Songbringer blends the classic Zelda formula with procedural generation. However, does it capture that retro Zelda magic?
In Songbringer, you play as Roq, a space traveller who has crash-landed on a mysterious planet. Along with his drone buddy Jib, he'll need to set out to explore this new world and also find a way to get back to his mothership.
Songbringer is unafraid to acknowledge its similarities to classic games of old, namely the original Legend of Zelda. The core gameplay is very similar between the two titles, both being top-down action/adventure games complete with a variety of bad guys and nine dungeons to explore that reward you with new items and abilities. Your sword is your most frequently used weapon but you'll also regularly use bombs, a boomerang-like top hat, and a few other weapons when fighting the hordes of enemies. The enemy variety is decent and enemies get stronger and more aggressive as you progress with each dungeon concluding in a massive boss fight.
Unlike The Legend of Zelda, the world of Songbringer is procedurally generated. Each time you start a new save file, you'll be loaded into a similar-looking world but one that features a completely different layout. This includes all secret locations and dungeon layouts as well. Keep in mind that the world layout does not change every time you die, only when you start a new save file. While this procedural generation encourages replayability and the campaign has been partially designed for speedrunning, it hurts the core experience for those just looking to play through once. Dungeon complexity and puzzle design pale in comparison to hand-crafted games and most dungeons in Songbringer simply consist of moving from room to room and slaughtering all the enemies as you move forward.
The overworld is more enjoyable as there are tons of secrets to uncover and it usually plays very coy about what they are and how to find them. I appreciated that Songbringer did just enough to point me in the right direction then left me alone while I explored and slowly figured out secrets on my own. It also lets you make your own choices that permanently affect the campaign. Sometimes, I wish it gave you a bit more warning about consequences but for the most part, it was fun to feel like I was controlling my own destiny.
Finally, I felt like Songbringer's visual style hurt the final product. I'm all for pixel-art games but Songbringer features a muddy and messy style that makes it hard to distinguish important onscreen items. It also makes Roq (as well as several other NPCs) look like blobs of pixels. It's hard to really become endeared to any of the characters when they lack distinguishable and interesting visual features.
Songbringer's core gameplay is enjoyable and the variety of weapons and items means that you're always unlocking something fresh and getting to experiment with new things. However, it's doubtful that the procedural generation will add a ton to the experience and the sloppy pixelated visuals frequently detract from the otherwise satisfying adventure.
- + Great opportunities for exploration and to discover secrets
- + Tons of items to experiment with
- + Fun boss creatures
- - Visual style sometimes hurts gameplay and characters lack discernible features
- - Mediocre dungeon design
- - Limited replay value