The creeper is crawling out of his grave

A good necromancer is a dead necromancer, most fantasy RPG players will say. Developer RocketBrush Studio challenges this notion with The Unliving, putting the player in the role of a wizard who can reanimate corpses and summon creatures of darkness to build his army. This corrupt legion will spread fear among the living and ensure its master achieves his goals.

On paper, the concept is great and draws on monster and crowd management titles like Overlord or Anarchute. Added to this well-thought-out approach is pixel art, which captivates with its wealth of detail and variety of abominations on screen. Unfortunately, Inferno is full of good ideas, and the title can’t decide whether to be a roguelite, an RPG, a strategy game, or a bullet hell, and ends up being unsatisfying with all of its mechanics.

Again we have Rogelith with the correct explanation of the endless cycle of death and rebirth: his hero is immortal. As a dark lich, death is no deterrent. Additionally, the necromancer is trapped in a time loop of sorts, a side effect of a very powerful spell that also erased his memories. Rebuilding your max powers, your army, and your memories form the narrative thread of this adventure, the same engine that brought us back to Overlord.

Minions everywhere!

However, it is the nature of a good roguelite to provide the player with a minimal sense of progression: each session should provide resources to increase his power and guarantee a longer session next time to provide even more resources and repeat the evolution. This is the key to a good cheat. The Unliving, like other games in this genre, does not unlock new spells immediately, but adds these new spells to a selection of spells that you can randomly find on the map. Since most spells are ineffective, you end up collecting trinkets that just sabotage random vessels that may or may not come out of it, affecting the battlefield. While the Necromancer itself may have a constant evolution, again, the changes are so small that each session is extremely similar to the last.

Strategy for what?

Repeating the same gameplay over and over and gradually evolving it wouldn’t even be a problem if that repetition was at least fun, as any MMORPG player well knows. Your ability to command the dead is nothing more than sending them in one direction or another without any set strategy, battle formation or logic. They are amorphous mobs that tend to hang out in the corners of the map as they get bigger.

This part is less cool than it sounds… and that’s a crime.

If you’re in the mood for micro-management, it’s possible to sacrifice a few soldiers to get a specific effect. Unfortunately, these effects are very small. e.g. It makes more sense to keep the archer while it is available than to settle for such a fragile outcome.

But then why not sacrifice the archer a few minutes before it finally decays? With dozens of undead roaming The Unliving, it’s virtually impossible to keep track of everyone and somehow consistently execute their sacrificial abilities.

Perhaps if the game was turn-based, or had a pause feature, its difficulty could be explored better. In this case, we might be able to deploy a specific unit, with archers in the rear, heavy infantry in front, and werewolves who jump into the enemy’s midst, destroy and retreat. But then The Unliving would be a different game.

Return to the hub.

Death is a relief in The Unliving

To make life(?) difficult for our necromancer, he is as fragile as the glass vials that form his life force. You’ll just want to focus on the fight, watching your troops kill people, but you’ll need to constantly be on the lookout for enemy attacks. Opportunistic Arrow, Magic Enchantment and our Necromancer is slowly coming to an end. Even a peasant can appear and deliver a well-placed blow that consumes half of one of the phylacteries that represent your life. Dodging shells becomes an exercise in loose bullet hell that distracts from the war.

Although the game encourages the player to place the mage on the front line and perform melee attacks as well, this is a suicidal position that will only shorten the session. The protagonist has no weight in the skirmishes, he is a defense resource. Maybe The Unliving would have been a better game if my character didn’t have a presence on the battlefield with an invisible hand controlling everything from his magical tower, but then again, it would be a different game.

The Unliving promises absolute power over life and death, it delivers weak spells, weak necromancy, and even weaker gameplay. Its main merit is fulfilled even in the visual part. Everything else is disappointing.

** This text does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the UAI portal.

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