Deaths are common. Traps are pervasive, and evil creatures lurk in every shadow. Darkness is your enemy. Light becomes harder to find as you venture farther. An ancient curse follows you and haunts you at each step. Are you capable of surviving the Temple and looting its riches? Curse of the Dead Gods, developed by Passtech Games and published by Focus Home Entertainment, is an addicting dive into a Mesoamerican temple in the name of greed. This Rogue-lite utilizes several key features that keep each session fresh and inviting.
A man’s lust for gold becomes his curse as he ventures into the Temple of a lost civilization in order to plunder it’s riches. Core game play is simple and polished. The controls are well mapped and responsive, without being too difficult to learn, but take time to master. For a game in early access, I was pleasantly surprised at the current build. A disclaimer told me that I may encounter game breaking bugs, or other issues. However, with the exception of a lack of content, or many things labeled “WIP”, Curse of the Dead Gods felt like a polished, complete game during all of my many runs. I did not encounter any bugs, major or otherwise. It is obvious to me that Passtech has a clear, concise vision for the base game play mechanics that they nailed down before working on the embellishments. So, lets talk about them a little bit.
At it’s core, Curse of the Dead Gods is a Hack and Slash Rogue-lite, with some RPG elements thrown in to foster progression. Your character may carry up to four items. A Torch, which provides a nimbus of light which will reveal traps on the floor and set fire to flammable objects. A main weapon, by default a machete, but may also be a sword, hammer, claw, or mace. A secondary weapon, this may be a dagger, shield, or pistol. As well as a two handed weapon, which includes: Bows, Hammers, Swords, and Spears. Each weapon picked up during the run will have random stats attached to it, that may or may not be influenced by the other items that you are carrying. You may only carry one item of each category. So finding a different weapon that has better stats may require a drastic change in play style and strategy mid-run. These items can be dropped by enemies that are killed, looted from containers, or purchased at shrines (more on these later).
Each weapon has a specific charge attack that is unique. Using a weapon will deplete your characters stamina gauge, which is reflected by the five diamonds visible at the characters feet. Dodging will also deplete this gauge. Running out of stamina is a dangerous proposition which may very well end with you starting another run. There are also dodge and block options that rewards players that master them. In addition to weapons, players are able to pick up Relics. You are able to carry up to six relics at a time. Each relic will add up to four different passive bonuses, depending on the rarity of the relic. These bonuses may include increases to attributes as well. As you progress in each run you will learn that the environment may be a danger to you, but it can also be utilized against the enemy, or itself. I have been able to use traps to kill off countless enemies and get me out of many tight spots. So, remember, those spike traps are impartial, equal opportunity impalers.
Each game progresses along a track that is determined by the player. You are often able to choose from up to three paths after each area. Each node in a path has specific rewards for clearing it, whether it is a weapon shrine, relic shrine, attribute shrine, gold or the ever valuable haven, which allows you to regain health, for a price. Knowing and understanding the best way to utilize this path system will be crucial to success in your runs. Each run has at least one boss encounter, with longer runs holding more. Each run has a procedurally generated path, so no two runs are ever the same. That combined with the random nature of items, relics, and shrine drops leads to an ever more interesting game each time.
There are three different types of resources that are accrued during each run: Gold, Crystal Skulls and Curse. Gold is dropped by monsters and containers in the environment. It can be used at various shrines throughout each run. All gold carried is lost when your character is killed, along with all of the equipment you’ve picked up. Crystal Skulls that are collected during each run are the only resource that will carry over into future runs. They may be used in a central hub to purchase Blessings, or Divine Favors. Blessings are passive bonuses that are unlocked after reaching specific milestones within the game. You may unlock the ability to carry up to three blessings, but start with only one. Divine Favors allow you to re-roll the items offered at Weapon and Relic Shrines you may encounter during each run. Curse is the last of the resources that are regularly accrued. This may be obtained by taking damage from some enemies, making a blood sacrifice at shrines to acquire items, or when you progress from one area to the next.Once a specific amount of curse is collected, you are afflicted by a curse. This may happen up to five times. You may also come upon items that will help to remove curses.
As it stands, Curse of the Dead Gods is a very solid platform from which to work. The developers are actively engaged with the players via Discord and forums, using players feedback to help shape the final form of the game. Reviews on Steam have been overwhelmingly positive thus far, which is an assessment I am fully in agreement with. While there is a slight learning curve, I found the game is very easy to get into and difficult to master. It can be played in snippets of fifteen minutes or as long as you like. I had multiple sessions of half an hour or less, with others lasting three plus hours. The developers recommend playing with a controller, instead of a mouse/keyboard set up. I attempted both, and did find that a controller was more comfortable and intuitive for me. Mouse and keyboard was not overly difficult and is very possible however.
I will be eagerly awaiting the games full release, at which point I will revisit and update this article. Until that time I have to rate the game a three out of five, simply because it is incomplete at the moment.
Curse of the Dead Gods is available now on Steam in Early Access for a reduced price. The price will increase on full release.