Review code graciously provided by Silesia Games. This will have no bearing on my review, opinion or recommendation.
Sometimes I wake up and I just fancy saving humanity. It doesn’t matter what I am saving it from, if I’m honest, so long as it’s a fun romp. Demon’s who have enslaved a wingless-dragon-snake-god-thing and trapped the Earth’s greatest heroes in an interdimensional pocket reality/prison? Paint an S on my chest and call me a hero, because I’m all for it. Somewhat conveniently, that is the plot of Azurebreak Heroes, an ARPG Roguelite recently released on the Nintendo Switch.
Azurebreak is, for lack of a better term, a budget Roguelite. Not everyone can be The Binding of Isaac or Crown Trick, after all, so cheap and cheery attempts crop up from time to time. This has budget status does, unfortunately, equate to bad localisation, poorly written dialogue and Engrish aplenty. This is particularly noticeable in the opening text crawl, which comes across like a small child had attempted to write a multifaceted fantasy epic.
Visually, the game also suffered quite the beating from the ol’ budget bat. Azurebreak utilises pixel art, however, is far from pretty and is brimming with basic character, enemy and stage designs. There is little in terms of animation, which makes the game look fairly stiff for an ARPG to boot. It’s passable at best. I expected the music to suffer the same fate, and I was pleasantly surprised. Sure each track is essentially a short loop, but many of them were catchy enough for me to pay attention, and some were downright, head-boppingly funky.
Being a Roguelite, death is permanent, and therefore should be avoided. The best way to avoid the reaper’s scythe is to slap the various demons in your path with whatever weapon you stashed in your fanny pack before setting out. You hit things with one button, block with another, do a little dash with a third, and then you have two special abilities assigned to your shoulder buttons. The system is so simple the game forgot to give you a tutorial, however, everything is labelled on your UI for ease of learning regardless. It’s as simple as it sounds, but don’t mistake that simplicity for a lack of competence. Azurebreak feels great to play thanks to quick wind-ups and short cooldowns when it comes to krumping enemies. This allows you to attack and defend with ease and is surprisingly satisfying.
Death is inevitable, however, and this is where Azurebreak really drops the ball. There is no procedural generation. Every time you jump back in for another go, you are going through the same level layouts time and time again. The only thing that changes is enemy placements and the location of various interactables, like chests. Whilst you do unlock alternate paths later in the game, this doesn’t make up for the extra layer of repetition a lack of randomness provides.
Thankfully the developers sprinkled some extra spice on the combat system to make up for its stage-based shortcomings in the form of Tomes of Summoning. These little blighters can be found on the corpses of your foes, hidden in chests or as rewards for completing various challenges. Pick one up, and you will be granted a powerful artefact that bestows your hero with potent new abilities. You start off with basic things like bonus damage, but as you plod along you will uncover 90 unique artefacts that can be combined in all sorts of wacky ways. It’s a blast making a near god-like character capable of destroying any and all demons that stand in your way. Fancy a horde of familiars? You got it. Want to drain health when attacking? Sure thing. How about stacking health gains to become so tanky no enemy can feasibly kill you, and then combining that with an artefact that gives you damage based on your health? Azurebreak has you covered.
But that’s not all, Azurebreak also comes with six unlockable characters, each of which has a completely distinct playstyle. Each one has a different basic attack, as well as 18 unique abilities that they can mix and match, adding even more variety. One run you could be flinging fireballs and swinging swords, and the next you could be setting up an intricate series of plant-based traps that explode into a shower of razor-sharp petals. As simple as the basic combat may seem, the level of customisation and variety on offer more than makes up for it.
Unfortunately these systems, as fun as they are, inevitably lead to me accidentally breaking all semblance of balance. That’s not to say the game is easy – because it’s not. The developers clearly intended the game to kill you quickly and often, especially in the later stages. However, stacking certain artefacts can make you literally unkillable. Once I had discovered the “winning combo”, my desire to experiment waned significantly. Power-tripping is fun for a time, but things eventually got a tad stale as a result.
Getting to that point did take many hours of play of course, especially as to unlock artefacts you need to grind various resources, die, go back to base and spend them at the local vendor. You also need to unlock your characters unique skills using these same resources, adding a nice layer of progression. It took around five hours to beat Azurebreak for the first time, and the game has multiple endings, which gives it some pretty long legs if you wanted to invest the time.
Azurebreak Heroes is a charming little title that packs a fair amount of content for the asking price. Tinkering with the game’s systems was hods of fun, and kept me interested for its duration, and beyond. It isn’t the best Roguelite on the market, and it could certainly do with a balance patch, but it’s certainly worth a gander.
Toast Seal Of Approval
You can purchase Azurebreak Heroes from the Nintendo E-shop for £6.29.
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