Bring the Scourge
The world is in ruins and Khyra, the strongest of her clan, has been chosen to head into the giant construct that wrought the destruction. As humanity’s final hope you’ll dash, smash, and crash your way through the maze-like web of rooms which make up the innards of the Scourgebringer, attempting to reach the core and free your people.
Scourgebringer is all about fluidity. Almost as soon as you’re out of the tutorial, it is incredibly obvious that one of the things that will get you killed as you dash through the overgrowth-clad mechanical hallways is standing still. It’s not that it is impossible, just that it goes against everything that the game does so well, so why would you want to?
Straight from the outset, you’re equipped with every move that you’ll need to best the game. Almost every single action you can take plays into traversal: be that the mid-air dancing combo, the bolting dash or the heavy stun attack which jolts you to a halt in your tracks. You’ve also got an incredibly generous double-jump, the ability to infinitely wall-run, and a gun. Phew.
Just The Right Amount Of Furious, Actually
As you might imagine, this makes combat both fast and furious, and it also means that you rarely ever touch the floor. Your dashes can be initiated almost constantly, and in any direction, so you’ll rarely feel the crushing weight of gravity getting you down.
It’s that ability to clear the multitudes of two-wave rooms without touching the floor which has led to the elevator-pitch labelling of Scourgebringer as ‘Dead Cells meets Celeste’. But maybe that’s pigeonholing the game a little bit too much. The Dead Cells connection is also there, for certain, there’s a grungy feel to Scourgebringer, and enemy actions have fighting-game style tells, this means that when you do something just right, it feels great.
But there’s something else there too, something which the developers, Flying Oak Games, can’t hide: Their own experiences from creating NeuroVoider. I won’t dwell on NeuroVoider for long, but I do want to say that it was an illuminating co-operative roguelike all about you upgrading your robot body to match your playstyle. More notable than that was the bright colours in a moody, mechanical backdrop. Most notable, however, was the absolutely top-tier command of sound.
Onomatopoeia Means Boom
Scourgebringer has outstanding audio, and it pulls everything together in an amazing way. It’s not just the background music either – however that does chime with industrial-meets-mythical synth which gives a driving sense of action and adventure – it’s the sounds of combat that really make it special. Specifically, it’s the first noise of combat in every room, it booms, breaking the silence and kicking a heavy industrial soundtrack into action. It took me a while to realise that was what was happening because the impulse is to immediately smash into the first opponent that you can, but once I realised it was there, it gave me chills every time.
Don’t spend too long focussing on the music though; Scourgebringer is tough and it has an incredibly ‘easy come, easy go‘ nature – much more so than many of its action-roguelike peers. When you first start you only have a cap of eight health, and that can drain very quickly if you’re ever so slightly too aggressive. The dash attack that I mentioned earlier is both a curse and a blessing, it can cover extensive distances but you’re not invulnerable to attack while using it. If your confidence builds and you start charging opponents you’ll likely find yourself underequipped for the bullet-hell-style barrage of projectiles heading your way.
Keep scratching away at Scourgebringer, however, and keep chalking up those boss kills and you’ll be able to unlock some new character progression options from a literal skill tree. That’s handy because these unlock more starting health, different starting weapons, and other things which help tie your attack combos together for longer. These combos allow you to earn more money, something which is essential due to the sometimes obscene prices in the shops littered about the levels.
What is the current state of Scourgebringer as it enters Early Access? It’s more than playable, and fans of Metroidvania or pixel-perfect platformers (or, heck, both) will definitely enjoy what they find here. Personally, I think the music is great, and I’m definitely going to keep playing it as it journeys through toward its final release.
[Reviewed on PC]