When you see the tag “rogue-lite” and “dark fantasy” there’s a good chance you’re in one of two camps: either you can’t wait and already have it wishlisted, or you pass over it without a moment’s thought. Whilst certainly competent, Darksburg won’t offer you enough to convince you to try it and it doesn’t do enough to stand out in a market flooded with brilliant alternatives.
Darkburg treats its story and general opening with little fanfare. Upon booting it up, I was simply thrown into the title menu and left to my own devices. Clicking the “Play” option greeted me with the chance to find other players online but the result was disappointing. In my time searching for a game, I could not find a single other player online, a worrying sign for a game that has been available to purchase for some time. It seems my trusty AI companion and I would have to brave the challenge together. There are a few difficulties available but normal was where cowardly old me started.
Darksburg, mechanically, is a rather simplistic ARPG at heart. Each of its five characters have just a handful of moves plus a basic attack to take on the hoards. These range from AOE debuffs to wide arcs of poison. Not all heroes feel truly balanced, mostly down to wide swings arcs and attack cooldowns. Rose & Twig were a personal favourite, using fast and hard crossbow attacks paired with a nice AOE attack that simultaneously damages and takes out armour. Effectively jumping into a crowd, unleashing an AOE and hopping right back out made me feel like a rock gliding on the surface of a pond only to be gone seconds later, with just the effects of my damage to be seen. When it didn’t work, I felt like a pebble harmlessly descending to the bottom of the ocean with a small splash
This helped to solidify some level of skill ceiling in the first hour or so of gameplay but it doesn’t progress much more than that afterwards. The issue with a handful of characters and a few small moves is that it leaves little to mess around with each run. Luckily, there are a few nice upgrade systems to keep you busy such as gold to buy temporary items to use and crystals to buy permanent buffs. These crystals can do things like grant a small amount of health on kills or give a boost to movement speed. You can only equip a few at a time and they are quite expensive to buy so it might take a few runs to get one or two nice upgrades. Unlike other roguelites, these never stack the odds in your favour too much, opting to balance out some of the occasionally hardcore difficulty Darksburg throws at you.
It starts off rather soft, with a single swipe killing enemies, but soon devolves into madness as tanks, high-speed zombies and brutes overwhelm you. It seems Darksburg is built with multiplayer in mind, which is a shame as finding certain enemies often means an instant game over. One such enemy is similar to the smoker from “Left 4 Dead”, pulling you in with a long object only for the hoards to overwhelm you. My AI companion was never quite smart enough to figure out what to do here, and passively watched me get torn apart on multiple occasions.
After a successful run, you might opt to look around elsewhere for more modes or ideas in Darksburg but there aren’t any. There are a set of level types and difficulties but nothing else. After the first few hours, it’s more than likely you’ll feel entirely done with Darksburg’s content and won’t wish to go back to it
This isn’t helped by how relatively basic the gameplay is. You can left-click to move and right-click to hit. Each hit takes a little while to start and cancelling isn’t always possible. This means there isn’t a huge opportunity to avoid hits and my melee characters often ended up trading blows rather than outright killing. This makes ranged characters the most viable choice in most situations due to their high speed and my, admittedly, rather cowardly playstyle.
Sadly there isn’t much of a story basis either. Upon picking my run, I got a small loading screen with a brief explanation and that’s about it. The entire story is one A to B mission seeing you move from one place to the other as heroes try to solve the zombie problem ahead of them. Each level is procedurally generated with some scripted challenges like rebuilding a door or blowing up a wall. These add to your first few runs but end up rather dull with time as the solution is not procedurally generated. This leaves puzzles, funnily enough, as the most tedious part of each level.
As harsh as it may seem, “tedious” is a good way of describing Darksburg. Its gameplay is competent and its visuals are fine but it doesn’t really offer anything you won’t find better elsewhere. Fundamentally, its multiplayer focus is totally thrown out of the window when there’s no one to play with on any servers. Much like a zombie apocalypse, Darksburg is lonely, difficult and I probably wouldn’t recommend trying it out unless you really, really want to.
Not much content
Tedious gameplay loop