Black Dragon Mage’s free demo reminded me that running away isn’t always the answer

 Wizard shooting fire.
Wizard shooting fire.

Black Dragon Mage is the latest in a long line of bullet hell roguelikes, and this one is no easier than the rest.

Scheduled to release sometime in early 2024, this bullet hell revolves around a deadly arena in which mages, magicians, and wizards can battle against various foes such as zombies, skeletons, and other magical creatures. Each enemy will drop a gem once killed, which can be collected and saved up to unlock new abilities and weapons that will aid you as time goes on and the arena gets filled with new and ever more dangerous creatures.

During each run, you can power up your character in any way you choose. Each time you collect a certain amount of gems or ‘souls,’ you’ll be given the option to select one out of three skills or upgrades. These abilities can range from speed boosts to an increased rate of fire or even a new weapon. You need to pick wisely, as your choice will be what keeps you alive even for a few more minutes. But the options don’t end there; after every round, you get transported back to a magical cave that houses various tools, weapons, and upgrades, which you can buy with the gems that you have collected during each round.

This dark fantasy roguelike even introduces dragons in the later stages, which players will be able to ride into battle on. While it may look overpowered, players will still have to be wary of the endless hordes that’ll attack and try to kill their new pet.

Extreme multitasking

Fighting various enemies in a desert
Fighting various enemies in a desert

As TechRadar Gaming’s resident scaredy cat, I choose to upgrade my speed first and then all of my attack options. In my head, if I were able to outrun and dodge my enemies, I’d have a much better chance at survival. That was until I realized that enemies respawn infinitely, so running away isn’t an option; you have to go for the kill.

With no way to create any distance between me and my enemies, I was soon overwhelmed

Soon, I upgraded my starting weapon, a frost staff, to the fullest while also purchasing several flaming swords that could encircle me and quickly kill any enemy that dared to get close. After setting up a pretty decent perimeter, I was able to make quick work of everything that fell into my path. That was until gigantic thorny branches surrounded me and trapped me inside a tiny circle. With no way to create any distance between me and my enemies, I was soon overwhelmed by countless bloodthirsty skeletons.

After surviving for six minutes and 35 seconds, I was finally killed. But that wasn’t without taking out a healthy amount of monsters with me. After my first run, I dealt over 85,000 hit points of damage and killed 800 evil creatures. So, while I didn’t get a dragon, I was able to put up a pretty decent fight.

This bullet hell roguelike is very similar to Vampire Survivors, a game that I spent a terrifying amount of time trying to master. So, if you’re a fan of thrilling and stressful games that encourage you to repeatedly try again after death, the Black Dragon Mage free demo, which is available to play now, will likely be right up your alley.

For more stressful games, be sure to check out the best roguelike games as well as the best survival games that are available to play right now.