Skul: The Hero Slayer (PC) Review with stream
Good looking game
Smoothly animated is pretty on the eyes
Difficulty can turn away some
Rogue-likes and the kind have been making the rounds and invading more and more genres for the last decade, and it isn’t that uncommon to see them slip into a beautifully sprite animated game like Skul: The Hero Slayer. Taking inspiration from those that came before it, like Dead Cells and Rogue Legacy, the smooth 2D platforming takes center stage as it leans heavy on its mechanics and depth of combat. The problems, though, start to show up when the game starts to lean too heavily on the depth and randomness that can be ingrained in the genre.
Without a doubt the first thing that anyone will notice about Skul is the pixel art graphics. They are extremely detailed, lovingly rendered, and portray a sense of character that many games seem to forget can be added with graphics. The animations are fluid and and fast, allowing some characters to dash around the screen with ease, and other–heavier– ones to lumber and take their time.
That telegraphing is a massive strength, as the playable character “Skul,” can switch between heads that are found in the levels and gain different classes skill-set. An archer type head, or that of a berserker, or an insanely large amount more can be found throughout, each class fundamentally alters the core mechanics of play. Skulls are actually weighted in game with “rarity” and some of them can be leveled up at certain points when conditions are met.
The class swap mechanic is both a blessing and a curse, as for every ounce of depth it adds it also adds more aspects to be learned and adapted for that set type of combat. The other drawback is that there are, at least occasionally, several types of the same skull; this means that when switching to the Treant one could change to either the one with the good skill set or the one that is seeming there to troll. While this can be attributed to the nature of the genre itself, it can still be frustrating when it feels like luck hands out the exact worst build for your play style.
The randomness also extends to the heroes that are fought at the halfway mark for the stages. These encounters are also selected at random, so it can be difficult to become better at some of them as others; as they too appear to be slightly weighted one way or another. These characters do play as a halfway mark for the stages, or sort of midbosses, but they remain unevenly difficult with some seemly geared to be naturally weak to some skulls while strong to others.
Which is probably the main issue with the title, in that it is extremely difficult. For anyone who isn’t a devoted fan of the 2D action rogues this combat and randomness will seem to be a little much. With games like Rogue Legacy there was always a sense of progress, no matter how small; with Skul there are entire play sessions that it can feel like no lasting impact was made in the game, and nothing will be better for it later. This is discouraging because at the core value of these titles there was always a slight progression aide along the way; this title seems lacking.
Skul: The Hero Slayer is a good title, the problem with it is that it just misses out on being great. Considering that the devs are actively still working on the game post-launch, and seem to be pretty engaged with the community and welcome constructive feedback, there is so much promise. If previous titles like Dead Cells or Hades seemed interesting, but not nearly hard enough, this is the title for you. If you are looking for something a little more casual, you will want to look elsewhere– just know that this is still an amazingly quality game.