Review – Curse of the Dead Gods

Overview

Developer Passtech Games
Publisher Focus Home Interactive
Genre Roguelite
Platforms Nintendo Switch, Xbox 1 and Series X/S, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, PC (Reviewed)
Release Date February 23, 2021

Curse of the Dead Gods is a rogue-lite action RPG developed by Passtech Games and published by Focus Entertainment. The game has a cell-shaded art style with heavy ink lines creating a rough but crisp environment. It follows a European explorer who ventured into ruins of middle America that seem heavily based on Aztec ruins. The game follows him when he embarks on an action-packed journey to remove his curse and find treasures.

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: There is a heavy emphasis on ancient Middle American Native religions. These involve offering blood sacrifices or gold to get new benefits from shrines or alters from the gods. The game does not infer however that Caradog McCallister worships the gods, but rather is using them as a means to an end. Additionally, there are magic users, undead ghost characters, and gods that do not align with a Christian worldview. Many of the journal entries that Caradog writes upon defeating the enemies indicate that religion in the game world allowed for the marriage of multiple women to a single man who granted them eternal life as ghosts or spirits. The game revolves around a curse that inflicts ailments on McCallister which can range from purely negative to useful ones with a downside. The game doesn’t ever imply that the religion in the game is anything more than a fictional one with no merit or is an alternative to modern religions.

Violence: The game revolves around the extermination of supernatural enemies and they often result in copious amounts of bloodshed. The player can use a deadly array of weapons ranging from throwing weapons, swords, spears, bows and arrows, guns, whips, bombs, and shields. All of these weapons have different blood splatter effects that stain the ground and surrounding area. You can cut your hand open to drip darkness and blood out for blood sacrifices and drink blood to regain health which appears in a blood-filled fountain. When a player does a blood sacrifice it changes the alter which often becomes drenched in blood or cries tears of blood.

Sexual Content: Curse of the Dead Gods has minor sexual content as some of the female enemies are wearing traditional Taino or Aztec tribe clothing which involves a chest covering and a loin cloth however there is never any nudity. It should be noted that more detailed art can be viewed in the Journal of Enemies but even then there is no nudity and the enemies are not drawn sexually.

Negative Content: The main character of the game, Caradog McCallister was cursed because of his greed for treasure and continues to demonstrate his desire by taking treasure despite being cursed. In addition to the greed of the player character, he also can get greed kill streaks where the more enemies he butchers in close succession the more he profits from them.

Positive Content: The game teaches the principles of not giving up even when the odds are stacked against you. Additionally, Caradog McCallister does display some empathy towards the enemies he faces which is stated in the journal section of the menus.

Curse of the Dead Gods has an ESRB rating of T for Teens and a PEGI age rating of 16.

Review

Curse of the Dead Gods sees Caradog McCallister a European explorer hunting for treasure, however, due to his hubris of ignoring local warnings and his greed he was cursed by the ancient gods. To amass riches, he will have to brave the temples of the 3 gods and defeat the ultimate god of death to break his curse. The game puts heavy emphasis on collecting treasure to upgrade weapons each run and defeating guardians or mini-bosses to grant the player new abilities that carry over each jaunt into the temples. The game has a stamina system in which dodging and combos consume stamina this adds a level of strategy during the encounters.

When it comes to Curse of the Dead Gods, the game rewards clever players by actively encouraging the usage of temple traps to defeat enemies so your stamina is not used up. Some curses and buffs lend credence to the trap strategies.  In addition to using the environment, there is a large selection of weapons that cater to all play styles. Some weapons are meant for one-handed melee and these are coupled with longer-range weapons that you can use in tandem such as whips or guns.  There are also more powerful but stamina-draining weapons such as bows, spears, and explosives. It is up to the player to decide how they want to play the game providing the freedom to choose how you play inevitability leads to difficult choices on how much stamina you want to use when fighting. Another unique element of the game is temporary god boosts. There are certain alters that allow the player to sacrifice blood at the cost of expediting their next curse or they can use gold to pay for them.

The most complex element of gameplay is the curses. While curses are usually associated with negative outcomes, the developers actively encourage experimentation with them as means of gaining the upper hand. For instance, one of the curses encountered while playing the game made the player’s torch lose its ability to emit light while darkness in the game normally resulted in increased damage to the player from enemies this could be paired with weapons that had the attribute of boosting player attack in the dark. Curses do eventually catch up with you, the final curse the player can receive is always a difficulty modifier making the dungeon more dangerous to transverse.

The visual approach to the game is not wholly unique as many indie games in recent years have utilized the cell-shaded look in their designs. The main difference between this game in comparison to other cell-shaded games is that this game utilizes shading with Aztec-inspired designs. These designs are geometric and the cell-shading made those designs stand out. The lighting utilized was very well done as the torch light flickered and mimicked the real amount of light a torch would omit in real life. The temples with rain storms had periodic lightning that would light up the stage in bright light which also added to the immersion. While Curse of the Dead Gods’ art style was not revolutionary, it felt like it meshed with the game nicely. Graphically the game performed well on a mid to high range pc with no visual glitches noticed during playthroughs.

The audio presentation in the game was well done when it came to ambient sounds. The crashes of thunder or the bubbling of lava sounded convincing and made the experience feel that much more real. The score of the game was not overly creative and could be repetitive but didn’t hamper the game or experience in any way, and it did not start to become repetitive until about the fourth loop of the game. Guns and melee weapon effects all sound convincing and help add to the immersion. Enemy sounds were realistic.

Overall, Curse of the Dead Gods was a pleasant experience. One of the most appreciated attributes was the accessibility features like increasing health or having auto-healing to a certain percentage each time you progress to a new chamber or not having to expend stamina when dodging enemies. The weapon selection and unique combinations were fun to experiment with. The main issue with the game though is it has a lot of unique elements that are not memorable. The game is enjoyable but nothing more, it provided no lasting impressions from it or a strong desire to go back and reexperience it. There were not any major issues to mention as the game ran very smoothly and didn’t seem to have any performance issues.

The Bottom Line

 

Curse of the Dead Gods could’ve been so much more but instead was content with playing it safe and meshing with every other roguelike on the market. While it has a great art direction and unique designs those alone are not able to save it from mediocracy.

 

6.0

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Logan Smiley

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