Curse of the dead gods is the action roguelite game that drags you into its temples filled with dangerous traps, enemies and champions, hellbent on killing you. Sounds fun? I can assure you it most certainly is. Read on to find out why.
TLDR: Do I recommend this game?
Plain and simple. This is an amazing game that will get you hooked.
If you are looking for a deep and rich story.
Passtech games, a twelve-man studio, has knocked it out of the park with Curse of the dead gods. Easy to play and hard to master feels like the mantra of this game and practice makes perfect. After several hours of playing I saw my ability to dodge and parry improve, and I was clearing rooms faster and more efficiently. The game saves every new room you enter so it’s easy to pick up the game, do a room or two and put it aside while you do something else. You can easily clear a room, save the game, pick up your switch and continue playing on your commute to work or school.
Curse of the dead gods deep delve
After the tutorial and your first run, on which you will inevitably die, you return to the afterlife. There you can spend your acquired currencies and plan your next run.
You spend your jade rings or crystal skulls, we will get back to these later, choose your starting weapons from one of the weapon altars, and pick a temple you want to run. The gold you acquire during runs can only be spent during those runs and is lost upon death.
Planning is key to survival
Each of the temples has its own set of enemies and traps helping you prepare in advance. Eg: For a temple of the jaguar run, I tend to use a perk that increases trap damage by 100% to enemies, because the traps are easy to control and trigger.
You get to see the map of the temple that you are about to enter, the legend with icons shows exactly what type of room you will find along the way, so you can plan ahead. Go for a gold room or two before forking off onto a weapon or upgrade room. Low on health? Head towards the healing room that has no encounter and heals in return for corruption. Every hundred corruption you gain a random curse. These curses are double sided blades, for example shadow word: Regular enemies are concealed while in the shadows, concealed enemies are revealed by light and when attacking. But you deal 20% more damage in darkness. Now you’re using a torch to reveal enemies and switching to your weapons without trying to make light so you can do more damage with your attacks.
You can overcome the curses by adapting your play style on the fly for the rest of the run. And if you really have a nasty curse that you don’t like you will be able to remove one when you defeat a boss or champion. This can only be done once you get to the second tier of temples or higher where you meet more bosses on longer temple runs. Planning is key when traversing the temples.
Adapt, improvise, overcome
During these runs the risk versus reward regarding corruption becomes crystal clear. Do you really want to buy that good item for a blood sacrifice, giving seventy corruption when you are already at sixty; gaining a curse just from buying the item? And then another twenty when you leave this room? Or do you spend your gold on this relic now, hoping you will have insufficient corruption at the end of the next weapon room? That way you can buy a better weapon with a blood sacrifice instead of that gold. Risk versus reward and planning ahead are key to making it through a run.
Resources in Curse of the Dead Gods
We have crystal skulls and jade rings. Both are currencies that persist through death and are used for upgrades.
No aliens with these crystal skulls
Crystal skulls allow you to purchase perks, afterlife upgrades, and extra favors. Perks allow you to customize your character to your liking. You can equip three and have a choice of twenty-one different perks.
The upgrades for the afterlife let you get more pedestals to choose starting weapons from. Upgrading the chance that those pedestals have higher tier weapons to start with. And my favorite addition to this game, increasing your favors.
Favors allow you to reroll the stock of weapon and relic altars you encounter. This really helps in creating a build you are doing a run with. Let’s say you have a sword with fire damage, the relic altar rolls 3 relics but they either increase lightning or poison damage. You can use a favor to reroll the items presented in that altar for a better fit, like 15% increase on fire damage.
After a hard fought battle you don’t feel defeated because it was all for nothing. You look and decide none of them are worth the gold or corruption and use favors until you find an item you want, or run out of favor.
If you like it, spend a ring on it
Jade rings are a lot easier to explain. You can use these to unlock certain weapon drops in the temples. If you really like bows like I do, you might use all the jade rings to unlock more bows. Increasing the chance you get better bow drops when you do a run. And eventually unlocking up to a legendary bow.
Blood of thine enemies
When you complete the temple you gain blood medallions that, when you collect enough, open up more temples and skills. And if you die, rinse and repeat.
If you are bored of running the temples, the game also offers a daily challenge. Either cursing you or equipping you with certain items for an extended temple run. That gives you crystal skulls per cleared room and an even bigger reward when you complete it. These are a nice shift from the main temple runs you will probably do a lot.
