Have a Nice Death Is Shaping Up to be the Best Roguelike of 2023 (Preview)
Death never felt so nice.
Ever since Have a Nice Death rolled into early access in March 2022, it’s sat atop my list of most anticipated games. From its gorgeous hand-drawn animations to fast-paced hack n’ slash combat, everything about this upcoming roguelike jumped off the page at me.
With the game’s full release coming next week, I was lucky enough to hop into a preview build for Have a Nice Death and see if it was possible for those lofty expectations to be met. And while it’s only been two chapters so far, I can say with confidence that Magic Design Studios’ newest game is going to kill it.
For those that haven’t heard of Have a Nice Death, the game places you in the role of Death, founder and CEO of Death Incorporated, the giant underworld organization responsible for processing souls in the afterlife. After growing this successful enterprise from the ground up (or in this case, down), time, and way too much paperwork, have caught up to the grim reaper.
Not only is he overworked, but his underlings, known as Sorrows, have stopped listening to him. To rectify this, Death must pick up his Scyth and teach them a lesson. Since it is a roguelike, you have to traverse a number of different smaller, everchanging sections leading up to the boss of each area.
Along the way, Death finds plenty of tools to help him up his arsenal, as the game boasts 70 unique weapons and spells that result in some really fun attacks. My personal favorite so far has been to unleash a hoard of bees on my foes as a nice medium-ranged attack while also using the basic down slash attack that has some surprisingly efficient range and damage on both the left and right.
Alongside these upgrades, Have a Nice Death also has a risk/reward mechanic known as Curses. These controversial moves allow Death to get upgrades like higher damage, but it comes at the cost of either enhancing specific enemy abilities or raising the price of vital items like koffee (health) at shops.
On my first run, I was able to make it to the first boss, Brad, the Chief of Security, pretty easily thanks to my experience playing other 2.5D roguelikes like Hollow Knight. It’s definitely worth noting that Have a Nice Death feels and plays a lot like the Team Cherry title, but that it is far more linear in its scope.
Unfortunately, I think I went into the fight with this Sorrow a little too distracted and cocky. While I was able to avoid most of Brad’s attacks and deal serious damage pretty easily at the start, the Chief of Security added in a bevy of different moves near the end that I honestly wasn’t expecting.
While I was able to get him down to about 1/4 health, Brad eventually killed me, meaning I had to start back over from the hub world of Death’s office. Despite dying, it didn’t feel discouraging at all to start over, especially since the performance review that takes place after every run guarantees that my efforts weren’t done in vain.
With each run, Death is able to level up and unlock items that help make him even stronger on his next go at cleaning up the underworld. Whether it means that some items or upgrades will be made available from the get-go or you just end up being able to spend the currency that carries over to get better items, either way, Have a Nice Death’s gameplay loop actually provides solid incentives to dying.
Thanks to these upgrades, and a bit of hubris, Brad went down in no time the second go around, allowing me to explore the Industrial Pollution Department and have a word with Mr. Gordan Grimes regarding his vats of toxic substances. This level was definitely a step up from the Hall of Eternity, World 1, as the enemies were much harder to defeat and featured a variety of attacks that were specific to the level.
As such, I definitely died a lot more in the second level, meaning the game is going to scale in accordance with Death’s upgrades for each new Department. That is by no means a bad thing, though, as it once again just means that the gameplay loop we’ve come to know in love in titles like Hades and Dead Cells is just as important in Have a Nice Death.
If you’re a fan of the roguelike genre or are even interested in experimenting with it, then Have a Nice Death needs to be on your radar when it gets its full release on March 22, 2023, for Nintendo Switch and PC.
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