When trying out darkForge Games’ new project, Nekro, one point was really driven home: I suck at it. Hard. This strategy/beat-em-up hybrid does not pull any punches after the first few levels; it really makes you earn each victory through proper battlefield assessment, exploiting the enemy A.I., and utilizing a well thought out long term game plan in the purchase of upgrades. It’s worth it.
A cursory glance at the store page may lead one to believe that this is a Diablo-esque action-RPG. The adjustable overhead view and colorful graphics certainly bring to mind the most recent entry in that venerable series. However, this is more of a strategy game played out in discrete levels. Imagine a more rudimentary version of the underrated Overlord with a more restricted form of resource management.
You play as the titular necromancer on a quest for revenge for his recent execution. He got better. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Of course, vengeance only serves as a partial motivation as there is evil to be spread. You know what? This goes here.
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Okay, that’s out of my system.
Anyhow, to obtain his goal, the necromancer is able to summon a variety of minions ranging from demon bats to demon…blob things. They all have sharp teeth, rest assured. Many levels also provide environmental details that can be brought to fiendish life. Watching my bouncing, possessed jack-o’-lanterns team up with a found skeleton warrior was a joy. All of your minions are fragile, though, so proper use of these creatures are in your best interest.
The game does warn early on about charging headlong in a battle and they were not kidding. No matter the numbers you may be able to raise, the forces of good are strong. It seems that the best way to make progress is by properly scouting and trying your hardest to not tussle with more than one or two enemies at a time. For this impatient player, that was a challenge. I frequently witnessed my wee ones stabbed, punched, and perforated as I tried to get the hang of a level or test out new tactics. Level restarts are fast and relatively seamless, so these weren’t too bad.
While my focus in Nekro was on the best use of the minions you can acquire, your floating avatar is not defenseless on his own. Right now Nekro offers three different classes each with different stats and abilities. I chose the melee fighting class, though the grenade-lobbing apparition might have been a better pick for my style. At least two more classes are planned before the game is considered complete.
To help the player rise to the challenge, there is an upgrade system. After each level, your necromancer can put a point into improving health, damage, or blood (read: mana). New minions can be unlocked and upgraded using “Sin,” a currency found throughout each level. I kept pushing towards trying to open up new kinds of monsters, but I think that when I return, it would be wiser to upgrade what I have first. I am as wise as this game is peaceful.
The entertainment found in this title is well bolstered by the cartoon styled graphics and the cartoonishly sardonic tone. The pre-mission briefings were fantastically written and performed with such lip-smacking, gruesome glee that it’s hard not to smile. When playing the game proper, those oh-so-righteous do-gooders will find themselves stripped of skin, bitten, vomited upon, and more. Should you decide to feed on them to refill health and blood, they will explode in a display of flying parts. For you parents out there, the tone is meant to be silly and extremely over the top. Nekro is meant to be about as threatening as Itchy and Scratchy.
In the end, the tone is what really carries the day for this project. Those of you who fondly remember Dungeon Keeper will find a similar feel of characterization and humor here. The gameplay is certainly much different from that classic, but I would definitely recommend this for those fans. For those that aren’t familiar with that gem, or worse, only know it from its recent “free-to-play” iteration I say this: go play the original. What’s wrong with you? While you are at it, give this one a shot as well. It’s pretty good.