Nerverinth: the Never Ending Labyrinth is a post Ragnarok trial for a would be Valkyrie. Yrddisal has summoned women to Valhalla to be the last hope to earn both the title and clean up the aftermath of the end of the world. Currently available for early access on Steam, this Norse mythology based rouge-lite game offers a direct play style with a challenging difficulty curve.
Nerverinth has a bit of a Dark Souls type feel about the gameplay and that is no surprise. In an interview with GameRamble, JianYi Tsai and team shared their love of action games. Software’s Soul and Capcom’s Monster Hunter titles are among them. That same interview continues to reveal “the goal is to make 3D action games that people want to play and replay.” After a study of favored franchises, the decision to mash up 3D action play and Rouge elements were made and it works to Neverinth’s favor.
Gameplay itself if fairly straightforward: venture into the randomly generated maze, kill enemies in your way, pick up the things, and try not to die. When death occurs, you start over loot-less and from square one. Controls are intuitive for most gamers with a WASD setup on keyboard and controller support options, but peeping at the command list is a good idea. The developers makes it easy to view in the starting room but it can also be found in the menu.
Controls and objective may be easy, but avoiding death may prove difficult. Movement is dependent on character stamina and life does not auto regenerate. Some moves and equipment do offer life debt, which many gamers will see as a sort of health regen in lieu of a shield bar, but is much less forgiving. Being careless or aggroing a room of enemies is not smart play. The enemy AI is pretty decent and able to see and hear the approaching would be Valkyrie. They also have an assortment of weapons and different attack patterns and are not afraid to use them. Taking hits can interrupt a move, wasting precious stamina. The weight of taking hits with mobility limits is really what makes Neverinth a challenge.
The game does not completely abuse the player and this helps in several ways. First is the Totem system. In Neverinth, enemies drop crystals that the player can collect. These are kept upon death and can be slotted into the Totem for some handy permanent stat upgrades. Of course, rune upgrades, via the statues are based off of essence collected from enemies. Random items generate such as health restorative mead and accessories, too. Dying can be a reward in a sense, as that is when challenges met during trials are unlocked. Failing the first time actually unlocks the second character.
While aesthetically well done, the animation speed make the pacing of Neverinth feel slow, most notably regarding character movement. Normally this can be irritating and some may still find it so. It does play nicely into the stamina system used and enhances the need for a thoughtful playthough. Visuals are a balance of decorations and breakable in world items are not visually overwhelming. Despite a sparse feel, level design look well planned. The emptiness fits the feel of a post Ragnorak and godless world. Character variety and weapons styles are nice. The sound choices are well-tooled. The footstep sound effects again enhance the overall ambiance along with background music that plays to that mood.
The Norse mythos of the world is apparent in the names of effects from runes, enemy types, and other inspiration. Subtle, but effective. Story and backstory appear to be lacking beyond the premise, but not it does detract from the overall experience.
There are some flaws, which is understandable for an early access build. Loading lag, bug patches, that sort of thing. The whole of the labyrinth does appear to pre-load, so that softens the wait of loading. That seamless play between general areas and being wasted by boss Garm is actually nice. Not so much the dying part. The devs appear active in polishing and improving play. Neverinth is not for everyone. If you’re looking for some replayability and a bit of a challenge, it is worth the ride and could make for an interesting franchise.