An Ankou is a rogulike crafting game that explores French mythology | Early access impressions

by on August 25, 2023

An Ankou is a “roguelike crafter” that casts you as a nameless resurrected corpse brought back to life to escort lost souls to the afterlife. As a servant to the Grim Reaper, your job is pretty clear – but the way is not. You’ll be constantly beset by all manner of beasts and spirits in your quest and must use everything you have to complete your task.

Which means foraging, gathering, picking, hacking, mining, and scavenging everything that isn’t nailed down. The more materials you gather, the more you can craft, and with each new run you’ll need to make more gear, more potions, more clothing.

Initially you can only choose the Soldier, a rugged warrior with a longsword and a reflective shield, but you’ll unlock the Apothecary later, who comes with his own set of skills and abilities. At launch the Nun will also be unlockable, bringing the total number to three. The soldier is a hardy fellow, but each run will require you to gather materials to craft new armour. Craft a whole set and the tougher set becomes craftable in the next run.

An Ankou preview

You’ll upgrade your weapons and draft new ones, too. The crossbow, for example, is slower than the sword and can attack at range, but you can’t carry both. An Ankou has the look and feel of a reverse bullet hell, but it’s not. You will be swarmed by enemies and often have to deal with multiple enemy types at once, but it’s no auto-shooter; the Soldier won’t do anything unless you tell him to.

What makes An Ankou really interesting is the crafting system. You can’t just make and store potions, for example; you need to gather berries and craft potions on the fly, often while furiously backpedalling and swatting at giant leaping spiders. To upgrade anything you need to gather, and that often means clearing space around you first. As you discover lost souls and begin to escort them, they’ll stick close to you and help you out, but they can’t do much to strengthen you.

With each death you’ll (hopefully) unlock something new that you can craft next time. Handy whistles let you track materials easier, so if you’re after a particular reagent you won’t always be aimlessly searching the environment.

An Ankou preview

Sadly “interesting” doesn’t necessarily mean “exciting” and I found that An Ankou’s action, while involving, lacks a certain something. Combat is a pretty rudimentary case of hacking and backtracking, with an occasional shield to deflect attacks – at least with the Soldier. The pace isn’t particularly fast, but death is an inevitability that carries little weight. I never felt scared to die, so I never exhilarated either.

It’s not helped by some of the worst music I’ve heard in a game. It has personality for sure, but I found it so irritating I had to turn it off, and the alternative was silence that added a little to the atmosphere, but left that experience feeling ultimately a bit hollow. There’s an air of something like Vampire Survivors when it begins to get frantic, but it takes a while to get there and never quite has the same dopamine thrill.

An Ankou has potential as a roguelike crafting game, given its unique character classes and interesting take on gathering and crafting to survive. The biggest issue with it is that it feels a little too sedentary, and takes far too long each run to feel exciting. It’s only just heading to early access now though, so there’s time for developer Alkemi to improve on certain elements and hopefully add a few more thrills to the mix.

An Ankou is available in Steam Early Access now.