Sword of the Necromancer combines rogue-lite gameplay with visual novel story-telling. But is it any good?
Sword of the Necromancer is a slow burn rogue-lite that aims to tell a story. It draws inspiration from several places, some to greater effect than others. The slower pace of the combat is a little off-putting compared to more action inspired games like Hades. But the story more than makes up for it.
Players assume the role of a bodyguard who has failed at her mission. The start feels heavily inspired by Shadow of the Colossus, with the player venturing into the dungeons to revive her charge. As you progress through each level, you learn more about the relationship between the bodyguard and the dead girl you’re saving.
The actual gameplay is very slow compared to most other roguelites. I get the feeling the developers were trying to mimic the heavy, weighted combat of the Dark Souls series. But it ends up feeling clunky and slow. Most of the weapons you find are slower to swing than the titular Sword of the Necromancer.
The game also features some weird inventory management choices. Players only have four active inventory slots which must be shared between weapons, potions, and any enemies you’ve revived. You can save equipment at the end of each level. Saved equipment can be upgraded to help you on your journey.
Monsters that you raise from the dead gain levels alongside you. Their AI is pretty stupid, though. The rooms are big enough that the summoned monsters may lose track of you and stay in one place. You’ll have to summon them again when you enter a new room.
The only roguelike features are procedural generation, random item tables and random enemies, but the pools are far too small to be interesting. It really feels like the game has no right to try to be a roguelike and should of been a nice little adventure game.
There is also a local co-op component to bring a friend with you on your journey. The feature works well on Nintendo Switch.
Graphics & Audio
The game’s wonderful pixel art feels right at home in this genre. The levels feel inspired by Enter the Gungeon and The Binding of Isaac. The cutscenes are hand-drawn anime art, with very basic voice-overs.
The story between Tama and Koko feels pretty bog-standard, with plenty of tropes. A priestess protected by a rebel bandit who falls in love with her is nothing new. It is nice that an LGBTQ story is being told, even if it feels contrived.
Sword of the Necromancer feels clunky to play. The story it tells is enjoyable, but the dungeon exploration feels pretty bland. It probably would have made a better adventure game than an action rogue-lite, due to its lack of replayability. There’s no endless synergies you can build, either.
The game feels like playing a very basic rogue-lite at its core. That’s not to say it’s a bad game. There’s just not a lot of substance here to keep you entertained after you finish the story between Tama and Koko. You won’t find endless replayability here like other rogue-lites, which is somewhat disappointing.
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