Usurper is a Metroidvania Action-RPG. With Eldritch horrors having been unleashed by the outer-worldly Citadel, your job is to rid London of its terrors. Use the new "Guard" system that rewards skillful play and accuracy, to uncover the massive structure and defeat the nightmares lurking within.
February 20, 2018
At first glance, Usurper appears to be a fairly run-of-the-mill clone of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Once the rubber meets the road however, the tale of an otherworldly parasitic ruler and the knight who hosts him becomes a wild ride. With an atmospheric soundtrack, intense combat, and eye-catching pixel art style, this indie title offers an experience worth your consideration.
The game is full of Eldritch content. There are a wide variety of ghastly, otherworldly beings you’ll come in contact with. Many of those beings possess some form of magic, much of it sinister. There are rituals and spells used throughout (and you can even obtain and cast a few yourself).
There’s a considerable amount of pixelated blood as characters are attacked. Deaths typically just result in a fade to black, however. I don’t recall any verbose gore or viscera.
Usurper isn’t really the kind of game to employ much humor, crude or otherwise. In regards to language, I don’t recall anything in particular as I played through the game, but I would caution players that, thematically, some minor curse words would fit the bill of a game of this nature.
I do not recall any sexual content.
Other Negative Themes
As mentioned above, the game is thematically quite dark. That’s inherent to media that adopts the Eldritch horror mantle. This also typically includes grotesque, demonic creatures and dark rituals.
Usurper is one of those games that pinged our indie radar when it released. Footage and screenshots revealed a Castlevania/Metroid-styled adventure platformer with haunting pixel artwork, fluid animation, and a wide variety of tools at the player’s disposal. Though little more was known of the game, that was enough to entice us.
Quite frankly, the narrative feels like an afterthought to much of the game’s action. We play as Saragat, an elite knight who’d fallen in battle only to be possessed by a worm-like parasite named Waltham. The parasite (which is actually a powerful being) needs a strong host to topple a creature known as the Navigator and reclaim his castle, which has entered London from another dimension. It’s an intriguing setup for what ends up feeling like a story we aren’t driven to complete. It exists to provide some worldbuilding but ultimately plays a minor role in your time with the game.
The gameplay is where the real draw to Usurper lies. The Citadel (not to be confused with Citadale) is an enormous structure to explore and houses secrets at every twist and turn. True to games of the genre, you’ll unlock new traversal options as you progress, letting you explore places previously unreachable. As you explore, you’ll find a trove of weaponry to play around with. From swords, spears, and axes to bows, pistols, and magic, everyone will find something to suit their style, which is good because the combat is no joke. If you think this is going to be a simple adventure platformer, you’ll be sadly mistaken. Usurper draws clear inspiration from games like Dark Souls and Salt and Sanctuary, stranding your currency-filled corpse wherever you last died. And make no mistake, you will die a lot. You won’t have to turtle up to conquer, though. Usurper‘s combat gives players both viable block and dodge options, encouraging players to dive into combat by offering temporary buffs for well-timed maneuvers.
While the standard enemies provide significant challenge in their own right, Usurper‘s bosses can be downright brutal. Many of them feel like a combination of Dark Souls and bullet-hell-shooter encounters. You’ll spend your time dodging strikes, landing a blow when you have an opening, and often, dying. Some of the bosses have multiple forms, too, so there’s no shortage of challenge to be had.
While all of that is fun and engaging, Usurper is not without some problems. Navigating the Citadel is particularly frustrating. You have access to a map, but there’s really nothing guiding the player to their next objective. When you finally figure out where to go, you can quickly die, forcing you to perform mental ballet to recall the path to your body. I spent hours trying to find where I should be going next. Better guidance tools would go a long way toward making Usurper easier to recommend. Boss battles can feel awkward at times, too. There’s sometimes so much happening on-screen, it takes time to train yourself to recognize attack patterns. Also, until you get used to the flow of dodging, blocking, and attacking, the combat can feel awkward and poorly timed.
Usurper‘s visual design is fun and enticing. Even with a limited number of pixels to work with, character sprites are easily recognizable and evocative and the on-screen action feels fluid. Unfortunately, due to its dark theme, most of the environments feel pretty similar. The music is largely forgettable, though its somber tones do reinforce visual thematic elements.
Overall, Usurper is a fun game with some fixable design flaws. The art direction is a good choice, well executed given its minimalist approach. The soundtrack isn’t memorable, but it is great at helping establish atmosphere to the world. The gameplay, however, is a lot of fun. Combat flows well once you’re used to the cadence, and the game provides several styles of weapon you can play with. The Dark Souls-style death and currency mechanics add a layer of challenge. If the game did a better job guiding players to their next objective, I would have a lot less gripes. Still, for the price, Usurper is worth the price of admission for any adventure platforming fan.
Review copy provided by Pugware
+ Great looking pixel art
+ Wide variety of weaponry at your disposal
+ Combat flow feels great once you learn the cadence
- Soundtrack is forgettable
- Lack of navigation assistance is infuriating
- Dark Souls-style deaths/currency can result in hours of lost work