Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Having really hit a boom in the last few years, both the roguelike and roguelite styles have almost become so popular that most titles nowadays try to include some element of the genre in their productions. Actual roguelikes however are still few and far between so coming across Curse of the Dead Gods was definitely a treat. Cursed temple, unlocking upgrades, actually having to worry about fighting in the light versus the dark. It was a challenge worth challenging.
Starting off with perhaps the biggest point, Curse of the Dead Gods runs a risk of quickly overstaying its welcome. Fans of roguelikes are obviously already thinking to themselves, it’s a roguelike. It’s supposed to be repetitive. Do it over and over until you get it right. That’s the point and they would be right. Where things run a risk of repetitiveness though is in the presentation as win or lose, you’ll wind back up at the same spot. The only difference is with how much?
Designed in a manner similar to Mega Crit Games’ Slay the Spire, you’ll be going through a randomized path of random rooms before facing off against a boss. Each one of these rooms contains a possibility of death and that includes the rooms designed to heal you as for every door you step through, you’ll add a bit more to the curse that plagues you. Max out the curse meter, and that’s just as much game over as losing all of your hit points which adds a layer of complexity to an already harsh path.
Before that though, you’ll be starting off in a central room that acts as our protagonist’s hub. Pretty bare in the beginning, this hub will give you access to the various trees containing unlockable skills and items to help you out on your subsequent runs. Like any good Roguelike though, there are perks that sound amazing in the beginning but don’t really stack up as time goes on and then there are perks that are actually just useless to a player depending on their playstyle. Perks’ usefulness is subjective, but that’s part of the fun. Figuring out what works for you and there are plenty of choices which I really appreciated.
Once you’re ready to head out, it’s as simple as heading through the giant door and choosing the first of your paths forward. What I enjoyed about this is that Curse of the Old Gods isn’t all about making your way through boss after boss after boss after boss in order to make it through. Instead, you have three base paths to brutally teach you the ropes before really throwing you into the meat grinder which blends these paths together one after another instead of just one path, boss, and heading back to the hub.
Not immediately noticeable at first is that you’ll actually have just about everything that you’ll ever need from the very beginning. Torches to light up the dark, default weapons for attacking enemies, secondary weapons for a bit more of an oomph and a bit more range followed by two handers for maximum devastation. Each of these attacks is fairly easy to chain combos but you’ll also want to “git gud” when it comes to both dodging and parrying an enemy’s blows especially when it comes to how much light is in the room.
Here is where the first of the two major features of Curse of the Dead Gods shines. Light and dark while normally added for ambiance is actually quite crucial to survival as you’ll take substantially less damage while in the light which is where your torch comes in. The flipside of this though is that while your torch is out you won’t have your melee weapons so if you want to attack you’ll have to delve into the dark where you’ll take more damage which is where the “gitting gud” comes into play. Some environments are a bit helpful allowing you to light up the dark by swinging your torch at braziers however these can also be destroyed plunging you right back into the dark just as fast as you’ve lit it up.
The combination of the light and dark with the combat meshes really well to add in a stress to an already stressful endeavor as death is always around every corner when diving through a roguelike where the other “other” stress comes into play. The titular curse of these dead gods. For every door that you go through, the curse by default will increase by twenty of a container’s max of one-hundred. Don’t worry though as you have a few containers to fill up but don’t get complacent as they fill up fast. Go through five doors and the curse will add a layer of difficulty such as no longer being able to heal by normal methods, losing gold per hit, but also some neat ones like enemies will now explode on death. Scary when in melee, but get their friends in the mix and your work is done.
Going through doors is not the only way to increase your curse. Getting hit will increase it just as easily as drinking from a healing fountain. Yup, even healing up has a cost associated with it. Nothing is free, and that includes most of your upgrades. Between the various rooms are options for upgrades through the form of better weapons, upgrading your weapons, passive abilities, and they can all be yours for the low price of… heh, there’s no low price. Getting these upgrades are either paid in cold hard cash or in adding to your already and ever increasing curse meter.
So it’s with these aspects that you’ll really want to do a few of the base runs that only contain one boss to get a feel for things before going into the multi-boss pathways or even some of the special weekly dungeons that can appear. Curse of the Dead Gods in vintage black and white without a health bar was nuts. Less nuts than having to pull off a run in which you start with a I believe it was thirty or sixty second timer that would only increase as you defeated enemies. Easy at first, but a hell of a lot harder as the stages keep ramping up in difficulty.
As an entire package, and I gushed as much to Nick on my first night with Curse of the Dead Gods, it’s fantastic. My only worry is that because of the room layouts, after a while you’ll have “done it all” short of the special weekly challenges that can only be done once a week, win or lose. The gameplay is solid, the ideas behind the gameplay are clever especially when mixing the light and dark elements alongside the curse that is not always the most negative of effects. Finally to top it all off, it ran beautifully off of the PS5 which is what I reviewed it on.
So overall, even if the roguelike or roguelite genres are normally not your cup of tea, if you’re up for a good challenge and love the action adventure styles of adventuring, I would wholeheartedly recommend Curse of the Dead Gods. Fans of roguelikes and roguelites? If you haven’t already, what are you waiting for!?Score: 8 / 10