Saturday, June 1, 2019

City of Brass, and Why Simplicity Matters

I was actually loading up the Epic launcher to play Dauntless again when I happened upon an ad for City of Brass. Like most people, nothing is more attractive to me than the word 'free', so I downloaded it to see what it entailed.  That was three days ago, and after a few hours of play, I firmly feel we need more games like it.

The way I've sold it to my colleagues is as a 'Roguelike treasure hunting simulator'. You traverse a city with a gorgeous Arabian Nights aesthetic, fighting skeletons and collecting treasure. While the feeling of looting treasure from the undead denizens is already satisfying, you can spend some of your hard earned treasure on items and buffs from genies around the city. As someone who loves games like Uncharted and Tomb Raider, I was smiling throughout.

The combat was what truly sold me on the game. You have two primary weapons when you enter the city in the beginning- a sword and whip. The sword is what you will typically use to deal damage, but the whip is the real star of the show. Strike a skeleton in the head, and it will be stunned; whip their legs, and they will trip. You can also yank enemies into the traps placed around the city, or whip explosive braziers from a distance. You can even use it to pick up treasure or swing from various grapple points. The combination offered fun and varied ways to find success in the procedurally generated city.

The simplicity of the premise- find treasure, slay monsters- is beautifully refreshing, and a solid argument for why every game does not need to be a 100 hour, open world time sink. Open world games have been the standard for most triple-A games the past few years. In addition to the main storyline, it is a given that there will be dozens of side quests, and hidden collectables. What was an innovation a decade ago has become stale; side quests become repetitive and collectables become annoying 'things to do' on a sprawling list. It's tiring, especially when you have only so many hours in a day.

The simplicity of City of Brass- from the combat to the goals- is something that we should see more of to shake up the open world rut the industry has been stuck in. You can get your treasure hunting fix from City of Brass during the weekend, before or after work, or show it off to one of your friends for a few minutes,  maybe even let them have a go and see how far they can get. I've barely scratched the surface of the game as a whole, but in it's current state(especially for the price of zero dollars at the time of this article), I can't recommend City of Brass enough, especially if it would means more games that focus on simplicity above gluttony.

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