Iratus: Lord of the Dead (PC) Review

By Athanasios 24.04.2020

Review for Iratus: Lord of the Dead on PC

You like Darkest Dungeon? Yes? Spectacular! As seen in a hands-on preview, Iratus: Lord of the Dead is inspired by the tough as nails creation of Red Hook Studios, but with a very crucial twist; one that decisively turns the concept on its head. You are the bad guy here; a necromancer, who controls the monsters that will bring fear into the hearts of those who imprisoned him. Take a look at Unfrozen's enjoyably challenging, turn-based tactical rogue-like, where death isn't always the end.

Iratus awakes underneath his subterranean prison, the only thing between him and the world he wants to conquer being five enormous labyrinths full of those who want to stop him. Good! Being a necromancer, he requires corpses to build his army. From bones and hearts, and skulls to chunks of flesh, gathered 'Parts' are the main "currency," and are needed to create your undead soldiers - and as Parts come in various tiers of quality, it's even possible to put a better type of Part into a unit, and provide more points to be spend on its stats; attack, defence, health, evasion, etc.

A neat alchemy kit enables mixing Parts, to create better versions of them, generate an alternative resource, like health for damaged minions, and so on. The lair itself can be upgraded, by building, and of course, improving structures; structures that provide various resources, and heal or train troops that stay behind during the actual adventuring. Finally, this place is also where the abilities and equipment of the necromancer can be modified, and in more ways than one. He won't appear as a unit in-game, of course, but he provides various boons to minions, and can also cast various spells.

Note that the journey to the surface won't be a walk in the park, so you need to really pay attention to all this. Don't hope to survive by solely focusing or one or two elements, whether that's improving minions, or gathering tons of material. By all means, this is two games in one: resource management, and turn-based, tactical strategy. Ready? Good, it's now time to unleash the Breathless Tide, and bring terror to the denizens of the underworld… but before doing some killin' you first need to pick a path. While a part with much less depth, this should also be approached with a strategic mind-set.

Screenshot for Iratus: Lord of the Dead on PC

In the board game-like, multi-branching map, one path might lead to more treasure, but also tougher enemy squads to battle against; a road including many encounters might be one to avoid, but that means missing on a hefty amount of experience for your rotting battalion; should you go for 'A,' which is guarded by elite units, or risk going straight to 'B,' the "safer," yet more unpredictable choice? Of course, in the end, all your preparations and decisions will inevitably bring you to the battlefield, and it's here where Iratus: Lord of the Dead will show its unrelenting, hungry maw.

A turn-based affair, the gameplay is easy to grasp, but hard to master. For starters, the extremely varied cast is far more than a bunch of warriors, ranged fighters, and so on. As an example, the Skeleton and the Golem are both "tanks," but while the first tends to hold the lines, the Golem's skills enable hurting itself so that it can help its friends. You need attackers? The vampire can't punch very hard, but its attacks have the potential to steal health, whereas the Head Hunter can waste one of his turns, mark an enemy, and severely damage it the next time.

There are many monsters to choose from, and creating party combos with powers that work in unison, and complement each other is a whole new game on its own. As for the fights, they are 4-vs-4 matches, where one must first pay attention to positioning, since each ability can only be pulled off from specific spots. Players should also be mindful of attack types, as different enemies have different resistances - and don't forget 'Stress;' the type that decreases the sanity of your attackers, raises the chances of making them lose their minds, and do all sorts of bad things afterwards - mostly to themselves.

Screenshot for Iratus: Lord of the Dead on PC

Then there are buffs, debuffs, curses, traps, stuns, defensive/offensive stances, and many, many more. In fear of making this review a boring read, this won't go into the specifics of every single system available. Rest assured, the end result will deeply satisfy strategy aficionados. Oh, and always remember that enemies don't hold their punches. Minions will die… well, a second time, that is, and if not careful whole campaigns will be lost. Plus, a single wrong decision or critical hit can destroy that unit you worked so hard to upgrade. The challenge is quite fair, though, so it's all on you.

Sure, the fear of losing something due to "bad luck" can be annoying - but, apart this being an element that sort of comes with the territory, the balance is generally very good, vastly improved from the days of Early Access, along with many other things. Yeah, it's not perfect. One problem with it is that, although all content is randomly generated, the RNG is bit too… subtle, thus every play-through can feel a bit same-y, as there's only the campaign mode, with just different difficulties to choose from. Luckily, the fun factor remains very high, even when repetition eventually kicks in.

Yes, it's that good. This critic will go as far as to say that it's better than its - far more popular - source of inspiration. You've read that correctly. Iratus: Lord of the Dead is actually better than the critically acclaimed Darkest Dungeon. One could argue that the latter (which is still a great game) plays a different ball game… but it's easy to agree that not having to spend an eternity grinding is a good thing. Here, you either use the resources you find along the way correctly, or you don't. Plus, you won't ever have your party get destroyed by the caprices of Lady Luck.

Screenshot for Iratus: Lord of the Dead on PC

One of the things that yours truly absolutely adored while testing the preview build, was the overall look and vibe of it al. Although a dark-themed fantasy title, this doesn't have that generic, forcefully brooding, everything-is-grey aesthetic. Heroes of Might and Magic has met the world of '80s heavy metal, and the result is something that takes a page from the so-called Bronze Age of comic books, revels in its corniness, and doesn't take itself too seriously - as seen by the necromancer's one-liners… which he throws so often that it can get annoying, to be perfectly honest.

As a side note, those expecting a well-written story should look elsewhere. There's some text to read after clearing a floor, but this is definitely old-school when it comes to its storytelling, as it requires the participation of the player. In other words, your imagination will fill the gaps. Lucky for you, this has quite the immersive atmosphere. Drenched in colour, and with a level of polish that's just insane, from the dimly-lit mines and caverns, to the imposing Dwarven tunnels and cathedral of the high priests and paladins near the surface, Iratus: Lord of the Dead's visuals never fail to impress.

Particular mention should go the units themselves. The enemy roster includes the typical fantasy tropes, but there are a few more imaginative designs thrown in as well, and all look great; detailed, varied, and pretty cool. These can't hold a candle to the army of Iratus, however. Compared to those, the humans and elves look dull, as the ghouls, phantasms, banshees, dark knights, and so on, are even more varied and colourful than their foes. It's as if Diablo had a few children with Warcraft - with the daughters actually having bigger and bouncier tatas than those of the living, for Bram Stoker's sake!

Screenshot for Iratus: Lord of the Dead on PC

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Unfrozen's Iratus: Lord of the Dead is one of the greatest tactical rogue-likes one can enjoy right now; one that surpasses the titles it pays homage to in almost every way. The road to getting rid of anything that breaths with your necromancer is filled with a series of challenging battles, with an enormous amount of depth in the mechanics on offer, and with a heavy dose of resource management thrown in as well. The challenge will test your mettle, as mistakes are rarely accepted, and failure is part of the recipe. It suffers a bit from a lack of content, and a slight dose of repetitiveness, yet the gameplay is so much fun that you'll keep coming back to it no matter what - not to mention that the visuals are so beautiful that it makes staring at corpses and apparitions quite the enjoyable pastime.

Developer

Unfrozen

Publisher

Daedalic Entertainment

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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