This solo-developed 'cross between Dark Alliance and Dark Souls' is shaping up to be my next RPG obsession

Skeleton facing camera off to right hand side in a chapel, has red glowing eyes and is wearing a hood
(Image credit: Jesse Walker)

Mortal Crux is one of those independent projects that's slowly assembling itself in front of our very eyes on Twitter and TikTok. We last checked in on this solo-developed action RPG last February when it was only a few months into development, but since that time it's been accumulating a laundry list of interesting features for its frigid fantasy, all demoed for an eager audience on social media.

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At a glance, Mortal Crux is an isometric, one to four player action-RPG that looks to combine a Soulsy positioning and timing-based combat system with the fantasy vibe of classic CRPGs or their console cousins like Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. Solo developer Jesse Walker has been drip feeding short video updates of new features and areas as he creates them, and I keep getting blown away by Mortal Crux's intricate, fixed-camera interiors and playful approach to RPG design.

That attention to detail is what gets me really excited about Mortal Crux. This gameplay snippet released over Valentine's Day is a good example. Walker's come back to this set piece of a clockwork elevator a few times, and it's a knockout on its own, with intricately animated gears and chains like a German clocktower really selling its 17th-century construction—not the goofy contrivance of a FromSoftware platform with a button you stand on in the middle!

Mortal Crux then goes the extra distance to add collectible cave mushrooms that whizz on by as the elevator descends. If you're quick enough, you can grab some of this valuable crafting resource and get treated to a lovingly-rendered zoom in of the model, complete with a parchment-style tooltip covering that juicy lore as well as its practical uses.

Similarly, I'm continually impressed by Mortal Crux's addition of emergent, almost-immersive sim-like detail to its world. Throwing weapons can block magic spells in mid air, with the resulting collision potentially enchanting that thrown weapon. Ditto for a sustained, flamethrower-type spell that will evaporate arrows and magic missiles out of the air, while ice spells will freeze enemies, priming them for a shatter.

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I love this reactive sort of design, and it takes me back to shooting hatchets out of the air in Resident Evil 4 or being unable to climb slippery rock faces when it's raining in Breath of the Wild. It's a simulationist sensibility that I haven't seen in many recent Western RPGs, with the exception of Larian's commitment to slapstick antics in the Divinity series.

Walker continues to plug away at Mortal Crux, with the game seeming to dominate most of his spare time. I asked if Elden Ring had changed how the developer might approach a Soulslike, but development eats up so much of his attention he still hasn't checked out FromSoft's monster blockbuster and our 2022 Game of the Year. Mortal Crux does not yet have a set release date, but you can wishlist the game on Steam.

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.