Platform: LinuxMacPC
Genre: RPG
Release Date: April 23, 2020
Developer: Unfrozen
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment


Iratus: Lord of the Dead appeared on Steam’s Early Access last summer. And now, nine months later, when all the jokes about “ Darkest Dungeon the other way around,” seemingly already joked, a full release of the game took place. The creation of the Russian studio Unfrozen came out even earlier than planned – which is quite unexpected because lately transfers for a month or two have become commonplace. But, apparently, the developers felt that they brought Iratus: Lord of the Dead to mind. Now that the dungeon can be completed in its entirety, it is time to evaluate how much the game has changed during its time in Early Access and whether it is worth it to spend dozens of hours in it.

Necromancer named Iratus

In my last year’s preview, I’ve already detailed what the Lord of the Dead gameplay is. In short, the player in the role of the necromancer Iratus, the commander of the undead units, needs to get out of the underground depths to freedom. To do this, he has to go through several floors, levels. There were three in early access, and in the release version, catacombs and a cathedral were added to the mines, tunnels of the gnomes, and barracks of mercenaries.

A map of each floor is randomly generated and has quite a few forks on which you can see in advance both enemies and random events, as well as chests with artifacts and other useful things. How to pump, killing all the enemies on the level and collecting all the treasures, alas, will not succeed: you can only move forward on the map.

Minions can (or rather, even need) be created manually: after all, our hero is a powerful necromancer. For this, fragments found on the battlefields are suitable: bones, skulls, weapons, ashes, ectoplasm, pieces of flesh and others like them. We are given a choice of 18 types of undead of all stripes. There are both familiar monsters like a skeleton, a banshee, and a vampire, as well as much more exotic specimens: for example, a Lost Soul hung with masks, which does not disdain to strengthen opponents and beat on its own.

Our nets brought the dead man

Ready creatures can be safely put into groups of four and send to fight. At the same time, one should not forget about caution, because the minion who fell in battle dies once and for all (some items give a chance of rebirth, but I would not seriously count on them). The game is saved automatically in one slot for each passage, so when the resources and troops run out, the path through the dungeon will have to be started anew.

The turn-based combat system Iratus: Lord of the Dead immediately seems familiar to everyone who played in Darkest Dungeon: Each of the unit’s abilities is tied to the position it stands on. You can attack directly the health of the enemy or his mind. Loss of the latter can cause psychosis, flight from battle, or even death from a broken heart. Well, or, conversely, inspiration – then the enemy will experience a surge of strength from fear.

All six-unit abilities are immediately open – in this regard, you will not particularly experiment, all creativity begins during the assembly of the group. The combinations of minions are just darkness. Choosing your ideal formula and finally making sure that it works is an incredible pleasure. In order for all the cards to work out, it is important to understand how the minions and their skills will fit together. Teamwork can be shown, for example, by the Bride of Iratus, who stands up and automatically shoots arrows from all position-changing enemies, and the Bounty Hunter, who can pull opponents to the first position with his hook.

39 weeks later

Paragraphs in topics describing updates for the game often begin with the words “We received a lot of complaints about …”, and it’s nice that the developers did not turn a blind eye to the claims of the players. For nine months, Unfrozen has really fixed a lot. So, merciless critical hits of enemies can now be neutralized with the help of blocks and amulets. When fleeing a battle, the surviving squad is saved (the “Retreat” button used to be, in fact, meaningless), and during the battles themselves, units can be moved one place forward and backward. Moreover, at the first two difficulty levels, save points appeared at the beginning of each floor, and now the game does not have to be started from the very beginning if the units and fragments from which they are created end.

The pumping of the undead has also changed: it has ceased to depend on randomly falling pieces that contain improvements in certain parameters of the minion. Now, after gaining a new level, the unit is given several points that you can independently scatter according to the characteristics: someone to strengthen a physical attack, someone – evasion and critical strike, and so on. The only thing is, the distribution of points cannot be canceled in any way, and it counts right away, without a confirmation button.