The visuals of Curse of the Dead Gods
The cel shaded graphics could be a problem to some, but really the gameplay is what makes this game shine. The character models are pretty simple but each enemy type is easily distinguishable from one another. It’s easy to pick them out in a fight and focus them. The environments are unique to each temple just like the enemy models. The beauty lies in the use of the light and shadows. The light your torch casts gets blocked by pillars that cast long shadows, hiding enemies or traps. Light seeps in through doorways revealing the next chamber bit by bit. I’ve walked around and enjoyed how the light plays with the environment.
In handheld mode you lose a bit of sharpness to the textures, especially the moving ones. Characters and enemies fade as expected when you switch to 720p resolution.
The simple cel shaded look of the game makes the attacks of enemies and traps stand out. The effects when you hit/kill an enemy stand out against the darker colors they use in the environment and enemy models. Traps are only visible when illuminated, or when they activate. If you don’t have your torch out they just disappear and only become visible when it’s too late. Unless you have jedi-like reflexes.
The music in the game is very minimalistic. Eerie to no music while you run around in the hallways of the temples, only your footsteps resounding through the halls.
When combat starts, the music is a low tribal drums tune adding to the suspense that the gods are watching you as you fight against their minions. I wish the music had a little more to it, a bit more intensity, like Hades or Doom do so well. The soundtrack is fully tailored to the setting and because it isn’t overwhelming the sounds of combat stand out. The audio clues that an attack is coming really stand out, traps sometimes activate before you see them. Especially in the dark, and you can react to the sound they make before actually seeing them activate. So I think they purposefully chose to have a less present background music. And sometimes less is more.
The ambient sounds of your footsteps and doors opening sound perfect within the setting of an old temple. When doors open, the stone grinds as the moving parts come into action, the cries of the birdlike enemies sound like twisted birds crying out in rage. It sets the mood perfectly.
Dead Gods tell no tale
The game starts off with a small cutscene of our protagonist entering the temple and getting locked in as the door behind him closes. And that’s it. No conversations in the afterlife or cutscenes that tell a story.
You can find snippets of lore in the bestiary after killing a certain enemy type 50 times. But they don’t really tell a story, it’s lore about the enemies and the dead gods. And still it is out of the way, hidden in a menu.
I wasn’t playing this for the story. The gameplay loop was just so good and the personal growth you felt by getting better and reaching further and further into the temples was the drive that kept me going. But I wish it had a narrative driven motivator as well. If you want an engaging story to help you pull through the difficulty and death, Hades is a better pick.
The Curses of the Dead Gods work in mysteriously good ways
So not much of a performance in the story department. But how well does Curse of the Dead Gods perform on the switch? Actually pretty good. The game runs smoothly and the loading times aren’t that long. Sometimes I didn’t even have time to enjoy the artwork that was shown on the loading screens.
I had some frame drops during scenes with a lot of fire and explosions. Some trap rooms are just a series of exploding barrels and traps activating while the floor is slowly burning. But after everything plays out, which is a couple of seconds, everything is smooth again.
If you enter a room like that for the first time it’s already a huge challenge to get out alive. Then the frame drops and you get burned, stabbed and enjoy the comforting warmth of an exploding barrel. And that sets you back quite a bit for the rest of the run. If you know how the room plays out it’s a few dodges in the right direction to go through unscathed. So it’s easy to deal with the frame drops.
Later on when these rooms also have enemies it can be a bit frustrating. You dodge wrong and get hit by the traps and enemies. Still, it’s a bit of the downside of the lower processing power.
I tested battery performance with the flight mode off, WiFi on, adaptive brightness on. And on the first gen switch without the improved battery life. Overall it lasted 2.5 hours of continuous playing. If you turn on flight mode, play on a lower brightness you can easily get 3.5 hours out of it. And with the new gen you can add up to 2 hours of gameplay.
Curse of the dead gods is a good game and I would recommend that you check it out.
If you love the roguelite genre you will not be disappointed by how the game plays and its engaging on-the-fly-build-making. Or how a single curse can turn a run upside down and change how you engage every encounter. It makes every rerun unique and fascinating.
Don’t play it if you are looking for an engaging story or captivating cutscenes. But do play it for the challenge and rewarding feeling when it all comes together.
Should you get it for the Nintendo Switch? Yes. The game feels like it’s made to be compatible with the mobility the Switch offers. Even though the game is available on all platforms, I feel like the Switch is the best match for it. You will eventually be inclined to play more because of how easy accessible it is on the switch.