I don’t write previews very often. I’m not even sure if Indie Gamer Team does them either. I was under the impression we didn’t, but I got a “review” code for this anyway, and here we are. I’m talking about Don’t Die, Minerva! in its current state as of 7th December, 2019. Any changes after this date won’t be reflected in this preview, cause I’m not psychic.
I forget which is which, but I think Don’t Die, Minerva! comes under the rogue-lite category, and not the rogue-like one. It features randomly generated levels, enemy patterns, and base stats that you start every run with. However, it also incorporates a permanent unlock system, and checkpoints that you can resume from, after beating a boss. Levels one to three became completely optional after I defeated boss one; I could then skip to level four for future runs. Granted, it would be a lot harder cause I’d have no loot, but I could try.
Moment to moment, Don’t Die, Minerva! (DDM from this point on for brevity’s sake) plays like a top-down, twin-stick shooter. There are action elements added in too, namely an evasive roll to get you out of sticky spots. It’s extremely useful for quick movement when backtracking, but also for dodging the energy orbs some ghosts shoot at you. I personally found the combat pretty satisfying, especially when a lot of enemies appeared at once to ramp up the stakes. You’re equipped with your primary weapon (usually a flashlight), and a helper plush toy that can attack alongside you in battle.
It makes for a very nice combat loop. Rolling in to place your toy, getting some damage in with your flashlight, and then rolling clear before getting hurt. It creates an element of risk-reward, as keeping your distance is often safer, but slower, and being slow is both boring and tedious, so screw that. It’s always more frantic, fast, and fun to engage with the enemies as closely as possible.
Disappointingly, I did find the enemy designs to be lacking in variety though. You come across a lot of similar ghosts with nothing but palette swaps at present. Newer enemies were only introduced after three levels of play, as far as I remember in my playtime. Fortunately, the same cannot be said for the weapons and loot you can acquire. There are multiple weapons, plush toys, and equipment pieces to be found, and a lot of them have very different effects. You start each run with a monkey toy, but in my runs I came across a bear, a dragon, and a cat, that all moved and attacked differently. There may be more I didn’t see.
All of these toys have randomly generated stats and status effects too, which can be mixed and matched for some really nice combinations. As an example, I had one run where my weapon did additional damage to burning enemies. Meanwhile, my cat would rush around and inflict burn on enemies. Perfect synergy.
So gameplay-wise, DDM is fairly solid. I’m hoping for further additions to enemy types and even more equipment to find in future. The only other thing I wasn’t too happy about was the upgrade system. It felt incredibly slow to unlock new things, as it took me about an hour per unlock. And I was going for cheap unlocks, valued at ~50 essence (found during runs). The high-end stuff costs upwards of 500 essence.
In terms of visuals, it looks great, and my beast of a PC had no trouble running it on maximum settings. I’d describe the art-style and theme as something along the lines of Luigi’s Mansion meets the film Coraline. The sounds were crisp and clear as well, and I have no complaints about the soundtrack. It wasn’t special enough to catch my ear, but few soundtracks are these days. Oh, and loading times were practically non-existent.
Story-wise, it’s a rogue-lite. Nothing too special. Every so often a character would chip in with something, but it was usually related to game mechanics more than any mystery surrounding this weird house the game takes place in. I have no idea why it is that Minerva keeps being revived just to die again, but maybe one day I’ll find out, if I keep trying to beat the game.
Overall, in its current state, DDM shows a lot of promise. It’s already got a strong footing, as the combat feels solid. A few tweaks balance-wise could get it feeling even better, just to prevent enemies becoming bullet sponges. Visually, it looks fantastic, and the setting is an interesting one for a rogue-lite. As long as the package gets bolstered with a greater variety of enemies, items, and maybe even areas, it’ll provide a lot of fun for a lot of rogue-lite fans.
But of course, it’s in early access. So it’s a bit premature to be dishing out “seals of approval” just yet. I’d definitely say this is one to keep an eye on though.
Don’t Die, Minerva! is being developed by Xaviant Games
Point of Sale: Steam
$19.99: Rotate it and you get 66’6I$ :O
A review copy was provided by the developer
SteviePatamon has awarded Don’t Die, Minerva! a promise of a full review upon official launch