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City of Beats

City of Beats

Written by Joseph Moorer on 7/2/2023 for PC  
More On: City of Beats

You know, I have to admit something. When I saw the City of Beats trailer, I thought it was a rhythm-based bullet hell game. Being a fan of both, I immediately jumped on to play. As I dived in, I found out there were roguelike elements, where you go through, die, and unlock permanent upgrades, and weapons to use later in the game. And it's a twin stick-ish shooter. Now I have four different genres in one video game. This has to be the mecca of indie games. The hype was real. And I may have over hyped myself. Developers Torched Hill and publisher Freedom Games got me. I got got. And not in a Dark Souls way. But also not in a Enter The Gungeon way. If you've never played any of these, let's just move on. 

City of Beats is a very interesting concept in premise. You are a character with a laser gun, and your job is to go on expeditions. You start off in a beacon, and there are things and people to interact with, but none of that matters. The game wants you to do nothing else, except just go in, with your laser gun and shoot at multiple enemies. You navigate through the city via different pathways that all lead to said Zeitgeber. Essentially, the object of the game is to defeat the three Zeitgeber shells, and defeat the final...Zeitgeber. In reality, the combination of your piss poor weapon "that automatically syncs with the music", your lack of understanding that the enemies also sync up with the music, and your dodge shield that works half the time, will see you lose very, very quickly. 

So, a small tutorial will kick things off for you. Your first weapon does sync to the music, but not to the beat. I want that to be clear. You can hold the button to shoot, and it will shoot for you no matter the tempo of the music. That same weapon has some homing properties, in that if it is shot near something, it will hit. One stick moves you, while the other aims, and you use the trigger to shoot. Starting out, you will notice that your weapons will not do much damage, and again, the bullets from the enemies are also synced up. It will take a minute to get used to this, as it isn't the actual beat, it literally is the instrumental. While you're getting used to this, there is some solace for your pain. 

Your health bar isn't the solace I was referring to, as enemies are erratic, and can and will run into you. You can also shoot barrels that eventually explode after being shot, and hurt anything in thier blast radius, including you. Some of the enemies have shields, and won't drop them until they shoot back at you. Some of the enemies you have to shoot from behind, but only when they're shooting. My point is, that everything on the screen can kill you, including the actual ground. Sometimes, the ground will light up, and you'll take damage if you're on the part of the ground when it lights up. 

Now, you do have shields, but I don't really know why. These shields will help mitigate the damage, but not by much. And once those shields are gone, it's a very quick trip back to the beacon for you. Luckily, when you destroy enemies, they drop shield orbs, and you can build it back up. You also have a dodge, to get out of the way of everything coming towards you. This dodge comes with a physical shield that deflects bullet back to the sender and not for much significant damage. You also have a super attack depending on your weapon. For your repeater, you have shotgun/spread attack. The downside to this is that if you use it too much, your weapon can overheat, and will need a moment to cooldown, you know, to make things worse. You can build energy up and use a utility super to unleash unlimited super attacks for a very limited time. Use these and take advantage. Don't even think about saving it. It's pointless. 

I don't want to spend the entire review dunking on this game, because as I said before, I think the premise is there. When you start a level, you will automatically get a weapon mod upon completion. You have a choice between 2, and one is not necessarily better than the other. From there, you get to choose which path to take. Each level ends with a reward, which can result in an offensive and defensive buff. They also are more powerful the more rare they are, and based on a Fortnite-esque color system. You can also land on a shop, to spend some of your in-game currency to refill your life, or even an exchange shop where you can convert one for of currency to another.

