Title: Iratus: Lord of the Dead
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Genre: RPG, Strategy, Indie, Roguelike, Dark Fantasy
Official Site: Iratus.org
Release Date: Apr 23, 2020
Iratus Lord of the Dead is a unique turn-based roguelike RPG that was first released back in April. The game most notably takes inspiration from the hit Lovecraftian game Darkest Dungeon. Iratus also takes several gameplay elements from Darkest Dungeon and puts their own spin on them.
The result is a highly intriguing premise that is later executed in the ultimate product rather decently. In the game, you play as the newly awakened ancient Necromancer Iratus, who is also apparently not a tremendous fan of all things living. This being due to the fact that an army of heroes defeated, and imprisoned him moments before, he would succeed in his life’s goal of wiping everything living from existence. So yeah, he’s not what you would call a huge fan of the living, and throughout the game, the player will help remind these mortals of the lord of the dead’s undying hatred for them.
So throughout the game, you’ll travel from level to level (there are 5 in total) commanding his undead legions that consist of various unliving angry killing machines, such as skeletons and ghouls, conquering the realm of the living. Furthermore, there are also a total of eighteen undead minions in the game, most of which are unlocked through achievements. You will also carry out the will of Iratus in turn-based tactical 4v4 battles that are highly reminiscent of the aforementioned Darkest Dungeon.
These battles will span across five dungeon maps and involve various types of enemies, all with different strengths and weaknesses. At the end of these maps, the player will then need to beat a boss to pass on to the next dungeon. However, In between your conquest of the living, you will also have several opportunities to heal up, level your undead minions, or craft items in a section called The Chamber of Iratus. There is also an area within this section where you can build upgrades to a graveyard that gives various benefits to help you through the course of the game.
Iratus Lord of the Dead is ultimately an intriguing concept that is executed fairly well for the most part. In this review, we will break down the various aspects the game gets right, and others not so much. That said, I am pleased to present to you my dear reader, this review of Iratus Lord of the Dead.
Overall, I would say Iratus Lord of the Dead does a fairly decent job of what the game sets out to do. I found that it provides a well-rounded gameplay experience that consists of an interesting take on the successful formula of Darkest Dungeon. Combat, for instance, despite being what would seem like an exact carbon copy of Darkest Dungeon at first, has a fair amount of fresh additions and great depth.
For example, stress, instead of being something enemies used to inflict damage to the player’s characters in Darkest Dungeon is now a method of causing damage to enemies in Iratus Lord of the Dead. This was one of the various aspects of the combat in Iratus Lord of the Dead that really drew me in, as it was really fun to use throughout the game. I found it also served as an excellent alternative method to get rid of enemies with strong armor resistance. The combat in Iratus is also extremely tactical and requires the player to strategize before wandering about on the dungeon map. This is largely due to the fact enemies all have various strengths and weaknesses so you can’t just use the same types of Undead minion combos and expect to win every time. This especially shows when some enemies have an ability called stances.
Stances are unique abilities that both the undead minions and various enemies can use throughout the game, stances also usually take two turns, and the end result can be utterly devastating for either side. For example, some abilities can cause insane damage that can kill a character outright entirely. This aspect of the game’s combat was also a part I absolutely enjoyed as it adds an impressive level of depth to the turn-based battles. It also helps add to the overall need for a strategy when playing the game. This is because while being in combat, you need to pay attention to the enemy’s movements in turns, while also making sure to pick a character before a fight with an ability that you can level up into being able to interrupt stances.
So in doing so, you don’t lose some of your high-level undead monsters too early in the game from being obliterated by one of the various enemy stance abilities. However, the magic system and more specifically the spells that can be cast during battles had some major flaws. This being that some spells tended to be fairly weak and downright useless. This ultimately resulted in me mostly using the spells to remove something called Wards and Blocks. Thus I feel magic, as it currently exists in the game, is sometimes not as useful as initially intended, and so falls flat during the majority of the game. Moving on from the magic, lets touch upon the before-mentioned feature Wards and Blocks.
Wards and Blocks is an interesting feature found in Iratus Lord of the Dead’s combat. In the game, they essentially function as a magical shield buff that either the player or ai can cast to protect from either magical and physical attacks. The feature is interesting and is another mechanic that helps add to the overall strategic elements of the tactical battles in this game.
Overall combat in Iratus Lord of the Dead is quite enjoyable, felt engaging, and was reminiscent of other games in this genre. However, Iratus doesn’t solely rely on familiarity to keep players engaged. It is rather through its unique gameplay features, which all combined, help its combat stand out from other games in this genre. I also had little to no problems regarding how it functions in the game as it currently does. Everything from the animations and how abilities play out was both visually appealing and seemed to function as intended. Furthermore, I feel the majority of my problems lie with other systems found in Iratus. That said, let us move on to Gameplay Mechanics Overview.
Who Knew Being this Evil is Surprisingly In-depth?: Gameplay Mechanics Overview for Iratus Lord of the Dead
In addition to a decent combat system, Iratus Lord of the Dead also has a lot of interesting additional mechanics at work that compliment the combat fairly well. One system in particular really takes the cake, this being the way you get new characters in this game. It is honestly a pretty fun and intriguing system. Instead of a stagecoach that brings you new characters like in Darkest Dungeon, you make them from body parts you gain as rewards from completing battles.
