Arabian Nights (also known as One Thousand and One Nights) has been one of the most influential books ever written. It has inspired numerous movies, pieces of music, as well as other books. However, its influence in the medium of video games has been somewhat more limited. Obviously, there’s the classic Prince of Persia series, but beyond that, there’s barely a handful of titles that reference it. Well, we now have a new entry to this select group with City of Brass from Uppercut Games. The game is a first-person rogue-lite where you play a thief who has to escape from the mythical City of Brass. Armed with a whip and a scimitar (a short sword) you have to battle your way through 12 levels, packed with numerous enemies and traps, to gain your freedom. This being a rogue-lite, each level is different every time you play. You are given a vague direction towards the end of the level, but you never know exactly where it is going to be.
Along the way, there are hundreds of treasures to collect. These can be used to purchase new weapons, armour, or level modifiers. You could pay to neutralise all the traps on the map or buy an AI wingman who will help you take down other enemies. Different weapons are available that have new abilities. You can buy a whip that freezes your enemies for short periods or another one that sets them on fire. You could pick up a ring that gains you more treasure or a chest piece that freezes any enemy that hits you. Alternatively, you could store up your treasure/coins to improve your final score. It’s entirely up to you.
The game has a nice visual style with the four different areas each offering distinctive environments and enemies. The framerate ticks along nicely without any stutters or hiccups. Lighting models and physics are fine with no issues. Technically the game is solid and runs great. The real issue with the game is the difficulty. City of Brass is tough, really tough. When you play the game without any burdens or blessings (modifiers that alter the gameplay or difficulty – think skulls in Halo) you have just four hearts to make it through the game. Most enemies will take away half a heart per attack while traps will take away a whole one. This doesn’t sound too bad except that there are a lot of traps and enemies can often swamp you.
Your life disappears pretty quickly, and that’s before you get to the gatekeepers at the end of every third level. These enemies aren’t difficult to take down once you know what you’re doing. They can be really frustrating though while you’re trying to figure them out. I spent numerous attempts trying to get past one of them who had a shield. In the end, I managed to take him down with one attack by throwing an explosive jar at him before I even entered his little arena.
There is fun to be had in City of Brass, but you have to be prepared to experience a bit of pain or frustration along the way. Play for long enough, and you’ll unlock the blessings that help you work your way further and further through the game. Even if you are a gaming god and able to get through the game in a couple of attempts, thanks to the game’s procedural elements, you can keep playing and experiencing something new. I’ve put numerous hours into the game, and despite there being times where it has crushed my spirit, I will likely revisit it. If you’re prepared to take some pain and get past your frustrations, then City of Brass is a game for you.