In Middle Eastern folklore, the story of The City of Brass tells of a dangerous archaeological expedition to an ancient city to find the vessel used to capture genies. A group of men set out on this journey only to face petrified corpses, mystical beings, and brass soldiers that nearly kill out their entire party.
It’s later discovered that the city had been plagued with famine, that men’s lust for greed eventually led to a curse causing their own downfall.
That’s the basis of the procedurally generated first-person action title The City of Brass, developed by former Bioshock developers now at Uppercut Games. You take control of an adventurer exploring the abandoned streets and hallways of that same ancient city from one of Arabian Night’s most foreboding tales. Along the way you’re attacked by skeletons with scimitars and genies summoning men made of fire.
The direction is impressive right from the start, visuals look like a quirkier Sea of Thieves and it’s combat feels like a slightly better version of Skyrim. The developers wanted to strike a balance between emulating Indiana Jones and Bioshock and they hit that target spot on. Enemies have a similar to structure to different humanoid opponents in Bioshock and when combined with the first person perspective it felt like you were in Rapture’s sister city.
Your primary method of attack is your sword, but you also carry a stylish whip that can be used to stun enemies and disable a number of traps hidden in the floor and walls. It’s interesting in theory, but the whip doesn’t connect with the spot your aiming at as well as it should. Often times you’ll find yourself thinking you set off a trap and still end up walking into it after the whip didn’t connect correctly.
On the other hand, the procedural generation fits in the setting of Arabian Nights fantastically, all the levels feel like part of a city that had been decimated by a mystical force, despite the fact that they weren’t specifically curated by the developers. No matter what layout they have, piles of rubble, fire pits, and deteriorating bits of city life line the walls as you travel around them.
That had to be done right, since City of Brass also boasts a few rogue-lite elements, getting through the city correctly can be done in a single run. While some checkpoints allow you to get to know the later levels better, they’ll be harder to conquer without the abilities and items you gain from starting out at the beginning.
As the I went on, the game's rogue-lite elements became a more noticeable. You can pay a good genie to help you make money, disable traps, or fight alongside you and you can choose to level up that genie along the way. although you can only pick one to help you at a time and it only sticks around for the run you bought it on.
City of Brass' months of early access gave developers time to learn about what worked within the games key elements - it’s whip and Arabian setting. The full release is coming to PC this fall, with an Xbox One and PS4 release coming later this year.