Battlecursed (Early Access Alpha Preview)

Battlecursed is an Early Access dungeon crawler from Codex Worlds, the studio behind Infinium Strike. Gather your party and march them down dark and dank corridors, and have them face some of the most wretched evil imaginable.

Battlecursed, being a gritty fantasy, has its fair share of cultural touchstones that give you your bearing as to how you think this game will unfold. You trawl endless dungeons, finding keys, killing enemies and downing potions. Games like Skyrim have you in first person, games like Baldur’s Gate put you in parties and games like Legend of Grimrock does both. However, Battlecursed takes the slightly more ambitious route of giving you a first person perspective, with a party, but unlike Grimrock, it gives you full freedom of control over your movement and aiming. This means you have to be a little more nimble when it comes to your character selection and use of powers, as there is no mouse curser to guide you. Rather you pick your champion and their attacks via the keyboard, forcing you to make a difficult choice between manoeuvring and attacking.

Fortunately, the heroes all have clearly defined roles to help you figure out who you should be using and when. You will spend the majority of the time as the Huntress, using ranged attacks to pick off the enemies from afar. If they start gaining on you, you can have your Elementalist lay down a sphere of magical lightning that constantly damages enemies as they walk through. Finally, if they get close enough to swing a sword, your Graveknight can swing one right back. After the fog of battle has cleared, employ your Cleric to use powers of the divine to heal all wounds and boost your defences for the next round.

All powers, even the most basic of attacks, are on cooldown timers. This forces you to constantly think about how to expend your spells and exploits. Facing a charging enemy, even one as humble as the common rat, is an intense experience as you desperately scan your HUD for a hero whose power still has less than a ten-second recharge. While the heroes aren’t invincible, they start with a generous amount of health, meaning that while facing down a group of enemies with no available attacks is still panic inducing, it doesn’t result in many situations you can’t come back from. Smart play, acquired after a couple of hours becoming accustomed to the button layout, will see you instinctively choosing the right hero for the right situation and as a result you start getting into a sort of combat rhythm, balancing everything out so at no point are you stuck waiting for options.

Not only is this reliant on you becoming fluent with the game’s burdensome controls, but preperation is a key component too. Before you start off on your quest you need to choose your party composition. Some heroes have both basic and advanced types. Advanced isn’t necessarily the better option for all slots of your party. Rather, it just means that using them is either more complex or requires you to continuously create the circumstances that it needs to take advantage of their most dominant attacks. Balance them out with basic heroes who have less powerful, but more reliable and frequently useable strikes. Put your toughest in the front and you’re more vulnerable in the back and make sure that you’ve already cleared out the enemies behind you.

Even more options will be available in the full release. Not only will more classes of heroes be available – such as a Bard – but a plethora of defunct options litter the village that acts as your hub world, giving you a tantalising preview of the real experience awaiting on a full release. There is a guild, an armoury, an inn plus more; and each serve a different function for your party. It was exploring the town that made me realise the most apt comparison is Darkest Dungeon as the town provides options to not only upgrade and customise your heroes but also to upgrade the town the adventurers find their respite in.

Battlecursed has a lot of promise but be warned, it’s in an extreme form of Early Access. Currently, the version it claims to be in the bottom right corner of the main menu is Alpha 2.1. Absent are some of the most basic functions, such as even a volume slider. Most of the text is in placeholder Helvetica and it doesn’t even customise the mouse cursor, really dampening the medieval fantasy experience. The purchasing of this game is not for those who are used to only ever picking up finished products, but if the ideas behind this game appeal to you, getting in early provides a fascinating insight into the evolution of these curious mechanics.