At first glance, one may think of the Iratus: Lord of the Dead, the grim turn-based tactical roguelike RPG from developer Unfrozen and publisher Daedalic Entertainment, as yet another Darkest Dungeon knockoff. Sure, both games do share a number of striking similarities that can’t be ignored, but I’m not going to make this preview a comparison piece. Why’s that? Well, it’s because Iratus: Lord of the Dead is actually the video game equivalent of death metal, the chaotic evil music genre that some refer to as “the devil’s music.” Speaking of the devil, you kind of get to play as one, which is what’ll make Iratus a twisted and cruel adventure for anyone brave enough to give it a try.
In Iratus, players take on the role of the resurrected necromancer, Iratus who seeks revenge against those who imprisoned him for a millennium and kept him from completing his goal for complete world domination. A necromancer is ain’t any good without any loyal subjects to help out, so Iratus has the power to not only make but also control an obedient army of living dead: skeletons, zombies, banshees and many other unliving warriors. How does one make this kind of army? Well, that’s easy — by using the body parts of slain enemies, of course! With an evil gang of hellish servants to back you up, it’ll be up to you to help Iratus get the revenge he so desperately desires.
Iratus and his army take centerstage in the game. For starters, Iratus obviously isn’t a high-and-mighty, chivalry-driven main character that we’re so accustomed to playing in roguelikes and RPGs. He’s the exact opposite, an anti-hero who’s selfish, filled with hate, and takes joy whenever death is delivered. The only qualm I have with him is how often he constantly makes a comment, basically every minute that passes or action that’s taken, I would have to hear Iratus say something. Yes, I’m sure that the developer intended for this to add to his devilish charm, but his voiced dialogue becomes bothersome after only a little while. Here’s hoping that Iratus is toned down a good bit in the future.
Regardless of Iratus’ chatterbox issues, his ability to recruit, make, and use minions to do all of his biddings is what players will end up enjoying the most. Given that Iratus is a necromancer, the player doesn’t really get his hands dirty when it comes to battling — instead, players will utilize Iratus for anything that has to do with his army and underground lair (I’ll get to this later). For army making, all minions, which could be zombies, vampires, and other ungodly beings, are created via organs and body parts collected after battles, and creating minions is so easy that even an undead soldier would be able to do it thanks to the user-friendly creation system. As is tradition, the way to level up minions is by feeding them brains. Putting together an army, and customizing it in a way that suited my playstyle, wasn’t an issue at all for me during my time with Iratus and I can imagine that players will have the same experience.
Making a mighty army will ultimately reap great rewards in the game. The turn-based battles you’ll take on aren’t going to be so easy to get through as it’s vital to know the strengths and weaknesses of enemies to ensure a swift victory occurs. Not only that but the order in which your minions are in can very well affect how a battle plays out. With battles that let you have up to four units at your disposal that each have six unique abilities, strategy certainly comes into play when it comes to knowing how to approach battles. Battles are engaging — but I did feel that a lot of battles I fought in dragged on for too long. That said, there are going to be 16 unit types in total to play around with in Iratus, so expect to change up your battle strategy quite often.
Iratus does join in on the fun in battle by having the ability to unleash spells, but that’s pretty much it — which is understandable given how he wants to stay back and watch death happen right before his eyes. However, players can still level him up and his units via four talent trees that’ll alter the way you play: Alchemy, Magic, Wrath, and Destruction.
Aside from battles, the game has plenty of dungeons to crawl through, and an underground lair that can be expanded and improved on that’s essentially used for crafting and reward earning purposes. These elements are pretty well done, but Iratus’ combat, army-building, and of course, Iratus, are the real stars of the game. Players may also like, however, the game’s detailed art style and gloomy atmosphere.
Iratus: Lord of the Dead won’t be a brain dead adventure, it’ll be an adventure filled with deadly turn-based combat, insane characters, and one heck of a devilish necromancer. For fans of dark, gritty roguelike games like Darkest Dungeon or Vambrace: Cold Soul, Iratus: Lord of the Dead could be worth dungeon crawling through when it releases via Steam Early Access on July 24.
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