Have a Nice Death Review: a roguelike with diminishing returns

Part of the magic of The devil Wears Prada So skillfully the film walks the fine line between upgrading a soulless work culture and creating sympathy for the people in it. Intern Andy Sachs struggles against Miranda Priestley’s grip on a fashion magazine, only to find that she’s becoming more and more like Priestley. The film shows how effective a cruel boss can be.

The new roguelike Have a nice death delves into the same ideas, with work culture critiques and burnout — but instead of depicting a cruel boss with a fair amount of criticism, the game ends in undeserved sympathy for an overworked CEO.

Developer Magic Design Studios protagonist is Death, the founder of Death Inc. Death is dealing with burnout after sending too many souls to the realm of the afterlife. He has created collaborators to help him collect the dead, but those collaborators have gone rogue and begun wreaking havoc in his life-ending industry.

Death uses an area of ​​effect attack in Have a Nice Death

Image: Magic Design Studios/Gearbox Publishing

At that crucial moment, you accept responsibility for death. Armed with a trusty scythe, a cloak, and a book containing the names of the dead, Death must work his way through his labyrinthine workspace to deal with, fight, defeat, and restore his wayward employees.

Death’s headquarters is beautiful. The procedurally generated 2D dungeons look like they were pulled straight out of a Disney movie (the game often feels like a playable Pixar short). Animations unfold in a clean, moody noir accented with minimal splashes of color.

Combat mechanics glow in neon as curses, slashes, and projectiles paint across the dull gray landscape. Mechanically, the game is a joy to play. Combat is smooth and responsive, not dissimilar dead cells (whose lead designer worked closely with Magic Design), but feels more like a hack-and-slash. The Cloak of Death can transform into additional weapons, such as a gigantic hammer or poison cloud. I enjoyed mixing a ranged curse with a powerful melee weapon. Weapons are easy to unlock, and the available storage space in your inventory makes it easy to switch fighting styles mid-run – the act of building momentum in early runs is satisfying, rewarding, and exciting.

There are currently seven worlds (with one more planned for the full version 1.0 release on March 22nd), each with its own boss named Sorrow, including Waldo, a killer spider with the face of a big boy from the Toxic-Food Processing Dept. and, among others, Major Warren Pliskhan, an overzealous war general and head of the Department of Modern Warfare. Levels can get tedious as each biome only has an average of three or four main enemy types, but the enticingly designed main enemy fights remain challenging with every playthrough.

Death talks to employees and vendors in a safe place in Have a Nice Death

Image: Magic Design Studios/Gearbox Publishing

During your runs, which as in any roguelike throws you back to the beginning when dying (although I’m not clear how death itself dies?), you’ll encounter a variety of afflictions. They are proxies for global forces causing destruction and ending lives, and they made it to productive in “processing” (read: killing) people. As a result, Death has to visit each of his employees and they argue with him about their quality of work before attempting to beat them to a pulp.

Roguelikes are fertile opportunities to ask questions about burnout, work culture, and even work organization. sink, Hitman world of assassination‘s freelancer mode and even Hades design their respective workplaces as endless loops in which evil thrives.

But where Have a nice death also differs from these other workplace roguelikes in where it suffers. Instead of building sympathy for the job as an intern in the dungeons of failed startups, or as a son and house cleaner for the god of the underworld, you play management.

In his focus on death, without any questioning of his role on Death Inc., Have a nice death, consciously or not, frames the CEO as a likeable figure. And in a way he is – he’s grumpy but charming. But in his role as supervisor and exploiter of workers, it’s hard to wish him well when he’s yelling at his employees.

There is a version of this game in which Death, recognizing his exploitative practices and those of his company, is harder at recognizing the tongue-in-cheek jokes scattered across the country as he grapples with the pain and stress he has caused . But in the current state Have a nice death does not find this balance.

Death uses a laser-focused dash in Have a Nice Death

Image: Magic Design Studios/Gearbox Publishing

The macabre humor is initially charming, but soon turns sour when encountering mini-bosses like W. Hung (a noose) or the Sorrow Maxxx (an embodiment of addiction with a syringe from his back). I shook my head in disappointment when I encountered the Sorrow Christina Imamura, an orientalist geisha who advocates for natural disasters, and disbelief turned to anger when an atomic bomb animation played after the battle. I ended up actively avoiding the branching paths that would lead me to these bosses.

What often brings me back to good roguelike failed runs after good ones is a careful blend of mechanical enhancement and narrative progression. Developing the protagonist’s (and the player’s) skills is key, along with the gradual progression in the character’s story arc.

In Have a nice deathHowever, further discoveries only diminished my appreciation for the game. The beautiful world and close combat was captivating at first – but the more I found out about the story and the world, the less I wanted to continue playing.

There will reportedly be a narrative conclusion starting with the game’s full release when Death presumably finally gets PTO after revealing who is causing the riots at Death Inc. But I’m pessimistic that the new content can make up for the existing diminishing satisfaction with the game, and even more pessimistic that it’ll be able to tie a decent tie around such a chaotic storyline.

The game itself is beautiful and the combat mechanics feel great, but the deeper I delve Have a nice deaththe less value I find.

Have a nice death Coming to Nintendo Switch and Windows PC on March 22nd. The game has been verified on PC using a pre-release download code provided by Gearbox Publishing. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions on products purchased through affiliate links. You can find For more information on Polygon’s Ethics Policy, click here.

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