Curse of the Dead Gods is available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. I conducted this review using an Xbox Series X.
You can find a video version of this review here: Curse of the Dead Gods Review [Action Rogue-lite] – YouTube
At a glance, Curse of the Dead Gods might seem similar to another popular rogue-lite game. Even I have been known to crack a joke or two about the game being Hades emo brother. However, while they certainly have a few things in common, Curse of the Dead Gods is very much its own game.
Curse of the Dead Gods takes place in an ever-changing temple based on Mesoamerican mythology. You choose which specific variations to enter on any given run, be it the temple of the Jaguar, Eagle, or Serpent. All of them have unique aesthetics, traps, and enemies. There’s no story to speak off, but Curse of the Dead Gods does feature a large amount of written lore that you can discover.
Naturally, death isn’t the end. You carry over various currencies that you can use to unlock blessings and new weapons that may be found within the temple to help you progress. But there is one ever-present factor that will accompany you in every run, Corruption.
Simply being within the halls of the temple will corrupt you, but it spreads faster or slower based on your choices and performance. Corruption brings on curses that can alter how you play. At the same time, you can willingly take on Corruption for more power. But be careful as greed can easily be your downfall, and it’s one of the defining themes of the game.
Mayan Me Crazy
Curse of the Dead Gods chewed me up and spit me out. It repeatedly stepped on my face run after run, and sadly none of the beings doing the stepping was a 9’6 Vampire Woman with a fancy hat. This review actually took longer than I anticipated, because it would not stop whooping my ass. It’s easily one of the most difficult games I’ve played in recent memory.
Now, before you point and laugh about how game reviewers are bad at games, keep in mind, I generally review games on the highest difficulty. I will whine like a petulant child if a game is too easy. Curse of the Dead Gods is genuine challenge, and the good kind of challenge, the one that feels fair.
I can pinpoint how I died every death, and as angry as I would get, it was always at my self. The combat is extremely skill-based and pulls no punches when you screw up. Enemies have very clear wind-ups to their attacks, and you can dodge roll out of the way, interrupt, or even parry most of them. But spamming of any kind, be it attacking or defending will end you fast.
There is a very tightly knit stamina system in the game. It’s used for heavy attacks, combo finishers, and dodging. It only takes a few seconds to regain, but that’s all the game needs to send you packing. Where Hade’s was a maelstrom of activity, Curse of the Dead Gods is much more methodical, but still feels fast-paced and extremely fluid.
Every battle consists of you keenly watching the enemies and prioritizing threats. Figuring out which ones you can interrupt, dodge or parry before taking a small breather to recover is key. If you are really good, parries and perfect dodges actually regain stamina. Timing those can be risky, and your greed is always pitted against the potential reward. That concept permeates the entire game.
Chaining kills within a set amount of time forms a greed kill. The higher it climbs, the more gold you get, which is incredibly important. The name gives it all away, greed kill. It’s far safer to take a very slow and methodical approach to each encounter. But if you want the shiny clinkey-clink, you’re gonna have to move faster. Striking an enemy keeps the timer active, and it’s always a choice between your safety and your need for greed.
The game will demand that you master several aspects of it. You won’t be coasting through on just one or two skills. For a long time, I never learned to parry. I dodge rolled around like I saw my in-laws coming. Then I met a boss that was like…”Aww, that’s cute. You gonna learn today.” And then they fed me my own spine until I did, in fact, learn to parry.
Each boss fight is really well done too, and each one left me feeling like I was never going to get past it. But they all have tricks to them. With some patience and perseverance, they can be beaten, and it feels super good when you best them.
Curse of the Dead Gods has several weapon types split between main, secondary and heavy. These can range from swords, pistols, maces, big hammers, long spears, or even whips so you can pretend that you’re Indiana Jones in the temple of Depressing Gloom.
You can link together attacks with primary, secondary, and heavy weapons at any time in a completely fluid nature, and each type has its own finishers. Your playstyle can really vary depending on what combination you’re carrying and it always plays into how you deal with each set of enemies. The variety is really nice.
On top of the weapons. You also carry a torch that you can switch to at any time. Darkness is another mechanic you must always take into account. First of all, light reveals hidden traps. And this isn’t something you can cheat by turning up your screen’s brightness, they are literally invisible in the dark.
Secondly, you take more damage in the dark. You can light up nearby braziers to keep the lights on during battle, but those can be snuffed or destroyed. Lighting enemies on fire also works. The good news is, traps can be used on the enemies as well. Lighting explosive barrels, igniting a flamethrower, or knocking an enemy onto floor spikes are all viable strategies.