The player also gains these parts in small amounts after a battle, and so due to only receiving negligible amounts of these parts it really adds a nice element of strategy to the mix. This is largely because you will have to be careful with how you use your minions in the game, since you may not always have enough parts to replace those lost in battles. The undead minion creation system I also felt was really immersive and helped to create an engaging game that captures the concept of being an evil Necromancer. However, the game is not without its fair share issues, and most lie with the overall usefulness of some utilities found in the chamber of Iratus portion of the game, and the amount of replayability compared to other games in this genre.
The replayability issue I felt is mostly caused by the fact that there are only five dungeon areas and one map per dungeon in the game. In addition, it felt there was a huge focus more on getting through a dungeon to get to the boss, rather than exploration and finding loot like in other games. Furthermore, there isn’t much in the way of variety since a dungeon area only consists of one map and thus over time, this will get old pretty fast. Because of this, I feel there is not much reason to play the game beyond the different difficulty settings and the two additional minions you unlock after completing the game once. Moving on let us go over the other fundamental issue I found with Iratus, Lord of the Dead.
During my playthrough, I felt the various utilities in the chamber of Iratus portion lacked functionality and overall usefulness. This was especially relevant in the alchemy section. Whereas certain functions such as the creation of new items I often found to be arguably useless, as the options you can create were rather less in quality than items you can find while in special events throughout the five dungeon maps.
Moving on, the other sections of the alchemy like the transformation of different body parts into rarer ones I seldom used as it seemed there was always a low chance to receive a rare item and thus felt like a waste of time to even bother with it. To wrap this portion up I feel Iratus Lord of the Dead does a great job overall with the various systems that accompany the traditional combat. However, The lack of replayability value compared to other games in the genre, and the overall uselessness of certain features in Iratus is a major determinant to the game as a whole.
The story I felt was a large selling point for me, as it was a refreshing and interesting concept that is executed fairly well in this game for the most part. For example, the character Iratus is very reminiscent of the humorous charm that characters had in Dungeon Keeper. The character Iratus also was similar to the Overlord from the Overlord games but had a personality beyond just being menacingly evil.
But not just the game’s main angry undead protagonist has charm, the world that this game is set in, is also absolutely fascinating. Borrowing elements from the Overlord games, Iratus’s primary rivals are not actually all that good, it is also not the traditional fantasy rivalry of good vs evil. This concept is further exemplified in the various enemies you fight in Iratus Lord of the Dead. For example, in the first level of Iratus you are fighting conscripts, and slaves, that are forced to mine to death in the deep forsaken depths below the earth, by their Dwarven overlords. Later on, you will encounter even more tidbits of lore about these dwarves, and other factions spread out throughout the later portions of Iratus Lord of the Dead.
These tidbits of lore come in the form of various text boxes that pop up during boss fights or quests, and they shed light on the various parts of the doomed world that Iratus Lord of the Dead takes place in. Take the Dwarves, for instance, these sturdy bearded fellows are not your typical fantasy dwarf, Oh no these dwarves have forsaken ancient traditions and honor for the pursuit of science and greed. It is for things such as this I found the story behind this game to be unique and helped to draw me into this strange world.
But despite a unique story being present in the game, it sadly falls behind in its overall presentation. I felt it didn’t do enough throughout my playthrough of the game to share its unique and interesting story to the player. It doesn’t go very deep into the lore beyond explaining the backstory of the various enemies and undead minions in the game. However, overall I would say the story despite its lackluster presentation really makes Iratus Lord of the Dead stand out from others in this genre. It is also what I would consider one of the huge selling points for Iratus.
The sounds and art of Iratus Lord Of The Dead is another aspect of the game I enjoyed and encountered minimal issues with. The Music scores are relatively decent and fit the eerie tone of Iratus perfectly and accompanies the gameplay excellently, especially during battles. This due to the soundtrack at times helping to create a sense of urgency that really fits the atmosphere of battles in the game and makes them feel more intense.
Moving on, The art style was for the most part was the same case as the music. The art style of this game has a nice decayed and gloomy aesthetic that gets the job done. I also really admired the clear Slavic culture influences with how certain enemies look such as the dwarven musketeer. But overall it is arguably not the best-looking art out there I have seen from games, nevertheless, I didn’t have any issues with it nor did it lessen the game as a whole.
Verdict: In the end, Iratus Lord Of The Dead despite not being the most original game is decent and fun overall. It has a lot of interesting systems and solid combat that help make it stand out enough from similar games. However, it lacks heavily regarding the amount of content compared to rival games such as Darkest Dungeon. It is because of these reasons Iratus Lord of the Dead gets the final score of three stars. I recommend this game if you are looking for something similar to that of other games in this genre such as Darkest Dungeon. But I do not recommend getting this game if you are expecting to clock a lot of hours into it as there is not much beyond 40 hours worth of content.
- Intense and tactical battles
- Decent visuals and sound
- Interesting plot and Fascinating Lore
- Gets repetitive after several playthroughs
- Lackluster presentation
- Meagre amount of content compared to similar games