Kill To Collect isn’t quite sure if it wants to be a roguelike or an 80s arcade brawler, and that confusion stands out.
Drawing inspiration from the ever-growing pantheon of procedural dungeon crawlers, Kill To Collect drops you into Geoshelter Alpha, a cyberpunk dystopia that also happens to be the last habitable city on Earth. As one of four different characters, you’ll delve deeper and deeper into the fortress to take on waves of cybernetic enemies of all kinds, taking breaks along the way in challenge rooms and pit stops where you can stock up on supplies and upgrade your abilities.
Each of the four characters fall into predictable but well-executed archetypes reminiscent of arcade classics. There’s a martial artist who relies on flurries of quick blows, a heavily-armored tank with a shotgun, a specialist that relies on stunning attacks, and a versatile swordfighter to round out the pack. Each character feels completely different and offers a unique set of primary and secondary attacks, and they even have varied mobility options.
The movement and combat in Kill To Collect feels responsive and competent, with each character taking on a style of their own. After spending time with each brawler, I found that my style of play favored one over the rest, but none of the characters feel over or underpowered. And with various projectile weapons and upgrades to choose as you make your way underground, it’s likely you’ll find a way to play exactly how you want to.
In the game’s story mode, you’ll work through a series of increasingly difficult contracts to take down neon-coated gangsters and crime syndicates. This is a predictable pattern that repeats itself across seven different levels, each with a slightly different visual style and set of enemies. Fortunately, Kill To Collect’s flimsy campaign mode isn’t the main draw, and really just acts as an extended tutorial for the rest of the game.
Kill To Collect’s challenge modes are likely to be the biggest draw for hardcore players. Each day there is a new repeatable and one-shot challenge that acts as an extended version of a level from the game’s story mode. You’ll battle through eight random floors punctuated by boss fights every other floor. Leaderboards keep track of the best performers, and it’s immensely satisfying to see how many other players you can beat out for the top spot.
The random nature of this challenge mode is its downfall, however. Each boss you fight on your descent through the Geoshelter has randomized modifiers, increasing in difficulty as you make your way down. Bosses will have shields, healing powers, decoy clones, fast moving projectiles, and many other abilities. And while offering up a hard fight is definitely expected in a mode like this, some of the combinations of modifiers seem downright impossible. It’s supremely frustrating to successfully battle your way through seven floors and go into the final fight with max health, full ammo, and useful items only to be dealt a bad hand at the very end.
Once you get the short end of the stick in challenge mode a few times, you might be tempted to call it quits and move on to other things…but in the end, this mode is really all Kill to Collect has to offer. Sure, you could replay story missions, but there’s not much reason to. As you finish contracts you’ll earn credits, but these only serve to unlock cosmetic skins or titles for your characters. There’s no long-term progression that rewards you with improved abilities or weapons for repeated success.
This lack of variety is a key failure in what could be a great game that was worth replaying over and over. But after the first few story levels, you will have seen all the possible upgrades, items, and room layouts. There are a handful of new enemy types that will reveal themselves as you progress through the levels, but they’re just palette-swaps of enemies from the early levels with slightly different abilities. And the game’s biggest idea of challenge is not offering you unique combinations of enemies to face, it’s simply to throw more waves of bodies at you. There’s rarely a time when you really need to switch things up, and it ultimately feels like a shallow and repetitive experience.
Some of its gameplay faults could be forgiven if Kill to Collect had a fun or unique style, but even its style is threadbare. The design of the world and characters is competent, but it’s never elevated to anything more than that. The only plot points are delivered via still images with subtitles in stilted English that show vague hints of a fully realized world that could have been. The music and sound effects are flat and lackluster. The game’s visual style is one of its most pleasing elements, blending crisp 2D illustrations with chunky 3D models, but that only goes so far. The characters and locations have no real personality, no sense of purpose.
Despite its initial appearance, Kill To Collect lacks the style and substance that will keep players coming back. With so many great games in this genre competing for attention, it simply doesn’t do enough to stand out from the crowd.
This review is based on the PC version of the game, which was provided to us.
Kill To Collect's 80's cyberpunk aesthetic is a thin veneer with no real personality to back it up. The game contains the skeleton of a great action roguelike, but there's just not enough variety to keep it interesting for long.