GDC 2018: Nab Some Treasure and Survive a Curse in City of Brass

The Arabian Nights stories have been around for ages, but rarely are they adapted into video games. Developer Uppercut Games has taken inspiration from one of those stories, City of Brass, to develop their title, also called City of Brass. The game released on Steam Early Access back in September and is doing well with a 98% positive reception. With the game’s full release on PC and consoles coming up, we got to go hands-on with the near-final product.

The City of Brass story tells the tale of a city that grew too greedy and arrogant. In their arrogance, the city offended its neighbors and caused all trade to cease. Without food, the city began to starve and its citizens started taking drastic measures to survive. They enslaved genies, but that only brought a dreadful curse upon the city. Driven mad, the populace began to build traps and would eventually die only to be resurrected as undead creatures. In the game, you travel to the city in search of loot but inadvertently become cursed. You must now work your way through the city to discover a cure and escape with your riches.

At first glance, it’s easy to see that City of Brass pulls inspiration from the BioShock games. After all, Uppercut Games is composed of numerous developers who worked on BioShock and BioShock 2. A fantastical city torn apart by its own arrogance, a weapon in one hand and a helping tool in the other and even an arrow that guides you towards the exit. The similarities are there, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find a game drastically different from BioShock.

City of Brass is broken down into twelve levels that culminate in a boss fight with a mini-boss after every three levels. The goal is to nab as much treasure as possible and get to the end alive. To keep things interesting for every playthrough, all levels are procedurally generated, meaning there are different secrets to uncover each time you boot up a level. Not only does this keep the game feeling fresh, but also keep players on their toes.

City of Brass can be quite punishing for those who aren’t wary of the environment. Each level comes equipped with a slew of traps. There can be spikes on the ground, sand traps on the wall or exploding vases pretending to hold treasure. It’s important to pay attention because you don’t have much health and that makes it that much easier for an enemy to finish you.

For combat, you have a scimitar in your right hand and a whip in your left. While the whip won’t damage enemies, it will stun them, pull them towards you, and knock weapons out of their hands. During later levels, using the whip strategically is required to bypass powerful enemies. For example, an enemy using a heavy shield can block all scimitar attacks, but using the whip pulls the shield aside and creates an opening for you. While there aren’t different types of weapons for you to equip, there’s enough depth with the scimitar and whip to keep combat interesting for multiple attempts.

Playing into the game’s mythology is the genies. Forced into servitude by those that came before, most genies are there to help you on your quest. Some act as vendors with weapon upgrades, useful items, and the ability to replenish your health. Others provide helpful services like disabling all traps. However, some hostile genies will try and wipe you out. True to legend, players get three wishes at the start of a level that can be spent on any genie. These wishes decrease the cost of items, improve the benefit of services, and even turn hostile genies into friendly ones. Once the wishes are gone though, they’re gone.

City of Brass has been available on Steam Early Access for a few months now, and things have been going well. Uppercut Games has been engaging with the community and listening to what they want to see. What they’ve heard the most is that players want more ways to play their game, which was the catalyst for the introduction of Blessings. Blessings are modifiers that make the game easier or harder. From removing time limits to increasing the number of traps, there are plenty of ways for players to modify the game to their tastes. Uppercut is listening and working to implement the features players want to see before the game’s full launch.

While we didn’t get a chance to check out the game on console, Uppercut did confirm that the game will launch simultaneously on PS4, Xbox One and PC. The game will also feature PS4 Pro and Xbox One X support, but details remain under wraps. Be sure to check back for a finalized release date real soon.