Published on September 11th, 2012 | by Derek Strickland, Contributor

Brimstone Xbox Indie Review

Developer: Punchbag Entertainment
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: Sept. 9, 2012
Price: 80 MSP ($1)
XBLIG Link: Brimstone

Brimstone is a prime example of a great addition to the Xbox Indies Marketplace, easily providing hours of enjoyable dungeon-delving hack-n-slash action solo or with friends over Xbox LIVE. Build your hero’s strength with level-ups, and use a huge arsenal of weapons and armor and an array of helpful magic scrolls in this addictive RPG. You can also take on waves of enemies and epic bosses with randomly generated dungeons.

This Xbox Indie seamlessly blends many of my personal favorite genres. Roguelike (a dungeon crawling sub genre of RPGs) and action RPG come together in a nice package, taking little bits and pieces from each and combining them to deliver instantly recognizable gameplay. While Brimstone does make use of concepts and elements that are found in many critically acclaimed titles, the way it combines and utilizes these genres is unique, and isn’t a direct clone of any one title–though it is similar to many.

Every dungeon is randomized and reset each time you play, providing huge replay value!

Many players will be attracted to Brimstone’s use of roguelike dungeon-crawler aspects–infinitely randomized dungeons, enemies and loot drops–that can be found in dozens of classic PC releases such as Diablo. While Diablo offers an expansive array of skills and character customization, Brimstone keeps the RPG aspects light in that players can only assign attributes without the use of class-specific skills.

The HUD and menu interfaces are well designed, simple and their functions are easily recognizable. The on-screen HUD is comprised of a health globe and an EXP bar, each fitted with an impressive medieval style that’s akin to many titles of the genre. The menus are comprised of an Inventory in which players can peruse their collected weapons, armors and other miscellaneous items. The Status Screen shows the character’s attributes and statistics, each of which are defined by the attribute value.

Overall the controls are very user-friendly . Players can explore the dungeons and move about with the Left Analog Stick, the ‘X’ button is the melee attack (which can be held down to do multiple attacks to reduce button spamming), ‘A’ interacts with NPC’s and doors, ‘B’ casts a spell and ‘Y’ uses a Healing Scroll. Even the BACK button is used, and when pressed brings up the in-game map (which is extremely useful and executed quite well). There are menu buttons, such as ‘LB’ which brings up the Inventory screen, whereas RB brings up the Status Screen. Also, ‘RT’ and ‘LT’ can be used to navigate the Inventory screen, and this is very useful considering your pack fills up quite fast.

Character movement is very fluent, which is very important in any roguelike, and the in-game map overlay fits well over the dungeon interior. Collision is excellent and players can interact with their environment easily as well as dodge enemy spells. Overall the physics of the game are great and it plays like it should, giving the game that authentic top-down hack-n-slash feel. And, what would all this effort be for if there wasn’t a top notch leveling system?

Enemies can easily overrun you if you’re not careful! Kiting and funneling enemies into thin passageways is a great tactic to even the odds.

Upon leveling up, players are given five Stat Points in which they can use to raise four different attributes, which in turn raise different inherent traits that quantify a character’s overall fortitude. These attributes are pretty much standard in any RPG, and their values can determine how well a character does in a certain battle situation. Players can distribute these points as they see fit to tailor to their specific playing style as well as meet certain armor or weapon requirements.

Weapons, Armors and other equippable items add bonuses to stats and base attributes, which is extremely helpful aids players in combat. For example, a piece of enchanted platemail can raise both Strength and Max Life. Usually items that magnify a certain attribute or stat are related to that type, like that of having a magic rod weapon raising the Magic attribute and how swords tend to favor melee combat.

Each attribute and the stats that they affect are listed below:

  • Magic – Determines the effectiveness of magical attacks and resistance to magical attacks.
  • Strength – Determines the average base melee damage dealt in battle and Physical Resistance.
  • Dexterity – Determines how well players can evade and dodge incoming attacks and their accuracy in battle.
  • Toughness – Increases maximum Life and Life Regen.

