Unfrozen’s Iratus: Lord of the Dead is a bold, hard core, rogue-like dungeon delving game where you play the bad guy. The titular necromancer Iratus seeks to dominate the surface world with his ever-growing army of the dead, but he must escape from the dungeon in which he was interred. As his ranks swell, so too do the persistence and lethality of the living who oppose him. The game marches forward in its development much like Iratus’s dread legion, but in what state does the game find itself as it moves into early access? Find out below – this is your Iratus: Lord of the Dead preview!
Full disclosure, I am a necromancer deep down in my cold, shriveled heart. I feel compelled to choose classes which raise the dead in pretty much any game I play. In fact, it very much feels like Iratus: Lord of the Dead was tailor made, just for me. I know that’s really not true, but right at the outset it is easy to tell that the developers have set the stage for some truly awe-inspiring necromancer-delivered vengeance. The visuals and audio are thematically dark and very well-crafted, even at this pre-early access stage of the game, I specifically enjoyed the excellent voice acting. Finally, the interface (both in and out of battle) is intuitive and well-designed - at no point was I confused about what I was looking at.
Starting a new game, you’ll initially have access to five or so types of undead minions, which you can use to fill your four-creature squads. Progression through the game will see other types of undead unlock as you meet certain milestones (e.g., driving a certain number of enemies insane, etc.). Unlocked minions will remain unlocked for future playthroughs, giving players a chance to learn basic mechanics before adding unlocked, specialized minions to the party. Plenty of minions are currently available, but the developers have hinted that more may be coming in the future – which I’m very much looking forward to.
Accordingly, minions vary in their abilities and strategic roles. Dark knights work great on the front line, whereas Liches are good at debuffing and can summon minions to replace those who fall in combat. Some minions specialize in driving the enemy insane and killing them with fright, whereas others prefer killing the old-fashioned way. Discovering the synergies between different minions and de-mystifying their strengths/weaknesses is essential to surviving the necromancer’s escape from the dungeon.
Combat has minions and enemies taking turns based on an initiative stat. Iratus can cast spells using his mana, but he also accrues wrath – a stat that powers your minions’ most potent abilities. Much of the strategy in a battle revolves around when to use a special ability so as to maximize the carnage you inflict. My favorite combination thus far relies on one minion’s ability to attack any enemy that moves, followed by another minion’s ability to forcefully shuffle all enemies into random positions.
As a rogue-like in the vein of Darkest Dungeon, the enemies are relentless - don’t get too attached to your minions, as you will lose them. I rarely ran more than a single party as my minions simply didn’t last long enough, although my ability to survive increased as I became more acquainted with the mechanics. You can create more minions (provided you have the materials), however each minion lost also represents lost body parts and experience. Indeed, body parts and experience are about your minions’ only form of progression, so it is imperative to do your best to balance survivability and lethality.
Iratus also gains levels, each of which comes with a talent point to spend on spells or passive abilities. Spells are mostly offensive or strategic, but a few do have defensive or supportive utility. Passive abilities mostly focus on increasing minion stats or your chances of collecting body parts post-battle. Similarly, you’ll have an opportunity to build your underground lair and staff it with minions for even more passive benefits such as mana regeneration and healing.
The dungeon looks like it will feature five or so levels, although only the first three are available for exploration in the current build. Each room has a fight or some other event to encounter (all visible from the map screen). Branches in the dungeon are randomized each playthrough and can lead to entirely different experiences depending on which encounters the player prefers. Don’t fancy fighting that elite band of enemies? Take a different path and fight a few weaker bands, instead.
Iratus: Lord of the Dead is coming along very well. The visuals and sound are amazing, the minions are creative, the encounters don’t get old, and there are plenty of ways to approach each playthrough. As it stands, Iratus is shaping up to be a potential favorite of any rouge-like fan, and I very much look forward to seeing the final product.