One of the first things I did in Brut@l was poison myself with a potion that I had no way of knowing the effect of. Had hoped it would be a nice health potion, but no. I killed myself. My brave warrior died because I was an idiot. And I was so damn happy to start over, you have no idea.
Brut@l is a 3D dungeon crawler with a mostly monochrome color scheme and it is very much a joy to see in action. Even if all you do for the first two hours is find ways to kill yourself by punching everything in existence. But hey, starting over and over is a great way to figure out what skills you want to spend points on?
Okay no, I’m just bizarre and like to kill myself a few times while figuring out a game. That said, the game over screens insult you in some very amusing ways. My favorite? “You have died of death.”
When I finally decided that enough was enough and I was actually going to play this game, I found something very very wonderful. You get out of Brut@l exactly what you put into it. If you don’t pay attention, it will happily wipe the floor with you. Its so nice when that happens, isn’t it?
You can choose one of four characters to play: Amazon, Mage, Ranger, or Warrior. Naturally, I went with the warrior and proceeded to spend a decent amount of time looking for a weapon so all I had was my shield and my bare fists. Yes, I was ascii Captain America. Just with a cooler hat.
See? Way cooler.
While there isn’t much story to Brut@l, its a damn entertaining way to spend an evening or two. It’s not the most sophisticated game, but that’s the fun of it. My main complaint is that the tutorial is all static images reading you a controls list and not something you can play through.
These days playable tutorials are incredibly common, so not having one is a bit of a throwback. And while I’m perfectly capable of remembering 10 different ways to control my character, I find it always helps to test these things out first. Which then led to me punching things until that killed me. And you can punch through just about everything in each dungeon level, granted some of those things will kill you. So fair warning.
The rats, because this would not be a proper dungeon crawler without them, actually run up and around your character biting you until you can throw them off. And watching minimalist ascii rats run across your minimalist ascii character is decently difficult.
When you do come across zombies, you can’t just punch them to death, which I find disappointing. No, you’ve got to set them on fire. So do figure out how to light a torch, you’re going to need it.
You can trawl the dungeons alone or with a friend and even design your own dungeon. The dungeon creation is relatively intuitive which is nice. The crafting system is incredibly basic, all you need are the components, a codex blueprint and you can craft the item. No crafting skill you have to level up, no crafting fails. Enchanting is similar, as is potion brewing, and talisman creation.
After you survive 26 dungeon levels, you’ve got a Dungeon Guardian boss to face off against. The boss battle is rather simple, no involved boss mechanics, and the item menu can break up the fight in some odd ways, but its nothing to really complain about.
It’s not the most difficult game, but the learning curve can be steep and it can be rather unforgiving. So I’ll agree that Brut@l does live up to its name, mostly.
Brut@l does a good job of trying to live up to its name and its an enjoyable throwback to the old ascii dungeon crawlers of yesteryear. The tutorial is clumsy and the gameplay is not seamless, but its a solid choice if you’ve got an evening free and just want to murder your way through a dungeon.
Brut@l is out now on the Playstation Store and Steam for PC from Stormcloud Games and Rising Star Games. It will be out in physical retail stores sometime this month in the US.
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