Never Grave: The Witch and the Curse is an upcoming game from developer Frontside 180 and published by PocketPair, the same PocketPair that released Palworld to great success earlier this year.
In Never Grave, players take on the role of a hat. That’s right, the hat is really the main character. After falling down deep into the ruins, you encounter the lifeless body of a young girl and being a magical hat you possess her. This girl is who you’ll play as a majority of the time, she’s basically your default body.
Part of the game’s exploration and puzzle solving relies on using this possession mechanic to not only slip inside nooks and crannies as a flimsy hat, but also you can possess large enemies and use their unique abilities and attacks to your advantage. But most everything can be done with your default witch body.
Some basic tricks include ditching your body to crawl more easily in small gaps, also jumping off the body gives you more height as well. Luckily, you can summon your witch body at any time, meaning after you’ve gotten where you need to go as a hat, you can continue apace after a brief summoning (it only takes like 0.5 seconds, but might try not to get into fights as a hat).
Never Grave isn’t just a fantasy metroidvania, it’s a fantasy metroidvania ROGUELIKE. Personally, I like roguelikes. I like replayability, I like throwing myself into a wall and trying new strategies each time. Each time you enter a dungeon in Never Grave, you’ll encounter random treasures and upgrades to help make the ultimate boss fight of the run easier.
These upgrades can activate different playstyles in your run, encouraging you to go magic or melee heavy, or maybe you want some utility like bonus health or movement speed; all of it’s there if you’re willing to search for it.
While collecting temporary upgrades, you’ll be collecting longterm resources. If metroidvania and roguelike weren’t enough, now we have crafting (really it’s similar to Cuisineer). You’ll need to bring back coins, wood, stone, and other reagents from monsters and bosses in order to revitalize a destroyed village and buy some upgrades.
With these longterm upgrades it’s technically a “roguelite”, but I use the terms interchangeably given how common roguelites are nowadays.
Aesthetically, the witch is super cute and so are nearly all of the NPCs. The monster designs look great as well, the boss that I encountered at the end of the tutorial had a lot of detail (I swear I could have won if I’d realized then that dodging had invincibility frames).
The details in the scenery are fairly intuitive. So far in the demo, breakable walls look off at a glance, though this distinction is more about misalignment than any special texture. With procedurally generated dungeons, you get some janky walls anyways which helps obscure these secret areas.
The combat is where things get a bit iffy. Enemies are very stiff, especially flying enemies which will generally beeline straight for you. This complicates many of the platforming areas and it feels a bit unfair that to safely proceed in some rooms, you need to aggro the enemy and then immediately undo your platforming progress so you don’t take a chunk of your hp fighting the monster on a platform as wide as your character.
Enemies which are immune to hit-stun also make their attacks nearly instantly. This is just a personal complaint since I guess the point is I need to learn which enemies can be hit-stun, but it sucks to get nearly obliterated by a dude with an axe with nearly no wind-up to his swings. Though I’ll admit I probably just need to “git gud”.
So far, Never Grave looks like a solid roguelite with a dark fantasy anime aesthetic, my biggest issues with the game weren’t the gameplay, it’s definitely a game I think I’m looking forward to; but rather there’s a few technical issues. The game crashed on me twice while changing floors in the ruins, setting back my progress a bit, and the demo immediately tries to get you to join the PocketPair Discord which was annoying. All in all though? Looking forward to the full release, especially since the anticipated multiplayer was not part of the demo.