Hilary Andreff
E3 2019: Iratus: Lord of the Dead Hands-On Preview
Bring out your dead!
07.04.19 - 2:16 PM

Have you ever found yourself drawn to the macabre or "evil" character designs in games? Ever get tired of being the hero? Daedalic is partnering with Unfrozen Studios to make sure these interests are covered with Iratus: Lord of the Dead, their dark, necromantic strategy RPG. The titular Lord of the Dead has escaped his imprisonment at the hands of some bygone heroes, and he's ready to form undead minions from the remains of his slain enemies and claw his way up from the depths to take over the world. Just how successful he is depends on how well the player manages the belowground lair where Iratus creates his army, the extent to which they explore the belowground environment in general, and of course, the strategies utilized throughout battle. Some roguelike elements also come into play, as procedural generation with some of the resources make running out of minions a real possibility.

Iratus: Lord of the Dead Belowground Screenshot

The flow of the game is familiar as far as strategy RPGs go. Find a location on the map, and an event or battle happens. Between battles, you build up Iratus's resources so he can raise and empower his minions. And yes, the part about constructing minions from enemies' remains is quite literal: various body parts (especially brains) are the items you use to create units. All of them look amazing, with most classes of undead creatures represented, and they sport specialized skills that make deliberating over which units to take into battle worthwhile. Each unit changes its abilities based on where it is in your party formation: for example, a Zombie is a tank-type unit at the front and attacks with missiles when at the back. Units can also be upgraded by Iratus, but each power-up is framed as a binary choice — the unit becomes either one thing or another. There are even some minions that Irauts must unlock as the game progresses, adding a bit more variability.

Iratus: Lord of the Dead Battle Screenshot

Battles take a lot of inspiration from Darkest Dungeon, with four of Iratus's units in a row facing off against a group of four living enemies. A unit's position in line is one of the key factors in battle because, in addition to their skills changing based on formation, each attack and skill targets only certain positions in the enemy line. The example fight we saw had the enemy leader summoning units in front of him indefinitely, which necessitated trapping him in a closer row as much as possible so the heavy hitters could damage him. Luckily, there was a unit in our roster that could do that! Judicious use of buffs and debuffs also went a long way to carving through large numbers of weaker units. The game contains 30+ unique enemies, some of whom have unique skills to contend with.

Utilizing dark powers and undead forces comes with its own set of benefits in this scenario. Some of the monsters Iratus can create do stress damage, which depelets the enemy's sanity and can result in them fleeing or attacking one another. Iratus was formerly a force to be reckoned with, and as such, he can turn his dark alchemy skills into battle spells. He works (to some degree) alongside his minions in battle, fortifying his own forces or doing damage to the opposing side. Iratus's skills are a great way to cause large changes in battle, but many are costly for him to use. Iratus has three schools of magic to draw from, and these were being worked on right up until E3. In order to be successful, it's pretty clear that the player will need a combination of skills from both Iratus and his minions. These fights are meant to be challenging, and this does add another layer of strategy.

Iratus: Lord of the Dead Skills Screenshot

Unfrozen Studios has shown a commitment to delivering a game that's polished, fun, and has a wicked sense of humor — even taking to Kickstarter once they knew the base game was funded in order to raise money for extras (including minion classes and locations). Early Access is planned for July 24th, so we don't have long to wait. Iratus is definitely worth checking out if you're looking for something a little challenging and a little...evil.