Crypt of the Necrodancer Hands-on Preview
When I first booted up Crypt of the Necrodancer I had no idea what to expect. All the things I had seen about it, the trailers and screenshots all made no sense to me and I could not fathom how rhythm in an RPG game could work. But then I played it.
You play as Cadence who has regrettably had her heart taken from her, and now has to move to the beat through 4 zones across 12 levels (excluding bosses) in order to get to the Necrodancer and defeat him for good and win her heart back. Along the journey Cadence will fight against dozens of monsters all of varying strengths and sizes who will stop at nothing to halt her progress indefinitely.
Crypt of the Necrodancer is a 2D roguelike currently in early stages of its alpha, though it is at the moment a very playable game with a lot of content within it. Content that no matter how much I try, I just cannot see all of. Many of the previews for the game that are scattered about the world wide web have screenshots of the game in action, though like mine, many are all of the same locations. My theory is that like me, they have struggled to progress due to just how damn difficult the game can be. I like referring to it as playing a song on expert in Guitar Hero, at the very least the hard setting. If you miss a note then you are damn well screwed and will suffer for the insubordinate move you made. The idea is that you can only move when the beat hits the heart (shown at the bottom of the screen), and so spamming the arrow keys will only result in a loss of coin multipliers and ultimately your death.
It is a very interesting and highly inventive system that I praise for being handled so well. Despite me failing to progress past Zone 2 of 4, I definitely managed to get a feel for what the game had to offer. Though there are still prisoners I have yet to unlock, I will still definitely try to gain access to them even if it kills me. My time with Crypt of the Necrodancer was an extremely addicting experience and a very rewarding one at that. Since every dungeon was procedurally generated I never really tired of an area since there was always new secrets to discover.
The game has all of its levels, shops, and more inside of a lobby (shown above) that grows as the player unlocks more and more content within the game. It works pretty well and navigating the area is an easy task considering how everything is so clearly labeled. Many doors are likely locked up down to the actual content not being available yet, and not just me sucking at the game. There appears to be a lot to do in Crypt of the Necrodancer and it can only improve as the game advances in development.
The game has two types of currencies that play major roles in the progression. You first have the coins which you collect by killing enemies, which can then be used to buy things from the merchant hidden within each zone. There are also gems which are found scattered about the zones. Gems are of course a rarity and so finding them does often warrant a quick cheer and a big smile. There is a catch however to their discovery. You collect gems and then the gems can be spent back at the lobby once you return after failing an area, but this is the only time and place they can be spent. What this means is that if you have only two gems, but wish to purchase something for three, then the gems you have will become useless unless there is something available for two. This is particularly troubling later on in the game when you have bought everything worth three gems or less, and so finding gems becomes harder and harder. The items you can buy however counter this problem since they can often be a great help to the success of getting through the level.
The items you buy with gems from the lobby are permanent in that they unlock forever, however you are not granted immediate access to them. The gold coins you earn from defeating monsters and bosses are the currency required to purchase the items, but these coins cannot be hoarded beyond death and so unlike gems, you lose them all when you die. It is a painful yet fair system that only punishes those who get greedy (like myself). If you spend the coins you have, then it is much more likely death will stay away just a little bit longer.
One of the best features about Crypt of the Necrodancer is unsurprisingly its music system. The music played is done by renowned indie artist Danny Baranowsky, who did the soundtracks for a few small games you might have heard of called Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Issac, and Canabalt among other indie gems. Though this music is fantastic, should you tire of it the option to use your own MP3’s is available and I am pleased to report it works like a charm. Do not be surprised however if you start to hate your favorite song due to it being repeated constantly in each zone. I tried a mix of different tracks and each one unquestionably changed the gameplay dramatically. If you put a slow song on you can expect to face a much more uncomplicated session than if you put on some thrash metal or insane dub-step.
Crypt of the Necrodancer may be in an early state, but it still has a long way to go with lots to unlock leading up to its full release. Keep a close eye on this one, it is rare we get to experience an already popular genre with such a unique twist. There is a reason the reviews on Steam state Crypt of the Necrodancer as overwhelmingly positive.
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