ScourgeBringer is a game that exists in your fingers. It’s an action roguelite fidgetspinner about bish-bash-boshing across single screen levels of enemies. The protagonist Kyhra has a sword for slashing, a drone that can fire a blast of bullets, and a set of movements that feel sublime to control. I’ve been playing an early alpha ahead of an early access release planned for later this year, and my fingers crave more.
It’s the dash that does it for me, really. Kyhra can wall-jump and hover indefinitely while slashing her sword, and combined with the dash it means your feet rarely need to touch the ground. You can leap into the air, slash some enemies to bits, then air-dash to the next puckle of baddies. Anything you collide with takes damage, and there are enemy swarms that pop with a single hit. The result is that you feel like an arrow surrounded by balloons.
This feels immediately great, but it’s also encouraged me to want to get better at the game. The potential for defeating enemies in a slick parade means that any moment of clumsiness is a failure. There are times in the GIFs you see on this page where I am slashing and slashing and hitting nothing, as an enemy hovers just beyond reach, and these moments pain me. They’re the moments in a dance where your partner heel-toes and you face-plant.
Perfection is encouraged via other systems. There’s health, of which you get ten pips, and any re-fills are expensive when they appear in the occasional shops. The alpha contains a mini-boss, which can be stun-locked and defeated swiftly, and a proper-boss, for whom I want to save my health pips because he is going to batter me around a bit.
There’s also a multiplier applied to the currency you get for defeating enemies in quick succession. That currency is the red blobs you see drifting into my character after each fight, and it’s… It’s possibly their blood, I don’t know. But you spend it on upgrades in that aforementioned shop, and the bonus blobs encouraged me to only fight the bosses when I was carrying a good multiplier with me.
There’s a pleasing macro-rhythm to the game, as you slide to a new screen, rapidly wipe out everyone inside, and enjoy the calm after the doors open. Most rooms have a wave or two of enemies to defeat around a simple set of platforms and spike traps, and the enemy design in the early stages is just complex enough to keep it interesting. There are wall-hugging turrets that try to align themselves with you to get a shot off, and hovering eye-bug things that shoot in bursts and can be stunned if struck while they’re charging. The methods required to deal with each enemy – most of which are bug-like, in some way – mean that managing the crowd is part of the fun.
It’s clear that the developers have spent part of their development time so far concerned with the game’s ‘juice’ – the way that sounds and visual effects combine to make moment-to-moment play feel as good as possible. You can see juice in the smear of sword slashes, the way the background flashes to mark every strike that connects, and the way each enemy flashes and vanishes as you smack them to death.
What is less clear is by what axis the game will grow from this relatively thin alpha into the full game. The trailer and screenshots released show tilesets for levels different than those I’ve already seen, and I know there will be more bosses. I don’t know if rooms will eventually contain more enemies, or if shops will sell abilities more interesting than re-fills and percentage increases.
I hope so, because right now ScourgeBringer looks and feels like a mesh of Dead Cells and Celeste. It has the movement hop-hop of the latter and the combat pop-pop of the former, and if it can marry that to a meta-structure or progression system, it’ll spread from existing in my fingers, to existing in my heart.