A fun adventure game that also tested my patience. Songbringer is a procedurally-generated action RPG with a simple, yet effective art style. The game features a large world to explore, unique items, diverse combat, and some technical flaws.
The sense of adventure. The exploration in this game really helped to better the experience. When starting up a new save, the game asks the player to select the difficulty and to provide a world seed (it is procedurally generated, after all). I went with “CUB” as my world seed and with it, I got a unique map layout to explore. The map is grid-based, each area representing a square on the map. It was fun exploring the different areas, encountering new enemies, or finding new secrets.
Unique items and crafting. There are several items to find throughout the game, some of which can be combined to gain new uses via the ship (which the player can teleport to after finding the teleporter). For example, I combined the boomerang robot (which just sends out a robot in the direction the player is facing, dealing damage to enemies in the path and picking up items along the way) with ice, resulting in a boomerang robot that now froze enemies upon impact. It also allowed me to cross ponds/rivers by freezing them over. The addition of this simple crafting system adds several interesting mechanics to the game. In fact, the way I tackled combat changed completely when I added the lightning upgrade to my sword, allowing me to throw lighting from a distance.
Diverse combat. There may only be one sword in the game, but that doesn’t make the combat any less interesting. There are a number of ways to dispatch of enemies. The boomerang robot being one, and possibly the safest option (it lacks in damage, but makes up for that in range). One could also make use of bombs or even a lighter to take out enemies. There are other items found later that make the combat even more interesting (and difficult!). The enemy variety is also excellent, with new enemies being found constantly both on the map and in dungeons. This also applies to the bosses, all of which have their own quirks. There were even some boss fights in which I had to completely change my approach due to these quirks.
Buggy terrain generation. I ran into a few problems with my procedurally generated world. There was one area in particular in which, if ventured into, I could no longer leave. It was a waterfall area completely closed in. I spent a very long time trying to figure out how to get out of this area, but eventually had to save and reload the game so I would spawn outside of that area. On the map this area was marked as having two entrances, left and right, but there were no such entrances.
A similar issue happened on the same map, with four tiles that I couldn’t explore because there was no entrance. The one “entrance” was blocked by a river that I couldn’t cross, even with my ice boomerang robot, which would just freeze up until a certain point and not go any further. No item I used could get me across that river, so I will never know what was on those four tiles. There were also some minor annoyances, such as stairs leading directly into walls, but at least they didn’t take anything away from the experience.
Lack of direction and general lack of info. This was a major issue I ran into on my first run (the “CUB” world seed). I managed to complete the first four dungeons, used the teleporter to get back to the ship so I could combine some items again (combined my sword with lightning in this case), and then somehow ended up unknowingly completing the ninth dungeon. Now, this isn’t a problem in itself and I’m actually happy when games don’t enforce a playing order, but I did not know that this would lock me out of accessing the ship (which is where the crafting is done). So having not completed the 5th-8th dungeons, I could no longer use the upgrades found in them on my items.
This completely ruined my first run, as I had not acquired all of the health upgrades and could no longer use the upgrades I found in these dungeons. I could still go back and complete dungeons 5-8, but any upgrades found within were useless to me (and I found quite a few…). I also figured out that I simply cannot complete the fifth dungeon at all because a crafted item is required to progress in it. I had the upgrade and the item to combine it with, but no crafting robot to combine the two. I really wish there were some warnings about what would happen if the ninth dungeon was completed, but really the crafting should just be made available regardless. However, the game does emphasize replayability, so this was only an issue on the first run, but that was still upsetting because I had spent six hours on that run.
I also found myself wondering what several of the items in the game actually did. Some items have very vague, if at all useful, descriptions, such as the cactus. You wouldn’t know what the cactus did if you didn’t already read the Steam store page (I found out through trial and error). This happened more than I would like to admit and even now I still do not know what some items do (such as the items earned by meditating in certain areas). The game’s wiki is rather barebones right now, but I assume that will be fixed with time and more players, as the game did just come out of beta.
The game is fun, I’ll give it that. It’s fun to explore, it’s fun to find all the items and learn what works well when combined, and it’s fun to fight all the new enemies and bosses. Even so, the map generation hiccups and the lack of direction when first playing this game really made my experience much more difficult then it needed to be. I could probably beat my first save if I got really lucky with the fights in the final area (“The Tower”), but I was better off restarting at that point. Despite that, I still recommend the game, just don’t make the same mistake I did!
You can buy Songbringer on Steam here.