When it comes to the Bullet Hell and Horde-Survival genre, we’ve seen many iterations in the past that were fun and pretty interesting – but none were as great as the many iterations that came out following the success of Vampire Survivors.
The issue that the genre now faces, though, is that most of those VS-inspired titles don’t really bring anything new to the table, often just replicating what Vampire Survivors did great without understanding why it was great.
Developer: Anthony Case Publisher: Caiysware Genre: Indie, Horde-Survival/Bullet Hell/Arena Battler/VS-like, Action Roguelike Release Date: August 5th, 2022 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC Copy was purchased.
Boneraiser Minions, however, is a title that not only captures that really well but also turns the formula upside-down, making it fun in a very different way!
Developed by the brain behind Skelly Selest and Straima, Boneraiser Minions tackles the auto-battle and horde-survival genre by letting you take charge of a necromancer and their undead army.
King Gigald is not happy about your mere existence which is why he started a holy crusade against everything you stand for. Thus, it’s upon you to slay heroes and use their flesh, bones and souls to raise your own minions, survive the onslaught and resist “King Gigald’s poundings!”
Right from the get-go, I felt at home here with this title. Boneraiser Minions takes the Horde-Survival/Bullet Hell Roguelike genre and lets you raise minions and become incredibly overpowered really quickly, which is the whole part that is fun about all of the “VS-likes” (if we wanna call ’em that). On top of that, it really feels like a great way to live out that “Necromancer” power fantasy that I personally am so fond of.
At its core, the game is much more akin to Adore, in my opinion, compared to other titles, which I’m rather chuffed about. In Adore, you’d summon these beasts that fight at your side instead of attacking yourself. You as the summoner are vulnerable, however, and hence have to manage your stamina, dash around and command your units to survive the battles to come.
In the same vein, Boneraiser Minions doesn’t let your character attack. Rather, you’re just a mortally challenged lich of sorts that is getting chased around. Your minions attack from wherever they are based on their vision radius and range. Archers will shoot arrows, Skewerers will teleport to you and dash through enemies, Warlocks should powerful balls of magic, and Augurs will give your units a boost in speed.
When enemies are slain, they drop resources that you can use to level up. Once levelled up, you can select between four different units. You either add more minions to your ranks – or you empower your legion by ranking up your summons, melding them together, fusing them or letting demons possess them.
The whole idea here is that it’s a constant struggle of quantity versus quality – something that different characters play a lot with. The “Necromancer” class that you can unlock, for instance, gets stronger the more basic units you have.
Similarly, there are also other classes in the game that take other approaches to survival which I found quite intriguing as a concept even if said classes are overall rather similar in their feel.
At the moment, there are four different classes that you can play as in the game, of which you start out with one. Each can be upgraded via meta progression to make them feel more unique. On top of that, there are skins and hats that you can equip.
What I love about Boneraiser Minions is that it really embraces that idea of “becoming overpowered” but still having to face this giant army of enemies that get harder to fight over time.
By “becoming overpowered”, though, I mean that you’re still not completely untouchable. In fact, the game makes it really hard for you to deal with certain enemies, especially when they shoot bullets, swing maces, and dash toward you! Still, the whole reason why the genre of Arena-/Horde-Survival Roguelikes is popping off at the moment is because of how cheap these games are while offering tons of content… and also because of how satisfying yet short gameplay is.
Vampire Survivors takes 15-30 minutes to complete runs. 20 Minutes Till Dawn ends after at most 20 Minutes (duh.) – and Boneraiser Minions is no exception to this.
And those shorter runs feel great because they’re quite satisfying. Through relics, minions, and amalgamations, your army grows stronger by the minute and you can look at very powerful combinations rather quickly even when you died in another run just moments ago.
Furthermore, there is also character progression that lets you customize the battlefield to aid you. You can unlock spells, rerolls, banishes, friggin’ devils, a dash, and all sorts of other interesting features… and you can also make the game harder by bolstering the enemy forces – which in turn unlocks Endless Mode and other challenges like the Daily Challenge!
Boneraiser Minions is incredibly satisfying in its experience through the use of mechanics that make you feel overpowered and satisfied before the novelty runs out.
There are a few issues I have with the game, though, that make the game harder than it’s probably supposed to be. For starters, when you return from a menu of sorts, enemies will often just run into you, leaving you barely any time to react or dodge or whatever. There are relics that give you I-frames for that but I’d much rather see an option to grant you a second of freedom after levelling up.
Similarly, I find it quite hard to differentiate between enemy units, my own character and my own units at times. This adds difficulty because of how crowded the screen gets. You can give enemies a bright colourful outline but I think that being able to change the brightness yourself would be a more than welcome addition to the game in terms of accessibility.
Apart from that, though, I find the game to be rather fun and enjoyable. You can rebind all keys if you’re not a fan of the keyboard-only approach. I’d like it if you could play with mouse-only, too, but maybe that will get added as the Early Access phase progresses. Similarly, I love the aesthetic, soundtrack, narration and memes present in the game and I believe that Boneraiser Minions is a game to check out for anyone looking for a few hours of good fun!
Oh, and there is also a card game akin to the triple triads game in Final Fantasy. That’s cool, too. Looking forward to future updates.