Amid the chaos and disorder that is known as E3, there was a rather large section dedicated to smaller, indie games coming out for the PlayStation 4. Among these stations resided a rather unassuming game with a title that grabbed my attention: Brut@l. Normally, these types of spelling shenanigans cause some trepidation. Driv3r ruined it for everyone. Stormcloud Games, knows what’s up though, and have crafted a worthy game.
This next statement is not what makes the game stand out, but Brut@l is a rogue-like. Where it takes the inspiration from is what makes it special. The original Rogue used ASCII graphics to detail the world, with various arcane symbols showing the player items and enemies, with dashes making up the walls of the dungeon. Brut@l takes this concept and creates a 3D world based on the symbols. So, the player controlled hero is obviously a human, but his parts are covered in letters and symbols.
This goes for the environments, too. While the action takes place in a 3D isometric view, the walls and barrels take heavy influence from the low-fi games of yore. Dead ends are marked with dashes and barrels feature straight lines. Still, the artistic conceit isn’t an excuse to cheap out on the graphics. Instead, it’s used to create visually striking randomly generated dungeon to explore. Imagine a mix of Tron and old world fantasy, and the tone and look of the game comes into focus.
The entirety of the game isn’t just a clever visual aesthetic. This is a dungeon crawling action/RPG that is just, well, brutal. Attacking takes place in real time, utilizing combos to clobber foes, and double jumps to clear rivers of lava. When starting off with one of the three playable classes, the player is left with only their fists and a flimsy shield for protection. Exploring the various dungeon floors will yield some blueprints for weapons, as well as some armor if luck prevails. To actually craft the weapons, letters must be found. Once all the parts for the item are on hand, the crafting can commence. This is shown via the letters falling into place in an outline, causing the edges to form, sharp or blunt.
Every advantage will be needed as this game is true to the Rogue rules. Dying means the run is done. It is possible to donate large amounts of found money to the gods in hopes of receiving an extra life, but I was never successful. Frankly, the gods are greedy bastards. It’s a good thing, then, that each play through feels rewarding. On my first attempt, I took the mantle of the warrior. Using my superior punching power, I felt mighty as the foes fell like fall foliage before me. Then I fell into a pit. On my second attempt (screw you, people behind me), I used the quicker assassin. This chap felt completely different in play, and the environments were absolutely fresh. In fact, I managed to stumble into a large maze that surprised even the devs on hand. The game, apparently, had taken a life of its own and it hated me.
This year’s E3 was filled to the brim with big budget, flashy titles. Things that really impressed the audience and are surefire hits. Even surrounded by all of this, Brut@l is one of the few games that have dominated my mind since the show floor closed. I just want to dive back in and explore, just to die again and again. This is why I’m glad that the wait won’t be too long as the game will release for PlayStation 4 later this summer.