Updated: Catacombs Review

In the recent 1.1 update, InMotion Software has made some major improvements to Catacombs that make it the Gauntlet-style game we were hoping for. Here is a run-through of some new additions that add to the experience in a big way.

Most prominent are the new RPG elements. Each character has specific stats that can be enhanced with skill points each time you level up. You can set this to auto-distribute points as well, if you don’t feel like tinkering with the system. Also new are the quests, which include collecting certain emblems, beating new mini-bosses, or helping causes with the money you earn. Messages pop up on the screen when you make progress on one of these quests.

Another new addition is survival mode. Instead of going the traditional “play on an open map until you die” route that most dual-stick shooters take, this is the equivalent of an action-oriented roguelike: You keep pressing forward until you die, at which point it’s game over. This adds a new element of urgency to the flow of the game, although it does have a few oversights that we hope are addressed in a future update. For example, you can’t pick which difficulty you would like to play survival mode on. Also, the continued lack of online leaderboards kept this mode from being even more appealing.

Along with completing quests, you can use gold you’ve earned to unlock a fourth character: the thief. This is the most interesting class yet, with extreme speed and a special power that allows you to turn invisible and backstab unsuspecting enemies.

Some other improvements include mini-bosses, such as a massive skeleton warrior, better AI, and some user interface tweaks. Some of the UI changes include character stats on the main page, menu options for quests, and an indicator of where the exit is on the minimap.

After this major revamp, we are bumping our score up to a 3. We can also recommend checking out the Forest DLC for lush environments and further value. For one, it’s much better suited for survival mode.

The dual-stick shooter genre has become extremely crowded, with top-notch titles that push the boundaries. This means that new entries have to bring something fresh to the table to succeed. Catacombs is a case where the developer’s intent was to do something original, but the result ends up feeling bare-bones.

Catacombs’ concept has all the makings of a great title. It takes the classic dungeon crawler formula and portrays it in an overhead view. Using dual-stick controls, you move a character through a 24-level catacomb infested with skeletons and spiders, collecting gold for a high score.

At the start of the game, you choose to play as one of three characters: a warrior, mage, or archer. The only thing that distinguishes the characters is their ‘special move’ that can be used to fight off large groups of enemies once it’s charged up. For example, the mage creates a chain that links between enemies and kills everything it hits, while the archer spins in a circle, rapidly shooting arrows. However, these slight differences were not enough to make us want to play through the game again.

These skeletons have a bone to pick with you.

Each level is basically the same: find keys to open doors and head to the spiral staircase. Repetitive objectives, environments, enemies, and weapons made the game quickly feel tiresome. There is a boss on the last level that shoots fire at you, but it was too little, too late to improve the grind-heavy experience. We would love to be able to use gold to buy upgrades, something that has been key to the success of other dungeon crawler titles.

After completing the game, 24 more levels set in a forest can be purchased for $0.99. However, these are pretty much the same deal, with the only additional enemy being orcs, which are simply reskins of the skeletons. We can’t recommend this add-on pack, as it offers no value, other than new graphics, to the game.

Catacombs isn’t necessarily a bad game, but it needs more meat on its bones before we can recommend a buy.

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