Become a necromancer and raise the dead. That, ladies and gents, is the core pillar of play in 10Tons’ latest release; Undead Horde. Honestly, I was expecting quite a bit of fun from this game, but I wasn’t quite expecting it to be quite as hooking as it is. Whilst the game has some drawbacks and a few issues here and there, for the most part, it’s a well polished action RPG that achieves much of what it set out to accomplish. Perhaps I’m getting too ahead of myself, which I have a tendency of doing, so let’s step back and go from the top.
The game’s story is relatively bare-bones, and arguably the weakest link of the whole ordeal, if not its repetition, but more on that later. Players are thrust into the role of the aforementioned Necromancer, and must move through a range of world-map locations, raising the dead, killing the living, and raising them back up again to fight in your horde. What instantly stood out for me is how in-depth the game is, yet how it manages to relay said depth and remain very much accessible throughout its entirety. It’s a very fluid trek.
Following a short and informative tutorial, players begin the game via the world hub, a place you’ll visit upon each and every failed attempt. Here, you’ll spend a lot of your time gathering wares and selecting your army before heading out into the open. The more you play, the more this hub fills up. You’ll access vendors here, talk to quest givers, and unlock new minions to add to your horde. Naturally, making progress is vital to getting the most out of the hub, but regardless as to how well you fare, Undead Horde rarely feels taxing.
It helps, of course, that everything is rather well explained and tends to make instant sense. Need access to better wares from the vendors? Pay them some gold to level them up. Looking to recruit different types of minions to aid you in a specific level? Kill a set number of that specific minion in the wild and you’ll have instant access to them via the hub. Everything is so well struck that it’s hard to get lost and confused. The same can be said about the game’s general mechanics, and that of its menus, UI, and core structure.
When you’re done at the hub, you’ll be ready to set off to the world map. Here, an interconnected web of levels present you with varying challenges and quests. Each level will connect to another, meaning that you can indeed traverse the whole map on foot. However, a fast-travel system is in place that allows you to move about more instantly if you need to. Entering each level will showcase its map to you in the bottom right of the screen, together with some stats that inform you as to how dominant enemy forces are.
This falls under two categories; enemy strongholds, and enemy troops. Troops will consistently spawn from strongholds, so it’s imperative to clear these strongholds before getting too crowded. Once you’ve done that, you’re free to hack away at the foot soldiers until there are none left. Doing so will inform you that you’ve cleared an area, in which it will remain that way indefinitely. The kicker, ladies and gents? You don’t always have instant access to the entirety of a level, and will usually need to fulfill quests beforehand.
Essentially, this means that there’s only so much you can do per-level before you can liberate it entirely. That’s fine though, because the balance is very well set. You’ll normally get so far through a level before being sent to another to either retrieve an item or fulfill an objective, to then return later to get further in. Much to be expected with any given RPG worth its salt, gear plays a large role here. Thankfully, Undead Horde remains accessible even on this front; regardless as to whether you’re at the vendor or picking up drops.
Playing as the necromancer, you have two types of attack to rely on; one physical attack and one magical attack. Your damage output, as well as all the usual buffs and traits that you would expect from an RPG will be determined by your loadout. As alluded to, your loadout will consist of a melee weapon, a magical staff, and a small range of tomes and mystical extras that will aid you and your horde in one way or another. Gear comes with panels of information, giving you an instant understanding as to what gear is handy, and what isn’t.
There’s a level system to be mindful of too, with you increasing your level through the acquisition of EXP. Leveling up not only grants you access to better gear and more use from the vendors, but you’re able to focus your necromancer’s base stats through one of three options. Upon leveling up, you’ll be presented with three cards to select from, all of which vary across health, damage, command, and mana. It’s all straightforward stuff, and the options tend to come with some fairly stark differences, throwing in some risk vs. reward.
It’s important to remain on-par with the game’s difficulty, because things can get very tricky if you get lazy. Despite being king of the dead, so to speak, you can still die in this game. Your health and mana are charted on-screen, and if they drop to zero, you’ll die or will deplete you magical capabilities, respectively. Health stations and mana drops are crammed in each level, allowing you to keep your level of resilience up quite frequently, but even so, it’s very easy to bite the proverbial dust here. Something I suffered more than I wanted to.
