First Impressions Brut@l

Brut@l is what you get when you combine an old school ASCII dungeon crawler with Gauntlet.  Developed by Stormcloud Games and published by Rising Star games.  The premise here is simple, there are twenty-six levels to the dungeon, get to the bottom; what the game lacks in story depth it makes up for in its execution.  You start by picking one of four classes each of which looks different and starts with different abilities.  From there you dive in the portal and begin your dungeon crawl.

There is no story to speak of here, you fight and loot.  An excellent call back to the days of old with dungeon crawlers.  This makes the game easy to pick up and put down, the quickness of the runs also makes it a game that can be played is short sessions between other tasks.  Brut@l also supports local and online co-op making it possible to do runs with friends, the appearance of couch co-op is also a nice feature as some prefer to play from their couch and not their desk.

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There are four classes to choose from: Ranger, Mage, Warrior and Valkyrie.  Each starts with their own stats, sub weapon and start with different skills on the skill tree.  As you progress you will gain experience from destruction and combat, at each level up you gain one attribute point to spend, there are four skill lines:  a utility line, a warrior line, a ranger line and a mage line.  Outside of the utility line, each one lends itself to a specific playstyle, though any class can spec into any line.

The combat has you bashing, blocking and dodging skeletons, zombies, rats and others as you try to get to clear all twenty-six levels and beat the dungeon.  Some enemies drop keys, loot or potion ingredients.  Each time a new enemy is encountered their information is added to a field journal, but the field journal is incomplete.  Pages need to found to complete each entry.  Field journal entries do persist through playthroughs so some progression does carry over.

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Map screen when fully zoomed out.

 

There are few ways to recover health in this game, food, vitality potions and trees.  Food which can be looted ranges from pizza to haunches of meat.  Food replenishes health and also fills the hunger bar when the hunger bar is empty mana and special move charges refill at slower rates.  Vitality potions will replenish fifty health per potion and when attacking trees with golden fruit you gain forty health, this can be done three times.

Exploration requires finding keys and dodging hazards.  There are two types of keys, basic and ornate which open their corresponding doors.  Hazards range from spike traps to exploding barrels that cause area of effect damage.  Some are harder to spot than others so a keen eye is required.

 

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Ornate key, one of the two types of keys needed to open doors.

As the player progresses they will find loot or items in chests, crates or urns.   Chests are color coded which means they require a specific type of damage to open.  For example, a white chest requires normal damage, but a red chest would require fire damage.  In the chests they will find bottles to brew potions, alchemy ingredients, crafting recipes or letters.

The crafting system in this game was the biggest surprise, during runs, there will be letters which can be looted, some of which are different colors.  In order to craft weapons, the player needs three things the recipe book, the crafting skill from the utility line and the correct letters.  Unlike other games, the colors don’t denote rarity but rather an elemental attribute, after crafting a weapon it can be enchanted to add elemental damage.  Talismans can also be crafted which add special traits to the character.

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Potion crafting screen, potion effects are randomized between runs.

Potions can also be crafted, with there being eight different potions that can be created.  Each requiring a bottle and the two ingredients necessary to be crafted.  There are one of eight possible things that potions can do and at the start of each run, the effects of the potions are randomized.  There are three ways to figure out what each potion does, drink it, throw it at an enemy or obtain the Arcane Knowledge perk.

There are also altars randomly placed on every level.  Altars are shrines to the gods when approaching an altar you may offer loot as a tribute.  If enough loot is offered the gods will be pleased and will grant the character an extra life which allows them to continue upon death instead of starting over.

There is also a level editor which allows the creation of custom dungeons.  Each room in a dungeon is limited in the number of items, tiles, and traps that can be placed.  There is also a limit on the number of rooms that can be added per dungeon.  All dungeons require a starting location and an end point in order to be considered valid dungeons.  Dungeons also need to be validated before being published to the Steam Workshop, in order to validate a dungeon the creator must be able to successfully complete said dungeon.

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