Is it possible for a first person shooter to be simple, challenging, gorgeous, frustrating and fun, all at the same time? Well, Polygod from Krafted Games somehow fills that exact niche, offering up randomly generated rogue-like adventure, frenetic gunplay and some brightly coloured low-poly graphics.
Polygod is deceptively simple at first; you spawn into the ever-changing, enemy-filled arenas with nothing but a gun and your wits. You are tasked with killing the various baddies and collecting their souls in order to power up your weapon and improve your skills. At the end of each area, there is a champion of the gods (a level boss) who you must defeat in order to progress to the next area. You may be thinking that this sounds an awful lot like Dark Souls, and I can tell you that Polygod also has a pretty steep difficulty curve and can be just as punishing as a stroll through Lordran.
You’re going to be seeing this a lot
The cycle of success, death and improvement is at the heart of this game and you can quickly go from feeling completely in control to getting absolutely slaughtered in a heartbeat. The enemies you face start off as stationary, single shot cannon fodder, but quickly progress to aggressive bullet hoses that seem to know your every move before you make it. In order to even the odds a little, you can spend the souls you collect from them to buy ‘blessings’ from altars scattered around the levels to make crazy weapon combinations. These boons are measured though, and quite often you’ll find yourself trading power in one area for a weakness in another. For instance, you can increase the damage of your bullets in exchange for a slower rate of fire or player movement speed, and another cool blessing makes you sacrifice one hit point for every bullet you fire but heals two hit points if it strikes an enemy.
On top of that, you can find shrines throughout the levels that, at great cost, can unlock alternative versions of your character with modifiers that can make things easier or more challenging if that’s your style. It’s a great way of making you feel empowered as you progress, but also allows the game to remain challenging, after all, it’s learning how best to tackle each situation and beat each enemy that gives the player satisfaction and keeps you hitting that ‘try again’ button each time you die. Oh, and death is permanent, so when you do die, you’ll go right back to the start of the very first level and lose all of your blessings.
Since you’ll be dying quite a lot in this game, replayability is definitely a key feature of Polygod, and if you so choose you can randomise pretty much everything each time you play. Although the general progression of the game remains the same, the level layout, enemy placement and blessings available can all be generated randomly using a seed algorithm. There’s even a daily randomly generated seed, which means you’ll always have a different experience to play. If you’d prefer to completely learn the layout of your run-though, you also have the option of saving the world you’ve produced and playing it as many times as it takes for you to become a gun-toting god.
Yes, rest in this hellscape with four looming figures glaring at you
Speaking of becoming a god, that is pretty much the aim of the game (I guess the clue is in the title). You are Faceless the Blessed and as the last of your kind, you need to complete the trails of a pantheon of deities in order to ascend to a higher plane. Although the narrative is second to the FPS action and almost non-existent, there are a host of NPCs scattered throughout the various levels that you can interact with and piece the story together (again, much like a Dark Souls game). Alternatively, if you’re in a particularly bloodthirsty mood, you are also free to murder these characters in cold blood and take their higher-value souls as your own.
There is also a multiplayer mode available, both online and local, but at the time of writing I was unable to match-make with anyone for online co-op campaign or online competitive. Playing with a friend locally only gives you the option of a co-op campaign, which is essentially the same as single-player, with each player having their own souls bank and blessings. It could be fun to blitz through the levels with a pal in tow, but with the scarcity of souls and altars in a level, I could see it swiftly descending into stealing kills and one player being over-powered while the other lags behind.
Have you ever, ever felt like this?
To be totally honest, this kind of game isn’t really my thing. I love a challenge and I love shooting games, but for some reason, I’m not a huge fan of when those two worlds collide. That being said, the lovely low-poly graphics and almost church-like music, juxtaposed with the brutal bullet-hell gameplay is a nice change from the gritty realism and one-man army approach to most other FPS games I’ve played recently. I found it hard to stay engaged with Polygod after dying for the umpteenth time, but I can definitely see it appealing to those die-hard, trigger-twitching gamers with a penchant for punishment. Plus, the randomisation of the worlds means that if you’re ever looking to fill a spare twenty minutes, Polygod will always have something for you to shoot.
Reviewed on Xbox One | Review code supplied by publisher