more perfect.
However, ScourgeBringer is much more than that. Somehow the game is equal parts simple and incredibly complicated. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but somehow this is the reality. Each and every time I played the game, I would feel really good about certain approaches, and then be upset with myself that I did not use my gun as much or unleash my Fury (special move) when things got tight. That’s the weird thing. You can somehow do really well and really bad in the same round, and that is only the tip of it.
Kyhra has a light attack that is the standard melee and a heavy attack that serves to both potentially stun enemies and deflect bullets. She is also equipped with a gun that can be upgraded during the game (Upon death, you will be reset back to the hub with the starting gun), and she also has a dash attack that when combined with the standard melee, heavy attack, and the gun can be the difference between killing a boss and getting destroyed.
This is the key to success in ScourgeBringer, learning to use your arsenal well while also being quick and mobile. Some times it is more important to retreat to a corner of the room to avoid damage than it is to get that killing blow while taking a hit or two. Strategy is important, yes, but execution is equally important. Like Celeste, your death in ScourgeBringer will be yours to own and learn from.
The way the game works is rather simple, though. You start off in the hub, known simply as The Chiming Tree, and it is the place where you interact with a strange man named Garo (At least when he’s awake), check out the bestiary and expedition logs that would find while playing, and it is where you can upgrade certain skills permanently with points known as Judge Blood, which you earn for killing Guardians and Judges. There are some upgrades that are absolutely necessary from the get-go, so I suggest unlocking Ground Pound and Lethal Club as soon as you can. You’ll thank me later.
But what are these Guardians and Judges I keep referring to? Well, to put it simply, they are mini-bosses and bosses found in each world. You cannot even access the Judge of a world until the Guardian has been vanquished, so exploration of the map is a bit more forced because of this extra required step.
The maps to each world, as per the rogue-like genre, are completely randomized, so you never know exactly what the worlds will throw at you, what enemies you will be encountering, what mini-bosses you will need to kill, and what rewards can be earned. Thankfully, one relatively constant are the shops that you can purchase things with blood or health and Altars of Blood which grant a free upgrade (Blood Blessing) to be used until your next death.
Combat is so fluid and intuitive that it is even difficult to describe. This is one of the most dazzling rogue-likes out there due to the brilliant execution of both the platforming and the creative arsenal Kyhra is equipped with, and the way to tackle each room is completely up to you! Do you want to play it safe and pick off one enemy at a time? Go right ahead. Do you want to blaze through each room comboing each enemy in perfect succession? Be my guest! No matter the way, learning how to take out a room is tons of fun thanks to the freedom of which you can do it.
But mini-bosses and bosses are another story. There are numerous Guardians for each world, so you never quite know who you are going to get. These Guardians genuinely serve as a precursor to the Judge head, but you still need to play them wisely because these Guardians can kill you quickly if you don’t take them seriously. In total, there are 16 Guardians, and each of them are unique and loads of fun.
Judges, however, are always the same for each world, and they are big, bad, and dangerous. Whether it is Judge BodyBoulder or Judge Bileranha, learning their rhythms is key, and like I said before, remembering to use your whole arsenal is the difference between a successful run and a failure. The bosses are my second favorite part of this game, and it has so much to do with their excellent designs and big-time feel each time you see them. These are genuinely some of the best 2D bosses I have faced in many, many years.
But the most impressive thing about ScourgeBringer goes to the works of Joonas Turner, because the soundtrack in this game is magnificent. The first time I heard the crunchy heavy metal while clearing my first room, I knew I was going to love the game. Each world is brimming with life thanks to the fantastic score written, and it would be criminal to stop there. The sound effects are also top tier, and the wholeness of the game’s sound will blow your mind. From the transient tunes in the Wasteland to the peaceful sounds of The Chiming Tree to the robotic malfunctions of enemies as you tear through them, the sounds of ScourgeBringer will keep you coming back for more and more.
This is truly a masterpiece from start to finish, and it is made even better by the fact that its accessibility menu makes the game playable for so many more people. Like Celeste, ScourgeBringer allows you to adjust the game speed and the enemy bullet speed among other things to help novice players to step in at their own pace and work their way up. This is clearly something Flying Oak did not need to implement, but kudos for thinking about a much broader audience and allowing the masses to enjoy what I believe to be the best rogue-platformer out there.
This is one of those games that everyone needs to experience. It takes the best from so many other top indies, and it somehow marries them together to form something unique, something magical, and something truly brilliant. The thrill of defeating a Judge for the first time in ScourgeBringer is second to none, and I will be revisiting this world time and time again. This is the rogue-platformer I never knew I needed, and now I can play it at home or on the go thanks to the Nintendo Switch.
ScourgeBringer Review provided by NintendoLink
Review also available on OpenCritic
Publisher: Plug In Digital, Dear Villagers
Developer: Flying Oak
Release Date: October 21, 2020
Price: $16.99, £15.29, €16.99
Game Size: 375 MB
Fantastic combat and platforming
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.