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Harebrained Schemes Shows Its Versatility With Zelda-Like Roguelite Necropolis
by Mike Futter on Mar 07, 2015 at 07:30 AM
Platform PC
Publisher Harebrained Schemes
Developer Harebrained Schemes
Rating Rating Pending

Wait! Before you close this tab because you're tired of hearing about roguelites, or procedural death dungeons, or whatever the label du jour is, hear me out. Harebrained Schemes is setting out to do some interesting things with the well-worn format.

Necropolis sets one of a number of heroes on a quest to restore a decaying and infested underground structure. I promise that this will start to sound different from every other roguelite soon.

Long ago, the wizard Abraxis constructed the titular maze as a menagerie. He has disappeared, leaving only the "Brazen Head," to guide would-be adventurers.

Art director Mike McCain describes the Brazen Head as the Necropolis' Jarvis, referencing Iron Man's AI construct in the Marvel film continuity. The Head will provide you guidance, but it will taunt you as you bumble your way through the caverns.

Along the way, you'll also find notes scratched into the wall. Through these, you'll learn some of the lore, but if you're connected to the Internet, you might also find out how many players have died throughout the world.

The connectivity also gives Harebrained Schemes the chance to explore some unique, community-oriented features. McCain suggested the team is considering truly limited weapons that only have one instance in the entire world. When the bearer dies, it becomes available to another player.

Necropolis also features interplay amongst the enemy creatures. For instance, a gemeater will be drawn to monsters born from the corrupting crystals that litter the dungeon, giving you an opportunity for easy hits or escape. With a limited stamina system like Dark Souls and combat that feels like 3D Zelda games, engaging enemies tactically is key.

A crafting system will be implemented along the way, giving players the chance to create more life-saving potions and other as yet unrevealed items. There are also codices to find that provide a meta-progression and more of the narrative.

Harebrained Schemes' fourth game (or fifth depending on how you count them) isn't a narrative-driven strategy RPG like Shadowrun and it's certainly not a board game like Golem Arcana. Necropolis is the studio flexing its creative muscles and pushing on the walls of the box to which it could have so easily been confined.

With this title, Harebrained Schemes is setting out to defy typecasting in the digital space as "the Shadowrun developer." And, if what I played of Necropolis and McCain's vision for the title are any indication, Harebrained Schemes could very well prove itself one of the most versatile new studios in recent years.

Necropolis will release on PC, though I played with a controller and it would be a good fit for consoles. McCain declined to specify a release window for the title.

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