Songbringer

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Wizard Fu Games for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, and Xbox One, originally released in 2017.
Songbringer is an action adventure heavily inspired by the original Legend of Zelda, featuring a sword-wielding adventurer journeying through an isometrically-presented overworld, exploring mysterious locales, and descending into dungeons to fight enemies, solve minor puzzles, and take on tough bosses. Even the opening scene features the protagonist standing in a clearing that has passages leading to the left, right, and up, with a dark cave entrance nearby, and venturing into the cave (with a Zelda-style descent animation) reveals a sword. However, this isn’t a “dangerous to go alone” situation, as pulling out the sword seems to awaken some sort of evil multi-eyed demonic creature.


The game is not set in a world of fantasy, but rather one of science fiction, and the weapon is no simple wooden sword, but rather a nanosword that hums like a light saber. The main character, Roq (and his trusty robot companion, Jib), is not a legendary hero, but rather a member of a group of spacefaring miscreants – on a ship called Songbringer – who have searched the stars for a place to have some fun. When Roq discovers a presumably abandoned planet called Ekzera, he descends to scout it out, but he is blasted out of the sky by a bolt of lightning.


The overworld is largely filled with traditional fantasy elements like wooden bridges, waterfalls, statues, ancient ruins, and the occasional NPC, but below the surface is a world of high technology with circuit-lined walls, keycard-locked doorways, and strange cubes that can summon platforms to float in the air. The game’s music and sound effects are similarly technological in nature, and even the traditional Zelda fanfare has been transformed into a piece of electronica.


The game world and its dungeons are procedurally generated, and the game prompts the player for a 6-character “seed” which is used to generate the environment, and entering the same set of characters always results in the same world being created, among millions of possibilities. Each world is generated with a single overworld, as well as 10 dungeons and 13 bosses. As with many such games featuring procedural generation, players will find some repeated room layouts and other such duplication, but the game’s robust lighting system means that even identical rooms can have a different look and feel. This system also allows for some impressive changes across the day-night cycle in the overworld areas.


As mentioned, much of the game is modeled directly after The Legend of Zelda. You begin the game with three hearts and are able to earn additional hearts by entering dungeons and defeating bosses. Here, the hearts are called “courage” – as emphasized in numerous comments made by the player character – and losing them all means that you have fallen to “fear”.


A number of enemies are directly analogous to those found in the NES classic, notably jumping Tektite-style enemies that appear the overworld, and Zola/Zora heads that emerge from the water to fire projectiles at you. The overworld map is similar in style to that of Zelda, although its contents are drastically different, and the map shows more than just your position by highlighting dungeon entrances and points of interest in typical metroidvania style.


Dungeon entrances are not apparent at the outset and must be discovered, and only by entering one is the dungeon’s number revealed, as in The Legend of Zelda. It’s very likely for you to enter a higher-level dungeon before discovering lower-level ones, but just like Zelda before it, much of the game can be tackled in any order you like. Just because you stumble into the 4th dungeon doesn’t mean you can’t make any progress, and you may be able to reach an item that will assist you elsewhere.


The overworld has a number of caves to discover, some of which lead to explorable areas, and others lead to shops that give the player the ability to select one of three items for purchase. Here, the player may spend diamonds earned by exploring dungeons and defeating enemies, although his carrying capacity for this currency is limited. Among the items available for purchase are Bio Detectors that may be used on the overworld to reveal large bio-signatures (i.e. bosses) and reveal them on the map, giving the player some direction toward finding the next dungeon entrance.


Exploring dungeons reveals a number of useful items, such as the top hat, which as the game explains, works exactly like a boomerang, essentially serving the same function as the boomerang in Zelda. It can be thrown to damage enemies and pick up diamonds and health restoratives from afar. The hat can be equipped with a magnet that allows it to retrieve bombs or further modified to allow for elemental effects to be added.


Bombs can be carried in a limited supply and are found by killing enemies and breaking objects, and only specific objects are susceptible to their blast. A cigarette lighter allows the player to light cylindrical torches when cause nearby torches to light, after which they all descend into the ground, opening the path forward. There’s also a teleportation maneuver which serves as a dodge roll, allowing players to pass safely through enemies, which can be useful in some of the more densely-packed rooms.


The player is able to equip up to six items at a time, each of which may be activated with a button press, and equipped items may be swapped out in the pause menu. In addition, there are numerous passive buffs, such as enhancements for Jib that allow him to deal with weaker enemies.


Save points are infrequent, with autosaves occurring upon entering and leaving a dungeon, and a single manual save point on the overworld map. If the player is killed within a dungeon, his navigation progress is retained, but all of the enemies in the area respawn. Additionally, players may opt to play the game as a roguelike with permadeath, but this is not the default option.


Dungeons can be somewhat difficult to navigate as many rooms look similar to one another, and enemies respawn upon death, although the puzzles are fairly simple. Additionally, there are caves within dungeons that allow you to explore other areas, but these are displayed linearly on the map. It’s not always apparent how to get from one room to another or where you need to go to access the next keycard or open the door to the area boss.


Bosses are a highlight of the dungeon exploration sequences, and are mostly defeated through brute force and smart combat tactics, rather than relying on specific items. Warps are created near boss doors that allow you to quickly return from the dungeon entrance should you be killed in battle. Players can also join forces to take down enemies and bosses in local 2P co-op or with a CPU-controlled second player.



2D CRED
Songbringer was developed by Wizard Fu Games, a 1-person studio operated by Nathanael Weiss, who is based in Oakland, California. The game was funded in part by a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2015.

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