You can sneak a peak on which path is best for you, and no shops, exchange, or HP refills result in battle, so consider these free spaces as you navigate through. The game jabs at you for this, but all in fun. It actually does this a lot. You will run into more challenging spaces to seek higher rewards, and there is a mid-level boss. This mid-level boss is usually a bigger version of an enemy you've already encountered, except stronger, and more elusive. Once you beat this mid level boss, you get a reward, some currency, and some HP. This also results in a weapon being unlocked in the beacon. And yes, that did feel like a level of accomplishment, until you get to that final boss. The final boss for each level is absurd. Not because it's not easy, but because in the middle of the fight, you have to dodge it, and the little minions it brought with it. Once your defeat is carried out, it's back to the beacon, but what to do with all this money? I'll tell you. 

In the beacon, there are weapons, traits, upgrades, and extensions. Your weapons, again, get unlocked with every mid-level boss you defeat. If you defeat them again, congratulations, but no further weapons come of it. You do get some good buffs, but sometimes it's just not worth it. Your traits come in EIGHT categories. HP, Damage output, Super Charge Duration, Critical Hit Chance, Barrier Duration, Heat Reduction, Orb Attraction, and Block Chance. You spend the green cube currency to build these up, and they get more expensive the higher the level. You will not get this right on the first try. It's just impossible. For a nominal green cube fee, you can reset and get all your money back to readjust. However, there is a trait limit. The game wants you to lose, and one thing it will not tolerate is you going through the first round over and over again, and maxing out your character. It was frustrating to figure out this fail safe, but I get it. Kind of.

You can also use the purple money to buy upgrades and extensions. You start off with the ability to buy five after you finish the first full level. These are upgrades you can toggle on and off, you start with three at a time. Hub connections lets you get an upgrade before you start your next run through, while reward recycling lets you recycle your reward at the end of each stage, netting you some more than likely lost HP. You can upgrade these extensions at the cost of more purple currency, and though there's a limit to these perks, you can make up to four upgrades. This will turn the tables on your first two levels for sure. It's still not enough. In fact, nothing is.  

That's pretty much the layout of the game. I wish there were more bass thumping or pulse pounding beats to groove with the game, but the music is just ok for a "rhythm" game. Sometimes, the game gets off beat, and the super attacks either won't come out, or you're dead before the game catches itself. I've found myself at depleting all the bosses HP, and waiting for the game to catch up to itself, so it can die on beat, resulting in me getting hit again.

The constant feeling of "you can't do the things we have in the game for you to do" is downright bonkers. No grinding here. Even if you get used to the enemies. Even if you know when they're going to shoot. You're dodging, and reflecting bullets perfectly, and it sometimes feels like the game knows you want to be great, and knocks you down a peg, at no mistake to your awesome gameplay. There are even some end level rewards that are described as "Please don't choose this. This is not an upgrade and does nothing." WHY?!

I can't even tell anyone that they'll enjoy the challenge, because it isn't necessarily a challenge. It's a hodge-podge of ideas that never seem to fuse together. The weapons you eventually unlock are a little better, but there is little incentive to go back to the older weapons once you unlock upgrades or increase your trait limit. I tried going back to the repeater after unlocking the lighting bow. Save yourself. Just don't. When you unlock a more powerful weapon, just stick with it. It's easy to get frustrated with the first few hours of the game, and once you upgrade everything, and unlock all your weapons, you can beat it in one sit down. I don't think the game is bad, but man is it unfair, and not fun unfair either. For the price, I guess you can have a little fun with it. I'm just one guy. I did not. I felt like I accomplished nothing here.  

City of Beats has a lot of genres combined into one, and it may have too much going on for itself. With the game literally stopping you from progressing the way that you want to, it's a little hindering. For the price, you may want to give it a shot. A shot. Like, just one. Don't worry if you lack rhythm, City of Beats does sometimes too. 

Rating: 6.5 Below Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Joseph is the resident streamer for Gaming Nexus. He grew up playing video games as early as the Atari 2600. He knows a little about a lot of video games, and loves a challenge. He thinks that fanboys are dumb, and enjoys nothing more than to see rumors get completely shut down. He just wants to play games, and you can watch him continue his journey at Games N Moorer on Youtube, Twitch, Twitter, and Facebook gaming! 

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