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PAX Prime 2015 – A Fully Procedural Dark Souls

William Murphy Posted:
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The title of this article might seem like it’s doing Harebrained’s Necropolis a disservice by comparing it to FROM’s vaunted series, but it’s probably the most apt way to describe the game. The combination of skill-based combat and ever-changing Necropolis layouts make the studios Action RPG something truly special and unique.

The visual style is a very stylized and angular cel-shaded look.  It could almost fool you into thinking the game was a casual affair if it weren’t for the fact that the dominant colors are black and grey.  The Necropolis is an ever-changing city of death, and the enemies that lurk below are all hungering for the Necropolis’ many gems and treasures. Your goal is to escape and find the surface, or die trying. Chances are, you’re going to die a lot before you ever find the exit.

Necropolis’ Pax Prime Trailer

What makes Necropolis different than Dark Souls is that its immense dungeon constantly shifts and changes each time you die.  Back in PAX East, the demo we played was static. Since then, Harebrained has managed to get the procedural stuff working, and both Rob and I played through (or tried to play through) the demo. Neither of us made it to the first major boss, but I did manage to piss off the dungeon’s wise-cracking sentient pyramid.

He’s sort of like Navi, but instead of helping, he follows you around and tells you how he expected you to die a lot sooner. When I say I pissed him off, it’s because at one point I must have been doing so well he transported me to his own private arena. Here you face off against 3 waves of enemies which increase in difficulty. If you beat all three, he’ll let you back into the dungeon to keep going.

I did not beat all three. I ran out of food to heal with and was overwhelmed by wave three. The thing with food is that it can spoil, and if you eat it, it can heal you but also make you puke. Puking, when in combat, is not a good thing as you might imagine.  Enemies don’t just wait around to let you wretch. They attack, mercilessly.

Luckily, as you kill mobs (who also are procedurally generated), what they carry you get to keep. Find a baddie with a big shiny weapon and you want to kill him because that weapon will then be yours. There’s limited inventory management in Necropolis. You can basically carry two sets of weapons, and you’ll often find upgrades or side-grades throughout the adventure. There’s even crafting, though we didn’t get to experience it in the demo.

There’s a whole mythos and story to uncover in the Necropolis, and Harebrained says that the game might not be over even if you manage to escape. Take that hint at face value though, because you might never make it out alive. It’s definitely going to take a lot of trying and retrying before you do manage to get out, that’s for sure. The odd thing is, while I find these kind of games (Dark Souls, Bloodborne, etc.) sometimes frustrating, Necropolis’ procedural dungeon and overall kinder aesthetic alleviate the stress level. You’re not repeating the exact same dungeon over and over if you can’t beat it. When you die, you get a new layout. That’s novel, and less infuriating by a mile.

Necropolis is headed to Steam and consoles (though we don’t know which), but there’s no release date yet. If you want to learn more, head over to Necropolisgame.com.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.