I love classic first-person shooters. Doom (the original 1993 one) is my favorite game of all time. On top of that, I love me some Quake, Wolfenstein, Duke Nukem, Blood, Serious Sam, Half-Life, SiN, etc. So to be given the chance to play a new 1990s-esque FPS for the Switch got me very excited. A few hours later and that excitement is beginning to dwindle fast.
Now I’d like to heavily emphasize that this is not a review of the game. I don’t believe I’ve made nearly enough progress for me to give a full opinion on this game. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot to say about the game.
Right off the bat, I love how this game looks. On the technical side of things, the game is running on some sort of dynamic resolution which tends to dip below target the second you start moving your character. Furthermore, the game has a 30fps lock and the framerate will drop further when being completely swarmed by enemies on screen. But aside from that, the style and art of the game look really cool. It’s very cartoony but doesn’t feel childish. The Egyptian setting is reminiscent of games like Powerslave/Exhumed and Serious Sam while the character of the Immortal Redneck himself seems to take inspiration from Duke Nukem, Caleb from Blood, and Redneck Rampage.
The other thing I love about this game is the gameplay. This game just feels fantastic to play. Which surprises me since it’s capped at 30fps and played with a controller and yes I am a stickler for those kinds of things. All of the guns (emphasis on the word GUNS) feel really good to shoot and feature really satisfying sounds and animations. The game has motion aiming on by default which works well but I turned it off pretty quickly. The one thing I love is the sprint mapped to the left trigger. It works less like a sprint button and more like a “launch” button as it essentially shoots you across the room like a rocket and it feels great just bouncing off of the environments at top speed shooting enemies in the face.
So if the game looks and plays good, what’s the problem? Well as soon as I started a new game and finished the tutorial, I started roaming around the first level (or ‘floor’) of the game and something just felt…off. The level was essentially a bunch of rooms randomly connected to each other and then it struck me. I’m playing a rogue-like/lite, aren’t I? Is it a bit ridiculous that I went into this game not completely knowing what kind of game it is? Yes. Furthermore, I have to admit something. I’m not exactly a fan of rouge-likes/lites. But hear me out. I’m not going to just dump on this game because I didn’t completely know the game’s genre nor because I’m not a fan of the genre.
What’s a rogue-like/lite? Well, a rogue-like is usually defined by three traits: randomization, permanent death, and (at least in the past) turn-based RPG combat. Newer rogue-likes tend to swap out the turn-based combat for more action RPG-type combat and “rouge-lites” are games that follow those same three traits but are usually a bit less lenient on them. Immortal Redneck leans more towards the “rogue-lite” end of things. Personally, I’ve felt that there’s been sort of an overabundance of these types of games lately and that they don’t really feel all that fleshed out. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Spelunkey (can’t wait for 2) and I’ve enjoyed games like Binding of Isaac and Rogue Legacy. But where those games feel like they were designed completely around the rouge-like/lite design, there are plenty others that feel like they use the randomization and permanent deaths as a crutch to pad out games or add depth where there is none. Two examples that come to my mind are Flinthook and Strafe. I really didn’t feel that these games needed these elements because the randomization took away some of the magic of how their core gameplay feels. Flinthook has some really awesome platforming mechanics that unfortunately never really get fleshed out because all of the levels are just a bunch of tiny random pre-fabbed rooms that don’t flow or give the player any real freedom. And with Strafe, I mean, outside of the random levels that game is barely even a rouge-lite. In fact, with that game, they specifically designed rooms exclusive to each level of the game that the game just jumbles into a random order once you enter. So…why didn’t they just take the extra step and put said rooms in a normal sequential order?
I assume you can see where I’m going with this. Immortal Redneck (to me at least) falls to the side of “why did this have to be a RL?” As I said earlier, the levels (or ‘floors’ as they’re called in game) consist of a bunch of pre-made rooms randomly connected. The idea is that you fight through all these rooms until you find the one with a staircase that leads you to the next floor. Unlike Binding of Isaac (or even Strafe) these floors are not well paced at all and each level can be either super long or somewhat short depending on where the game decided to spawn the staircase room. But even on the shorter end, trying to get through these levels feel like a slog. Whenever you enter into a new room, the doors close and don’t reopen until you’ve killed all of the enemies in the rooms. The rooms are set-up similarly to the arena type rooms in Doom (the 2016) one. The biggest problem being that half of these rooms are massive in size and the game doesn’t really fill these things up with enemies. There’s a couple in particular where the game will place 5-6 enemies at the bottom of the room where you enter only for you to have to slowly first-person platform your way up to the tippy-top of the room only to kill the 1 or 2 remaining enemies. It really kills the pacing and whatever momentum you may have had going. Especially when the game decides to put 2 or 3 of these rooms back to back in one floor. Or even worse, when you finally move onto the next floor and have to go through THE SAME ROOMS AGAIN. It wouldn’t even be so bad if there was just anything else in these rooms. You get pretty much all of your pickups from dead enemies. Gold for upgrading stats, ammo for your weapons, steak for your health, scrolls for RNG powerups. Occasionally there might be a chest with any of the previously mentioned or a weapon in it but these are few and far between. The most commonly spawn in chest or challenge rooms but there’s only 1 of each in each floor. This makes exploration completely not worth it. And this takes me to why I haven’t progressed much.
I’ve died quite a few times in this game. Is the game hard? Eh. I wouldn’t really say so. And the deaths are actually somewhat forgiving. Similar to Rogue Legacy the deaths are permanent but your progression stays. All of the gold you collected from dead enemies and chests in your last playthrough can be put into an upgrade tree to upgrade your damage, defense, crits, as well as new playable characters (kind of. Your redneck still has the same hands and voice lines but his active/passive abilities change as well as his weapons). The fact is, trying to get back to where you last were on a previous run is such a time-consuming process. Even getting to the third-floor boss fight can take even up to 30-40 minutes because of all of the large rooms the game RANDOMLY throws at you that just sink your time away. And with each floor, the enemies get tougher and tougher and the payouts (did I mention that not all enemies will drop ammo and health, it only happens some of the time) become lesser and lesser. And I haven’t even gotten to the RNG scrolls that give you powerups ranging from “easy mode” to “why put such an unfun mechanic in this game?” Most of my deaths have just been from just being completely out of ammo and getting swamped by enemies with little to no chance of being able to do anything. Especially in boss fights where you only fight with whatever’s on your back. You can’t even prepare for these encounters, either. There’s no indication if whether or not the room you’re about to enter is a boss fight or not and once you open the door to a new room you’re essentially sucked and locked in.
Once again, I want to love this game. And the fact that the game looks and feels so fun to play is what keeps me coming back. But the shoehorned RNG elements and horrendously slow pacing of all the random rooms together just suck the life out of me whenever I play. But then again, I only just got through the first pyramid. I’ll try to get through the rest of this thing in due time and deliver a final full opinion. And I hope I have nicer things to say.