I knew a necromancer once. A lovely guy, truly one of the friendliest people you could ever hope to meet. He had the most infectious smile and never failed to bring a room alive with his gift of raising everyone’s spirits. Very career driven too, invested in a lot of cryptocurrencies to make a living.
Never was very good with women though, only ever wanted them for their bodies. I used to try make him feel a bit more confident by telling him he put the “romance” in “necromance”. He had one long term girlfriend but she dumped him when he told her he wanted to raise a family with her; her departure was soul crushing. He started hordeing after she left and became a bit of a recluse. Playing Undead Horde this week made me think back to those exciting times we had together and more importantly provided me with a great little action RPG to boot.
Undead Horde, as mentioned above, is a top-down RPG where you play as a Necromancer on a quest to take back his domain from the ridiculous notion of “light” and “purity” instilled by the Paladins that stole his empire in the first place. To succeed on this quest, you’re gonna need friends. Fortunately, for one that has the ability to re-alive the dead, friends are never too far. That’s the hook of Undead Horde, the ability to summon up enemies you kill to grow your following and lay siege on the land of the living. I expected that within its self to be fun, ordering dozens of little archers to burn down a tower or sending a pack of zombie bears to slaughter a gang of swordsmen always feels satisfying if not a touch simplistic. This isn’t a strategy game, so don’t expect units to be executing (lol) the most elaborate of manoeuvres other than “follow me” and “charge”. Units do also seems to die far quicker than I’d like often making it a mission to regain a small army, but Undead Horde isn’t trying to emphasise strategy; the game smartly recognises that raising the dead is a novelty and while a lot of the game is built around that there’s far more under the hood than I originally expected.
If anything this game is far more of an RPG than I initially anticipated. Your necromancer will level up by completing quests and slaying foes, allowing you to focus in on what sort of playstyle you want to follow. Upgrading your command cap means you can control more units but then you probably shouldn’t wade into battle yourself. Or maybe you’d rather buff your health and act as a tank for all your zombie pals. There’s a level of player freedom that was refreshing and it only gets deeper when factoring in equipment.
Your necromancer can equip a melee weapon in his right hand, a magical staff in his left, wear two rings of power, carry a deadly book on the waist, an enchanted skull on the other and a mystical amulet around his neck. Jangling into combat, each of these items provides some increase to your power, with rarer loot obviously having the most substantial benefits. The amount of in-depth character speccing I was doing was truly impressive and whilst obviously not as dense and detailed as other games in the action roleplaying genre, Undead Horde offers a remarkable amount of customisation for a comparably small title. Players who prefer more recognisable upgrades probably won’t find much to love here as items are all mostly percentage boosts rather than aesthetic changes made to your character.
To make matters even denser, there’s a vast range of shops in the game’s friendly hub world, each of which can be upgraded with gold to increase the odds of better loot dropping. Hack and Slash RPG’s often have an element of grind to them and while Undead Horde does certainly become somewhat grindy after a few hours, it never felt like I was grinding for nothing. There was always a shop to upgrade, always a better piece of loot to obtain, always another class of units to unlock. The game does provide players with an accessible course through all the systems with an effective if not entirely lacklustre campaign that will see the necromancer advance through the overworld and reclaiming previously lost towns. While the story is bare-bones (lol again) it’s certainly been designed to act functionally rather than fashionably. You’re never confused by your next objective and it never takes too long to get there.
The game’s visuals are quite pretty, when they want to be. The simple polygonal aesthetic is charming in the right light but once a town has been liberated (destroyed, perhaps?), the colours all fade away and you’re left staring at an incredibly darkened, shadowy version of the map. While it works thematically with the idea of spreading darkness, it doesn’t do the art style any favours when something goes from pleasing to the eye to next to impossible to see. Yet despite that issue, I think the game has a wonderfully quirky style for subject matter so dark.
I know I keep saying it but I really wasn’t expecting this much from Undead Horde. A simple, tone-downed hack and slash RPG that will provide players with a surprising amount of customisation and hours of fun killing and collecting different enemies to reanimate. Despite the occasional feeling of repetition, squishy units and odd decisions regarding the colour palette, Undead Horde is bristling with content for you delve into and explore.
By the way, that necromancer friend? Actually Woody Allen. Kinda obvious when you think about it, right?
Last Updated: June 3, 2019