You can mix and match attributes and utilize specific item bonuses to build your hero to your specifications: make a mighty soldier who can tank and dish out huge melee damage, or maybe a stealthy rogue who easily dodges enemy attacks…the choice is up to you! Although Brimstone keeps things simple and doesn’t have expansive skill trees, the gameplay doesn’t suffer and still offers character customization.

The randomized dungeons levels are expansive labyrinthine mazes that become lit up as you explore them. Players open doors and enter new rooms to find chests or enemies lying in wait, and the in-game map doesn’t display the area until it is explored, allowing players easy recognition of old and new spots. As always it’s best to explore the entire level before moving on as you don’t want to miss a nice new Imbued Sword…but be sure to identify it first, as it may be cursed!

Enemies in the game can range from regular (white names) to mini-bosses (blue). This further is reminiscent of classic dungeon crawling RPG’s, and is easily recognizable by veteran gamers.

The mini-bosses will have different attributes usually associated with their monster type. They will generally present more of a challenge than normal monsters–although the normal baddies are still dangerous as they can come in waves and hordes. Mini-bosses have an aura that sets them apart from the others so they are easy to target.

In Brimstone players can equip up to six items at one time: Weapon, Off Hand, Helm, Armor, Boots and Amulet. Items can be purchased via a merchant on the top floor of the dungeon, however items cannot be sold, which is a bit inconvenient as players will find their inventories full in no time at all. This encourages players to destroy what they don’t need and make efficient use of their space, providing a bit of strategic upkeep.

There are a few different grades of items like Regular, Uncommon and Imbued that are designated with a different color, which is further akin to Diablo‘s or Torchlight‘s item classification. Depending on the item’s class, the bonuses can range from small extras to huge boosts to Strength, Magic, HP and other attributes and stats.

The inventory can be used to store a variety of items that give bonuses when equipped.

Scrolls are an essential and necessary commodity to use in order to survive Brimstone’s deadly dungeons. All scrolls are helpful in some way–they can remove curses and identify items–and Healing Scrolls are invaluable, since they are the only way to regain HP. Many of these items can be purchased by the merchant who can even be reached by using a Scroll of Return.

Final Truth:

This Xbox Indie doesn’t offer many of the traditional elements players would associate with J-RPGs–there are no party members and combat is full-action, not turn-based. While Brimstone isn’t a J-RPG per se, it does successfully mirror classic roguelikes with its dark corridors, intense action and a creepy atmosphere. It’s just you, your wits and your trusty sword as you take on hordes of demons in a dark medieval dungeon…which is the way that these games are meant to be played.

For just 80 Microsoft Points ($1), Brimstone is a great value for any casual or hardcore RPG fan, and I honestly have a blast each time I play it. This Xbox Indie incorporates a mash-up of many genres: from dungeon crawler to action RPG, Punchbag’s release is a fantastic addition to your library. While the top-down view can be a bit stale at times, the game shines in its ease of use. This is aside from its pure action RPG mechanics, and extensive co-op capability—which anyone can pick it up and play either with friends, or on Xbox LIVE, which is something not every XBLIG offers.

With a huge variety of items, customizable character attributes, and non-stop hack-n-slash action, Brimstone provides hours of enjoyable gameplay at an amazingly affordable price.

[xrr label=”Rating: 8/10″ rating=8/10]

+ High replay value
+ Supports Up to 8 Player co-op Over LAN or Xbox LIVE
+ Mix of action RPG & roguelike elements
+ Randomized dungeons & loot
Top-down view can be awkward at times
Inventory can get cluttered

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For more information on Brimstone and the XNA studio that created it please visit Punchbag Entertainment’s official website. Also be sure to try Brimstone for yourself with the Free Demo!

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About the Author

I'm an aspiring games journalist who writes articles focused on everything from Indie Games to next-gen titles. [Twitter] @Mr_Deeke [E-Mail] derek.s(at)gamingtruth(dot)com

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