We’ve been fans of 10Tons for a while now thanks to their excellent line of roguelite twin-stick shooters. Neon Chrome, Tesla vs Lovecraft and the sensational Jydge were all excellent examples of the genre but now they’ve transposed their talent for roguelite mechanics into a hack and slash quest-driven adventure game. Undead Horde is the result and it allows you to play as a fiendish necromancer who is out to destroy any living beings that get in his way.
The gameplay is based on one clear idea. If you know the Night King from Game of Thrones, well you basically get to play as him. While you can fight with weapons and magic, your real strength is that you can raise up anyone you defeat to use as undead minions and as the game progresses and you level up your leadership abilities, you’ll be able to control a vast army.
Weak units such as peasants, and even chickens (the game is big on chickens) are easy to command where as the bodies of giants and knights use up a lot more of your command points. At the top of the pile are the bodies of dead heroes that you have defeated. These can be commanded to fight for you and while it might seem that this would make all battles impossible to lose, that isn’t the case here at all. Defeat will come often but you can respawn without penalty and once you beat a certain type of unit a set number of times, you can spawn those back at the crypt that acts as you headquarters.
Aside from being the place where you assemble your army, this is also the place where undead merchants gather to sell you new weapons and equipment. You do, of course, pick these up in battle and Undead Horde‘s loot game is very satisfying but here you can buy new gear. However, the best gear requires you to level up the merchants which you do by paying gold to them. This is the exact same system that Neon Chrome employed and, much like that game, it’s a system that works well.
That said, like most roguelites (those are the ones where you get to get your progress), you can essentially brute force your way to victory. If the next stage is troubling you, then all you need to do is focus your horde on any buildings in the level (these generate enemies infinitely unless you destroy them) and once those are gone you’ll be able to clear out the level at your leisure, if not in this go then in your next. That said, the game offers a few difficulty spikes but this is fine as the game is at its best when you really need to manage your horde and earn those victories.
Indeed, when you’re in a big battle trying to patch up your horde by resurrecting the enemy’s dead, and it all becomes about dealing enough damage before you die then Undead Horde offers some brilliantly accessible RTS gameplay. It’s simple by the standards of the genre but tactical thinking is often required. Do you put yourself in the battle, hacking away at enemies and using your strength to turn the battle, or do you wipe out their buildings first and maybe sacrifice the horde so that you can fight another day?
Either way, as with all 10Tons games, you will always be making progress and that’s what makes their titles so addictive and while Undead Horde doesn’t have slick visuals that their other games had, it does still have addictiveness in spades and I was playing it relentlessly until I completed it and claimed my platinum trophy. For those of you who want to continue the adventure afterwards, you can level the game up and play a New Game+ kind of mode. You can always level up the game too, meaning that you can keep replaying it for better loot. That said, once is probably going to be enough for most players.
Playing with the various abilities and attributes that you unlock has always been the best thing about 10Tons and that definitely applies here. There’s always a choice to make around loot and that keeps things interesting. Sure, you’ll ditch plenty of what you earn right away but you’re never far from your next difficult choice. Do I want this sword that does poison damage and gives me extra XP or do I want this hammer that takes out buildings extra fast? The choice is yours.
The combat is enjoyable overall. The hacking and slashing feels a little bit toothless at times with no real sense of impact at times but as an addition to the RTS mechanic of sending your horde after targets, the whole thing really feels satisfying. Especially when there’s a level that has been kicking your arse and then you finally manage to take it down. It really does make you feel like you are controlling a horde of the undead.
Visually the game is pretty simplistic. There’s a lot going on with units from both sides being all over the place but you can always figure out what is going on. The character design and environments are pretty basic though and so there’s not much eye candy on offer. That said, the simple, colourful style is reasonably charming.
The audio is a bit better, opting for voice recordings and music to back up the game’s fairly predictable sound effects. Indie games don’t always make the effort to use voice actors and so we appreciate the effort, even if the story is immediately forgettable. The game does throw in plenty of humour which lands most of the time and has a few nods to their other games too which is a nice touch.
At £13.99, this is a little bit pricier than you might expect but you do get a really enjoyable and addictive game for your money and one that plays differently to anything else we’ve seen on PSN so far. RTS games don’t always perform that well on consoles but by stripping out the tedium and making it more of an arcadey affair, Undead Horde gets things just right.
+ Excellent roguelite progression
+ Enjoyable RTS combat
+ Strong loot game
- RTS elements are better than the hacking and slashing