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This dark fantasy action roguelike has my attention, and a free demo

Corpse Keeper is a 2D roguelike blending Dark Souls style combat with progression akin to Darkest Dungeon, and a free demo is out now.

Corpse Keeper has a free demo, and I'm hooked - A demon with a horned skull for a head and a fancy suit.

One of the greatest strengths of the Dark Souls series is just how satisfying its baseline combat feels. Right from those early moments in the Undead Asylum, I was hooked by the swordplay long before I’d experienced its world and story. Having played the free Steam demo for upcoming action roguelike Corpse Keeper, which adopts those core FromSoftware ideas in a 2D game with progression in the style of Darkest Dungeon, I’m left eager to see what developer Melancholia Studio can achieve through its early access run.

In Corpse Keeper, you don’t actually fight as your protagonist – instead, you’re a necromancer who turns hunks of flesh and bone into living dead warriors to battle in your stead. Each time you head out from your Ossuary in this roguelike game, you’ll take three minions with you, and select one from them for each battle you encounter. Your goal is to build an army powerful enough to destroy the powerful demon who you helped bring into being, before it can escape the confines of the cathedral it awaits in, amassing power of its own.

Combat in Corpse Keeper comes down to one-on-one engagements that fall halfway between Dark Souls and fighting games. One button attacks, with directional inputs or combos allowing for various moves. Another dodges to the side, great for avoiding thrusts but useless against sweeping attacks.

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There’s no full block, but a timed deflect will negate incoming damage, while a perfect parry will throw the enemy off-balance. A roll can get you behind your opponent, and will avoid those hard-to-deflect thrust attacks as well. Finally, you can use soul crystals to deliver a punishing blow or other special ability (a frost knight can, as you might expect, unleash a chilling blast that slows enemy movement dramatically).

Each run sees you walking through a series of corridors, encountering resources, artifacts that can offer ‘blessings’ – although many come with an associated downside – and, of course, enemies ready to fight. Between outings you can take your gathered resources back to the Ossuary, your base of operations, and craft additional undead warriors to take on your next adventure.

As they fight more, you’ll get the option to replace certain moves with others, so if you find that heavy sweep hard to land you could replace it with a quicker upswing to catch enemies off guard. Don’t get too attached, however; every adventure a corpse comes on, it will decay – these are, after all, unholy amalgamations of gore and guts held together by little more than your necromantic wizardry.

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Eventually, each corpse will fall to pieces, and you’ll have to make another. You can bring up to three warriors with you each time you head out, so make sure you’re crafting plenty of fleshy fiends and using the resources at your disposal to kit them out for success.

Corpse Keeper is out now via Steam Early Access. You can also try it now thanks to a free Steam demo. Melancholia Studio notes that the game “requires a lot of polishing and much content,” so it doesn’t currently have a plan for how long the early access period will last. However, it intends to add additional characters with unique skills, more stages to explore, and additional items to use.

While there’s certainly lots to be done, I really love everything about the concept and the style here, and I’m already hooked on its measured brand of combat. I’m certainly eager to see how Corpse Keeper develops, and Melancholia Studio seems fairly transparent about working with the community to reach its full potential, so it’s one I’ll be keeping my eyes on.

In the meantime, we’ve rounded up the best soulslike games for plenty of punishing action, along with all the must-play indie games in 2024 so you don’t miss any winners.

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