Brutal

Brutal Review

From roguelike to Rogue

A.J. Maciejewski

Reviewed by playing a PlayStation 4 on

ESRB Teen rating

When it comes to addictive gameplay, simplicity goes a long way. Brut@l features basic and responsive controls in its roguelike dungeon crawling world but does it offer enough to keep you coming back for more?

Brutal screenshot 1
Why go it alone when you can have a friend kick ASCII with you?

Although "roguelike" is a common term in gaming nowadays, many are unaware of the genre's origins. Back in 1980, an ASCII-based game named Rogue debuted which captured gamers' imaginations with its randomly generated dungeons. So, here we have Brut@l; a roguelike game that features visuals inspired by the origins of the genre. You play as either a Ranger, Mage, Warrior, or Amazon in order to descend deeper into a randomly generated 26-floor dungeon. One of the first things that you'll notice upon starting is how simple everything is. Controlling your character is extremely easy as all you do is run around, attack, block, jump, and interact with objects. A few advanced moves such as dodging, unleashing a special attack, and throwing projectiles will help you gain the upper-hand when you're comfortable with the basic gameplay setup. Being able to change weapons on the fly and access your inventory by the tap of a button means that you always have an opportunity to get an advantage in sticky situations. Overall, the simple gameplay makes traversing the dungeon floors a very satisfying endeavor.

Brut@l may appear quite boring by looking at the screenshots but when you actually play it, you'll be impressed how easy it is to distinguish everything. The black and white style with splashes of colour that represent various elements is quite appealing. That being said, the visuals don't really evolve or change past what you see from the beginning so they do get rather stale after a while.

Brutal screenshot 2
I'd fight that spider but I'm a little tied up at the moment

My favourite aspect of Brut@l is its character growth dynamic. Each character type starts with different unlocked skills although any character has the ability to train to be a master of all trades. Upon levelling up, you spend skill points to unlock further abilities for your hero. A mage can end up being a formidable fighter while a warrior might rely on magic when he's stuck in a corner. On top of this, you can craft and enhance different weapons after acquiring the necessary letters that you find hidden in the dungeon. Crafting a weapon that fits your play style then applying a preferred element to it feels awesome when you unleash it on dozens of enemies. You can brew potions, too, but their effect is a mystery until you drink it. This reminded me of Tobal No. 1's Quest Mode, but I digress. Ensuring your character is well fed and battle-ready in Brut@l's character progression system will keep you hooked.

Brut@l can be played either solo or with another local player. I found playing with my wife to be extremely enjoyable and she seemed to have a good time as well which is rare for this kind of game. However, I realised after playing for a while that you can't unlock any trophies when playing cooperatively. I don't usually mention trophies in my reviews because they usually don't affect my enjoyment of a game but the fact that you're locked out of earning them when playing with a friend is frankly a dumb decision.

The only other problem that I have with Brut@l is that the characters run very fast. When you consider the fact that there are many off-camera hazards that can hurt you and pitfalls that will end your life instantly, you have to traverse unexplored hallways with great caution as to not end your life accidentally. This is especially true while playing cooperatively as the camera can be just inches away from your impending doom. To be clear, you can adjust the camera slightly, but you can't when your pal is lagging behind.

Brutal screenshot 3
I don't mean to be a downer, but are mazes ever fun?

Brut@l is one of those roguelikes that I'll gladly pick up and play whenever I have the time just to see how far I can descend into the dungeon. It's by no means perfect, but what's here is definitely worth purchasing for genre fans.

  • + Simple and satisfying roguelike gameplay
  • + Appealing retro presentation
  • + Rewarding character growth and exploration incentives will keep you hooked
  • - No trophies when playing cooperatively
  • - Visual style gets repetitive after a while
  • - Characters run too fast which conflicts with dangerous off-camera hazards
7.7 out of 10
Gameplay video for Brutal 4:35

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