However, even then, you’re simply returned to the hub area with the ability to dive straight back in; the only penalty being that areas that haven’t been completely liberated will respawn all enemy troops – save the structures you’ve already demolished. Despite being able to raise the dead, being a necromancer has its limitations. You’re only allowed to raise a set amount of minions, and each minion varies in regards to how much command you need to summon them; the tougher grunts costing more command than the weaker.
This capacity does indeed raise as you level up, and certain pieces of gear will increase it too, but for the most part, you’ll always have enough to see each level through so long as you play strategically. Not only that, but you’re free to raise the dead on the fly too. The game sports a twin stick-like gameplay framework, played from a near top-down perspective. You’ll bob and weave through the game’s well designed locations, killing enemies (and then raising them to join you) as you venture towards fulfilling objectives.
Enemies/allies range all forms of creatures; from chickens and bears, right the way through to orcs and titans – many of which come in both melee and archer variants. The game constantly tells you where you need to be, but getting there is the tricky part. Whether it’s taking on the game’s many bosses, or, even searching for a secret passage, you’ll never find this easy to understand game, all that easy to beat. Like I said, pick up or buy as much loot as you can to keep on-par. Of course, things get a lot more outlandish later on in the fray.
Starting out, your abilities are not all that deep, and your power merely feeble. Later on, however, all of that changes. There’s a wide portion of spells to rely on, many of which become mandatory when you’re up against the tougher of levels. I found it handy to keep my health’s capacity as high as can be, not only to survive heavy attacks, but outlast the lengthy bouts of poison and other effects that enemies make a habit of dishing up. Sadly, this is where one of my two gripes comes into view; minions go down far too freakin’ easy.
It didn’t matter what minions I was leading, they all seem to die far too easily in the face of the opposition, even if your minions outnumber the opposition. This leads to gripe number two, repetition. The game’s selling point almost becomes its main drawback. Raising the dead is cool, neat, and quite unique, but to see them fall so easily is disheartening. This often means that you’ll either die due to being outnumbered, or will need to resurrect on the move, which isn’t always ideal and can regularly lead to a return to the hub anyway.
Sure, you can pull in some defeated bosses to kick some ass, but even these go down like they’re made of paper. I would hope the developer improves these stats in due course, because for me, constantly needing to return to the hub to pull up some dead only highlighted the game’s repetitive nature all the more so. That to the side, there’s very little to scoff at here. Undead Horde is a surprisingly addictive game, and for those (such as myself) that are usually put off by the genre’s complexities, it’s a very worthy choice.
There’s much replay value to be found in seeking out the game’s many secrets, be it boss encounters, quests, or even areas, throwing more hours worth of play on top of its already impressive length. That, folks, is the crux of Undead Horde. You’ll dive in and work to liberate each area as you seek out loot, defeat a wide variation of enemies, recruit said enemies, and rinse and repeat as you take on its quest system. Irrespective of my gripe regarding its repetitive functionality, the game feels fairly fresh at all times elsewhere.
This is further compounded by the growing list of gear and capabilities you can get through loot drops and leveling up, granting access to deeper elements of play as a result. It’s a game that pays you for time invested, and pays you well it does at that. Whilst its visuals are constantly varied and always well detailed, I cant share much love for its audio presentation; putting forward generic cues and a somewhat passable soundtrack that gets tiring before long. Nevertheless, in the face of everything this game gets right, that’s easy to overlook.
The bottom line in all of this is that if you’re looking for the next Diablo, you’re not going to get that here. However, with that being said, you’re still getting a robust experience that’s in the same vein. I’ve had an absolute blast and don’t plan on putting it down any time soon. The game’s many systems are thoroughly delightful, and although its quests can come across quite standard, the action between rarely gets old. If you’re in the market for a game of this type, Undead Horde wont blow your socks off, but it will undoubtedly please you in more ways than you would think.
Undead Horde is a surprisingly deep hack ‘n’ slash RPG that not only succeeds at being interestingly unique, but excels as far as strategic variation is concerned. The amount of content on offer, despite its tendency of becoming slightly repetitive from time to time, is quite simply commendable. Bottom Line? Whilst far from Diablo’s standards, this adventure is bound to keep you hooked and entertained for hours on end.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.