In early access, minions could only be developed to the seventh level, but now, according to the developers, the maximum level is not limited. By the end of the game, I pumped my active squads to the thirtieth, and that was enough to defeat the final boss. Each minion still has two slots for special items, but now these items are much more, plus, there are unique little things for each type of undead. Alas, it is still impossible to pull an item out of the slot. But putting a new one on top of it, destroying the old one, is easy.

The abilities of Iratus, which can be studied with increasing levels, were also balanced. For example, our villain was deprived of the opportunity to instantly kill an enemy unit. Apparently, the developers considered this spell too ultimatum – now it removes only 50% of its health. Iratus has a new combat parameter – spell power: the more it is, the lower the cost of using magic, and the more impressive the damage from it.

Alchemy began to work a little differently. An improved piece is no longer created from two pieces with worse quality. For a good fragment, you will need three components already (and it doesn’t matter which parts: a heart can be made even of bones, skulls, and ashes) and a bit of luck. The better the source material, the higher the chance that something rare will come out. And between the battles with the help of processing pieces, you can restore the health of minions and mana Iratusu.

A team from St. Petersburg worked on Iratus , so from the game, we should expect the appearance of Russian voice acting. Unfrozen did not trifle and added as many as three versions of Iratus’s arrogant speeches – two from Dmitry Puchkov, nicknamed Goblin (one of the versions with company phrases, but to be honest, I didn’t notice much difference) and one from Vladimir Antonik, a famous dubbing actor, giving her voice, for example, to Vesemiru in The Witcher 3. But the minions, alas, did not get the voice acting – sometimes the units emit heartbreaking screams, but the rest of the time their replicas are simply written over their heads.

Without any changes, even minor ones, there remained only the visual component of the game. AppearanceIratus: Lord of the Dead is still her weak point: with its outdated style and “default” interface, taken as if from browser games, the game looks faceless. Who knows, maybe the developers missed the nulls and wanted to knock out a nostalgic tear from us: here, by the way, the design typical for that time and Goblin as a voiceover came in handy. At the same time, I still think that the Lord of the Dead does not look repulsive, but I dare to suggest that her style will still be scared away by some potential players.

In Iratus: Lord of the Dead rather curious fate. Initially, the game was positioned as an insanely hardcore turn-based RPG, where all units are consumables that can not be pumped and to which it makes no sense to get attached. But during the active work on the project, Unfrozen studio received a huge amount of feedback from players who did not want to suffer. As a result, the developers abandoned many of their early ideas and decided to make the game people wanted. Is it good? Do creators need to listen to the majority opinion and step back from their original vision? The history of the creation of “Iratus” tells us that, probably, yes, since the public is happy. And the authors themselves admit that thanks to everyone who shared their ideas about the development of the game, it became better and better.

It is gratifying to see that Unfrozen does not plan to abandon its brainchild – in September, the Iratus should launch the Wrath of the Necromancer add-on, which will add new content to the game, including minions, bosses and ordinary enemies. It will also update the ending, which now leaves more questions than answers. It is clear that “Iratus” is from the category of those games in which the plot recedes far into the background, but after dozens of hours of gameplay, I would still like to see what is called a bullet in this story.

Is the game worth spending those tens of hours in it? I can only give an affirmative answer. Despite all her roughness, she is seriously carried away, and if you fell in love with Darkest Dungeon at one time, but abandoned because of hardcore, then Iratus: Lord of the Dead has a chance to fill this hole in your soul. You can go through it at a normal level of complexity, preserving much more nerve cells.

Pros: addictive gameplay in which there is no grind; the very idea of ​​acting as a necromancer villain who creates minions for himself; a huge number of combinations of minions; the authors’ work on the bugs is worthy of respect.

Cons: faceless and outdated visual style; the game is still inferior to Darkest Dungeon in terms of variety.


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