Many play video games that give them tough choices; Curse of Dead Gods gives the player no pleasant choices, only bad or worse choices. This game puts the player in the role of an adventurer delving deep into the ruins of an Aztec temple driven by greed and a curse put on by the god of death. It fills each room with terrifying monsters and glittering gold, but to enter each room, the hero must take on more and more darkness fueling the curse. The hero must also pay for upgraded weapons and stats with either gold or blood. More often than not, the player will have to choose to pay in blood. The game uses roguelike mechanics and a light/dark mechanic to make playing enjoyable every time.
While playing the early-access copy of Curse of Dead Gods, I also played West of Dead, which is another fantastic roguelike action game. It occurred to me how many similarities the two games share while remaining unique. Both games use a light/dark mechanic to challenge the player with fresh ways of playing, and both games take the best parts of the roguelike genre without falling into a boring grind.
Curse of Dead Gods is a game with a lot of violence toward inhuman monsters, and many dark spiritual overtones related to the curse and the temple. The game puts the player in the role of an adventurer fighting against undead creatures with a melee weapon and ranged weapon such as a machete and pistol. Alone the way the player can pick up new weapons like Aztec swords, spears, and bows. The violence that the player uses against the monsters is tame, and there is little to no blood or gore, despite the game mechanic of blood offerings to obtain items from the temple.
The blood offerings are also one part of the whole overtone of the game’s dark magic. Curse of Dead Gods starts with the hero being struck by a cursed hand when he enters the temple. Blood pervades the game and is the only way the hero can heal in lakes of blood. The temple is decorated with the skulls and bones of humans, and the implication is that these bones were victims of human sacrifice which is a part of Aztec culture. None of the displays in the temple are overly gruesome being likened to a Tomb Raider game. I would recommend this game to older teens and adults.
Curse of Dead Gods is a game about grim darkness with a hero whose goal is to lift his curse and collect as much gold as he can carry. The game starts out with the hero being trapped in an ancient temple and cursed by the god of death. The player must keep a close track of not only the hero’s health but the curses level of corruption. Every door that the hero opens increases the corruption as does the enemies in each level, and when the corruption level reaches 100% the hero’s curse takes on a new aspect. The curse could now cause all the gold the hero sees to disappear shortly after seeing it, the chests in the temple could attack the hero, or in the final phase the hero could lose health every second until he dies.
Death is not the end, though. The hero gets resurrected to this all over again. Curse of Dead Gods feels like it should be a hopeless grind but the game really makes the cycle entertaining. Each run can be unique since the temple generates a tree map that offers the player various rewards. When the player starts a path the other branch closes off. At the start of every run, the hero beginnings with a torch, a machete, and a pistol. The torch is the most important tool for the player since the only thing the player and hero can see is what’s in the circle of light given off by the torch. Unfortunately, the hero can’t hold the torch and fight with the machete or fire the gun. So, the delicate dance begins with the player having to shift from torch to weapon then back again to fight off the hordes of undead creatures that lurk in the temple.
The importance of light in Curse of Dead Gods can’t be emphasized enough, the player really needs to make sure there is light, because it not only helps with fighting, but it also helps the player find traps and hidden passages. The corruptions can cause the player only to see what’s in the torch light whereas before the player could see dim figures without the torch. Using light as a crucial mechanic in the game really makes the runs feel dangerous every time.
Controls for the hero feel good though using the triggers for dodging and blocking could be tweaked, because it requires a full trigger pull to activate. This is inconvenient when the player is trying to balance the torch and weapons. There doesn’t appear to be any modification of the sensitivity level in the game but that may come with the final release.
The isometric view of the gameplay never impedes. Levels are dank and disturbing which fits the mood of the game, but the play loop could use some more traps or something because it feels like all the player can do is avoid easy traps then fight monsters. Players might get something out of some trap puzzles which would fit with the temple raiding explorer. The newer serpent temple that was recently added has some impressive additions which include explosive gases that ignite when the hero gets too close with his torch.
Curse of Dead Gods is one of the few roguelike games that I could really recommend for many players. It doesn’t possess some significant features that West of Dead had, but the game still is worth playing. The developer has promised new game modes, weapons, levels, and curses in the coming months. The recent level added to the game really is a hopeful sign for the future of the game.