Songbringer is quite simply brilliant. It scratches that dungeon crawler itch while you wait for the new Breath of the Wild content to land and it ticks every box while doing it. Songbringer boasts unique art, challenging yet fun gameplay, an interesting story and a kickass soundtrack… what more could you want?
I’ve always said that graphics don’t mean dick if your gameplay and story make up for it and Songbringer has both in spades. You follow the story of Roq and his robot companion Jib as they explore a mysterious world after crash landing. The story is constantly steeped in mystery and keeps you guessing as to just who Roq is and why the mysterious shadow figures want him so badly. Roq and Jib’s partnership seems incredibly natural, like the pair have been long-term friends and they exchange banter regularly which helps relieve some of the tension that the dark tones help garner.
The story’s themes and tones are complemented beautifully by Songbringer‘s art style, reminiscent of Hyper Light Drifter. Pixel art has been making quite the comeback recently and it lends itself to some brilliant scenery, level designs and, most importantly, character and enemy designs. When limited by available pixels it’s amazing how unique and individual each enemy’s design can be. Especially with regards to the bosses, they all boast characteristic qualities and are incredibly well detailed. Graphically the game may not be the most advanced but the sheer technical skill present in its design is staggering. the particle and weather effects really help to foster an air of tension, desolation and foreboding that strengthens as the game progresses.
Songbringer brings a lot of unique-ness (that’s a word…right?) to the genre by addition of a procedurally generated overworld, dungeons, world secrets and more. Given the scale of the game this is nothing short of incredible. Not only does the game generate an entire world unique to whatever 6-letter word used as it’s seed, but it allows you to explore it at your own pace, direction and essentially lets you write your own story as you go. This is unprecedented and unheard of in the story driven dungeon crawler. Being able to get up from the starting location and go wherever you want is liberating! Players are able to take the game in whatever direction they like and make it work however they like.
Being able to generate a new world every time means every playthrough is unique to you. No two adventures will ever play out the same as dungeons and secrets will populate the world randomly, being located differently each time you play it. This means that even though the story has its key moments and points, players aren’t necessarily going to encounter the same bosses and dungeons in the same order, making each adventure unique.
Such a level of freedom can make gameplay tricky in some games but Songbringer makes it work. You’re able to tackle any boss or challenge in any order you like by just modifying your tactics. Not only does Songbringer feature a similar art style to that of Hyper Light Drifter but it also has a similar combat style. Learning your enemies attack patterns is crucial, especially in the boss arenas where attacks can often write off large sections of the room. The combat can be challenging and dodging effectively quickly becomes second nature, although most enemies can be stun-locked easily by just flailing the Nanosword at them repeatedly, the larger enemies really do require some thought.
It would be doing this game and Nathanial Weiss an injustice not to mention the incredible soundtrack this game has to offer. Watching Weiss’ dev diaries are great for seeing the game in development and listening to the soundtrack taking shape. It’s mix of bass and distortion effects create a characteristic soundtrack that fits the sci-fi/fantasy dungeon crawler perfectly. Sufficiently mystical, creepy and techno that it compliments not only the visual aesthetic but the overall tone and feel of the game. It’s nothing short of criminal that the soundtrack isn’t available separately!
All in all Songbringer is fantastic. It’s a feat of technical skill in more ways than one and offers countless hours of dungeon crawling potential. The player leaderboards constantly offering players a challenge beyond those of the game itself, pitting you against your peers in completion times and map percentage covered.
For anyone who enjoys a good adventure or the old LoZ titles, Songbringer is the game for you!