"Much like vanilla ice cream, MidBoss suffers from a severe case of creative bankruptcy."
As Kitsune Games' first entry into the Steam market, I went into MidBoss with a cautious mindset. With how vastly oversaturated the genre is these days, indie games more often than not end up simply being boring, cliché, or worst of all, complete cash grabs. While MidBoss doesn't exactly epitomize those characteristics by any means, it certainly is not without its fair share of glaring flaws that only reaffirmed my wary mindset.
MidBoss wastes no time getting you started. Thrust into the shoes of a lowly imp who is the butt of all the jokes in a dungeon, your character decides that the best way to get payback is to simply slay everyone. Of course, since you are a mere imp at this point, you have to work your way up — by possessing various enemy units found throughout the dungeons. Possession itself is a pretty simple and entertaining mechanic. You just place a debuff on an enemy that allows you to take over their body once you defeat them. This gives the gameplay a very natural, dynamic feel since you constantly adapt and tweak your builds as you gain various stat multipliers and abilities from the new forms. There are dozens of enemy types for you to take over, so there's almost always something new for you to dig your teeth into on every level.
The problem, however, is that the base combat itself is so tediously boring that at times it feels more like doing homework than playing a game. The bread and butter of combat is just taking turns whacking at an enemy until one of you dies. The outcome of fights are based entirely on how overpowered your gear is relative to the enemies, resulting in a game of numbers rather than a game about slaying monsters. It certainly doesn't help that the abilities you learn along the way, which are supposed to spice up the gameplay, are either completely unneeded or just win you the fight in one cast, adding very little to the tedium of the game. There's no room for smart play to outmaneuver your opponent, no clutch timing on abilities to barely inch out a win. It's simply a game of whack-a-mole, and if I wanted to play a game where all I do is click the left mouse button, I'd go play a visual novel that can at least do me the service of having a tangible plot.
To top it off, the death system is absurd given how bland the gameplay is. Once you die, you get a "death card," which is basically a screenshot of the location where you died with some basic info printed on it, such as the amount of turns that you lived for, what items you had on you, what monster you died to, etc. At this point, you can begin your next run, which starts at the very first dungeon again including all the introductory dialogue and the tutorial. In an effort to try and alleviate the slog of clearing all the dungeons again, you're allowed to take one item from your death card, but all that really does is just cut back some of the time it would take for you reach the dungeon you died on. Monsters dying in one hit instead of two doesn't make the game any more fun, and even as someone who is no stranger to gameplay loops that require extreme amounts of grinding, this was just too much for me. Going through four dungeons in one sitting was boring enough, and having to do it all over again just to make a marginal amount of progress was not something I could bring myself to do in the same game session.
The repetitious nature of the gameplay definitely bleeds into other aspects of the game as well. The visuals are nothing to write home about, with most dungeons being only different shades of green, and most enemies looking like they came straight out of a Unity Engine sprite starter kit. Animations are clunky to boot, as you hop around rather than have animated legs, with your character resorting to headbutting enemies instead of using their arms to take a swing with the sword you just equipped. The sound design is similarly tacked on, with combat resembling soundboard punch noises and the background music repeating the same old string tune over and over again.
Much like vanilla ice cream, MidBoss suffers from a severe case of creative bankruptcy. From its aesthetics that seem like straight asset rips, to its extremely shallow gameplay that tries to impress with numbers only, the final product is a meager roguelike that desperately clings onto a single gimmick to stand out from the rest of the crowd. While that might make for a passable game that you can kill time with every now and then, it doesn't make for a very memorable one that you'll think about playing again just for old time's sake. With this in mind, unless you're a diehard fan of roguelikes, you can safely keep MidBoss out of your Steam library.
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.