Ever wanted to command droves of the living dead while showering yourself in the (randomized) plunder of your foes? If so, this is the game for you! Diablo, what? Overlord? No, THIS game!
Undead Horde is an action RPG clearly cut from the same cloth as its inspiration, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some people really dig randomized loot systems, and I just so happen to be among that group. Also, it isn’t every day that you can play as the “bad guy,” so let’s jump into this title and see what the fuss – or lack thereof – is all about.
Years ago a war raged between the forces of light – the paladins – and minions of darkness – the undead and necromancers. Orcen, the last Necromancer, was exiled from the physical realm years ago, which has only led to an ever-growing disdain for the one that imprisoned him – the paladin Benevictor – and an increased hunger for the annihilation of the living. As a master of the undead, a necromancer’s strength grows with every slain foe that it, then, raises to do its bidding. Fortunately for Orcen, his seemingly eternal imprisonment is about to come to a close, and he will once again wreak havoc on the living and raze every settlement in sight.
The opening sequence in Undead Horde is short, but entertaining. The narrative starts out interesting but ultimately ends up feeling a bit underwhelming due to the majority of quests in-game boiling down to killing a certain named enemy – which you’ll likely know nothing (or care) about – destroying villages, or extracting beneficial NPCs from captivity for the betterment of your command center. Saving NPCs is probably the most exciting of the bunch, seeing as various shops begin to open up at your hub once they’ve been recovered, but otherwise the story itself is kind of just “there”, and not really expanded upon in a meaningful (or interesting) way.
At a base level, Undead Horde plays quite similar to other ARPG looters with minion management, and Orcen’s toolkit is reminiscent of that of the Diablo necromancer. It is all about minions, and you can resurrect just about anything. Various infantry are likely to be your bread and butter, but you may also raise animals, such as bears and chickens, should your heart desire so. Units have their own strengths, weaknesses, and command costs. You can only control a certain number of minions at a time, with the amount based on the the units on hand and their respective command costs. Minions can, and will die but there’s always fresh corpses around from your destructive wake.
In general, your minions are controlled by two commands bound to the same button. Pressing it once will send your horde attacking in the direction that you’re facing while a secondary press will round them back up for easier maneuvering and travel. Although your minions can deal a respectable amount of damage and serve as a disposable meatshield, Orcen is quite capable of assisting as well. You are able to equip a primary melee weapon, a secondary mana-based ranged weapon, and numerous trinkets that provide active and passive bonuses. This gear is randomized and often found out in the wild, but you can also purchase some from your base after the required NPCs are rescued. Ultimately, I found that only a handful of traits were really useful, but there were times where I’d swap in between a couple sets in order to maximize my potential for a specific situation.
Your plan of attack is a rather linear one, though branching paths do crop up from time to time. The freedom of choice is a bit superficial however, as most of your tasks come attached with a recommended level range. Sure, you could try to take on that mission two levels above your own, but why do that when there’s another one available that matches your level? All of the tasks should be done anyways, so it’s better to just do them in order of their level range. On the topic of level ups, each one grants you an opportunity to select from one of three randomly selected cards, which directly drives how each of your individual stats will grow over time.
The world consists of interconnected stages, some of which house waypoints that can be used to quickly travel to other stages and, most importantly, your home base. As you would expect, the command center serves as Orcen’s point of resurrection, should the living get the best of him, as well as a point to turn in discovered deeds, browse the wares of various shops, and assemble/reform your army. Deeds can be found after clearing out certain areas, and turning them in rewards you for your efforts.
The army assembly feature serves dual purposes – when you first start out you will have no minions to your name. Within the base, you can call upon any unit type you’ve unlocked, with more options appearing alongside your ever-expanding destruction path. Additionally, returning here to regroup and take advantage of certain unit types for the more sticky situations is wonderful. Undead Horde features an impressive amount of unique minions, but newer ones often just obsolete the older ones rather than adding depth to your toolkit.
Mechanically, Undead Horde probably sounds more exciting than it actually is in execution. Lay waste to your enemies! Raise armies! Destroy buildings! Sift through gobs of randomized loot! It all sounds exciting, especially from the somewhat unique “villain” perspective, but in execution it gets tiresome rather quickly. Scenarios across the playthrough don’t really functionally change that much, and since the narrative doesn’t do much to grab you beyond the introduction, you’re left wondering if progression is really worth it. Most missions require little more than common sense to complete, and you’ve more or less seen what the game has to offer gameplay-wise after the first hour or so.
Graphics and Sound
Undead Horde utilizes a rather simple, but pleasing, polygonal design. While coming across as a bit comical or cartoony at times, there is an equal amount of death and destruction to cater to both sides of that fence. Combat animations are kept to a minimum, which does help emphasize the more important things, such as death and destruction. The soundtrack is alright, albeit a bit forgettable, but the little bit of voice acting present is not too shabby. My biggest beef lies with how repetitive Orcen’s dialogue becomes after only a short time. He’ll say a couple different lines whenever he orders his minions around, and does so EVERY TIME – you’re going to be commanding the undead quite a bit, and having to hear these same lines over and over can become a bit grating.
Undead Horde achieves some of its aspirations, but not in a way that is likely to leave a lasting impression on you. Admittedly, the minion mechanic in itself is not necessarily my cup of tea, so those that really dig these kind of games might get a bit more pleasure out of it than myself. Driving minions to act for your own personal gain – global domination – is fun for a while, but then you’re left feeling like there could have been so much more substance to the whole thing. The RPG elements, especially the randomized equipment system, help to keep things from becoming stale, but only for so long. $16.99USD is not an outlandish asking price, but I don’t necessarily feel like it matches up with my mediocre take of the experience as a whole either. If the idea of commanding the undead en masse within the confines of the limitations outlined above appeals to you, then Undead Horde might be worth checking out.