City of Brass is a first-person "rogue-lite" game which puts you in the shoes of a thief trying to acquire a fabled treasure in the heart of a city. The title is inspired by the Arabian Nights as it takes place in what appears to be an ancient Persian metropolis. The titular "City of Brass" was undone by its love of gold and buried beneath the sands. However, through the power of a magical amulet and genie, it resurfaces once more.
Gameplay and Mechanics
Armed with a bullwhip and blade, players lash and slash their way through legions of damned souls that haunt the legendary labyrinth, while pilfering relics and other riches contained within its walls. After every permanent death, the streets shift to ensure that no two playthroughs are ever the same.
The addition of rogue-lite mechanics means that you're just that much more experienced for the next run after every death. Players can level up and unlock new items which are more powerful than their standard equipment. If you're still having difficulty, there are modifiers which increase damage output, provide more health, or make enemies significantly weaker. Rogue-lite games aren't for everyone, and the inclusion of these perks makes City of Brass one of the most accessible titles in the genre. There's also a portal system so you can skip certain sections even if you're killed.
Playstyles and Weapons
Unlike other rogue-lite titles, City of Brass is a little more challenging because you have to keep on collecting gold and must repurchase weapons during each playthrough. None of the items transfer over unless you buy "insurance" from a genie. Even then, you can over carry over gold.
The bullwhip is the important weapon — not only is it used to disarm, trip and stun foes, but it also allows you to swing to safety or capture objects that are out of reach. You must use the bullwhip to trigger traps and safely navigate through them just like Price of Persia. You can even use the whip to hit and blow up an explosive barrel and take out nearby enemies in a massive explosion!
It's a shame that City of Brass doesn't feature a "block" mechanic. There's no way to counter attacks and that makes combat feel a little simplistic. Adding the ability to quickly equip a shield when you don't need the bullwhip would've elevated the experience by providing another way to engage enemies.
Controls and Visuals
City of Brass is a gorgeous game wit high-resolution textures, great lighting, tremendous material variety, and crisp visuals on Xbox One X. Nowadays there are many rogue-lite titles on the market that offer similar experiences. Luckily, City of Brass' Arabian Nights theme helps it stand out.
While the game might look phenomenal, the controls are another issue. Aiming is rather unwieldy and it seems like it wasn't designed for a gamepad. Moving the right thumbstick is a little unpredictable to say the least. Aim assist helps when you're taking on enemies, but trying to turn and focus on treasure is quite difficult. This problem might be tied to City of Brass' confounding frame rate.
Comparison and Performance
City of Brass runs at 4K on Xbox One X, but only 1080p on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 4 Pro. All versions run at 30 FPS or higher, but it doesn't seem like any of them quite reach 60 FPS. Currently, the Xbox One X version hovers close to 60 FPS, and this might be the reason why the controls are so unwieldy.
Uppercut Games needs to add an option to lock the frame rate to 30 FPS in order to prevent the uncontrollable input lag which results from a possible fluctuating frame rate. The only way to counter this is to lower the thumbstick sensitivity to two or three in the options menu. While this means that you won't be able to react as quickly, at least you'll have control over your where your character looks. Turning off aim assist also seems to help.
Unfortunately, the best way to improve performance and reduce input lag drastically changes the game. If you activate the modifiers which lower the number of enemies, decrease their aggressiveness, and remove many traps in a level, you'll immediately notice that the controls feel more responsive because there's less stress on the system. The control problems seem to be directly related to the number of enemies being rendered at any given time.
I was able to play City of Brass on both Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro before launch. The title looks noticeably sharper on Microsoft's new console and you can immediately spot the difference. However, I would've liked to see a few resolution and performance options. For example, why not give players the chance to experience it at 1080p 60 FPS instead?
City of Brass for Xbox One review conclusion
Overall, City of Brass is a great game that's mostly elevated by its setting and visuals. Once you get into the rhythm and understand how each enemy reacts, it becomes rather enjoyable, even addictive. It's a shame that the controls aren't optimized and there aren't other visual options. It's easy to overlook these drawbacks though. Hopefully the developer will at least add a frame rate lock to the game soon.
With that said, the experience of unlocking new weapons, making it to higher levels, encountering new enemies, and just learning about the title keeps you coming back for more. Just be sure to acquire a fire-based weapon, break open every barrel to collect treasure, and save gold to heal yourself.
- Gorgeous visuals.
- Great setting and inspiration.
- Good Xbox One X support.
- Slight control issues.
- Simplistic combat.
- Needs more ways to upgrade character.
City of Brass will only be available digitally for Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4. The game should launch on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on May 4, priced at $19.99.
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Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.