Every single weapon in the game can have special effects, and you can pick up relics that give various passive benefits. Some might allow you to deal more damage in the dark, giving you another greed factor to balance. Do risk the extra damage to do more of your own?
Others might reduce your corruption, deal lightning damage or regain health from killing foes. You accumulate two different types of currencies that you can spend on blessings to equip and unlock new weapons that can be found.
One important aspect is buying and upgrading weapon altars. Each one will have a random selection of weapons. Starting a run with a full set of good weapons means it’s one less thing you need to hunt down, after all, you get to choose your path through the temple and can prioritize what rewards you’re after.
The issue is, for a long time you don’t really feel like you’re building a playstyle at all. Early on, you’re just going to take whatever has the highest numbers. Over time you can unlock more blessings and weapon types that can let you brainstorm some build ideas mid-run, but it’s honestly a big grind to get there.
There were many deaths where I was ready to spend some currency on some new stuff, only to realize I hadn’t earned enough to pick up anything meaningful. I had to pound my head against the wall I was stuck on until either I broke, it did, or I scored enough currency to affect something.
Corruption is an ever-present factor in Curse of the Dead Gods, and it ties deeply into both being good at the game and your own greed. Your corruption increases after exiting every room. You can mitigate it with certain traits, but you can never fully rid yourself of corruption.
Certain enemy attacks will also increase it, but it’s also a potential resource you can use. Whenever you come across a shrine, it will offer you a choice of weapons, relics, or some stat increases that you can buy with gold. But you can also pay in blood, getting the item for free.
Paying in blood spikes your corruption, and at certain thresholds, your corruption will curse you. Most curses can work with you in some ways. A curse that increases the explosion radius of sulfur barrels is dangerous sure, but you can use that to your advantage. But they can also screw up your build.
If, for example, you have a good thing going where you heal yourself using critical damage and the curse makes it so you only heal through greed kills, well, that sucks. But the most dangerous curse is the fifth one, which’s always the same. It will leave you at one HP, meaning if you so much as a sneeze from a temple cobweb, it’s over.
Choosing to pay in blood is a choice that must always be made with confidence that you will slow the rate of corruption in some other way. You also face a choice with random loot that you find. You can take the loot, or trade it to the Gods for healing, lowered corruption, or even some stat boosts. Every run is laden with many choices, large and small. And you really have to plan ahead in the longer temples.
Curse of the Dead Gods can be a bit of grind, and also a little bland for a rogue-lite. The weapon variety is nice, but that’s more or less the extent of your character. Weapons might have some special effects, but you don’t have any sort of cool powers and most upgrades are passive. Builds themselves are also pretty tame. Good combos feel kind of mute at best, not spectacular like most games in the genre.
That can lead to combat feeling a bit underwhelming once you unlock some upgrades, they make a huge difference, but it’s not always outwardly visible. That said, Curse of the Dead Gods plays extremely well to its own unique strengths.
The three temple types are unique, with their own enemies, traps, and stellar boss fights. Elite variations of enemies also appear and are more than just a buffed bag of hit-points, they often have new attacks.
The combat is extremely skill-focused, smooth, fluid, and impactful, with enemies being knocked around and interrupted. It simply feels good to play. You really feel the impact of a big hammer and special status effects like lighting and poison look as strong as they feel, and I love being able to use the environment to my advantage.
The enemies are designed really well, offering a powerful challenge without ever feeling cheap. The light, corruption, and greed mechanics are very cohesive both gameplay wise and in theme. Curse of the Dead Gods has a clear identity from other games, at least once you play it. Overall the amount of tough choices you have to make each run is also really satisfying.
Curse of the Dead Gods boasts some very compelling and unique game mechanics combined with a fantastic combat system that demands mastery of the content it offers. Hades may be the social pretty boy of the genre, but Curse of the Dead Gods is that disciplined old adventurer ready to whip you into shape. Fortune and glory kid, fortune and glory.
A copy of Curse of the Dead Gods was provided for Gideon’s Gaming by Focus Home Interactive and Sandbox Strategies for the purpose of review.
My verdict is below, but you might also enjoy my review of Hades. I don’t run ads on my site, so if you want to help me out, check out my Creator Store, or drop a donation ion my Kofi..
- Variety of weapon types and a fluid system that allows you to swap between them on the fly
- Highly challenging but fair combat
- Unique and interesting greed, darkness and corruption mechanics
- Variety of enemies and traps split between three temple types
- Great enemy design and boss fights
- A bit of a grind
- Fairly bland loot and meta-progression, even if’s useful
- Most meaningful effects are passive