I’m pretty sure I’ve written once before about how some of my favorite indie games are ones that smoosh together a variety of genres into one fun cocktail. Undead Horde by 10tons Ltd. has already proven to be a very tasty combination, even in Steam Early Access.
Please don’t let the early access tag fool you: Undead Horde very much feels like a fleshed out title even at this stage — a campaign which contains three of the five chapters the due to arrive when it launches according to its Steam page blurb. That might sound short on paper, but there’s plenty to do here and enough fun to be had that I’m looking forward to more.
Let me try to explain the ingredients of that game cocktail to you: imagine the gameplay beats of the old Warcraft RTS titles, the fun-loving, villainous vibe of Overlord, and the aesthetic of a game like Minecraft and you’re pretty close to the thing that Undead Horde is all about.
You play as a necromancer that can take recently slain enemies and revive them to join your army. Damage is primarily done by sending these units out to rampage against foes and structures, but you also can get in there to mix it up with melee attacks or spells. You also eventually unlock new abilities that will grant you ways to temporarily buff up your wave of undead creatures.
Undead Horde manages to toe a line between fun RPG and strategic RTS. The various units you can revive all have different abilities and strengths, like arrow-firing foes or heavily armored knights or even bears and chickens. Despite the apparent wealth of unit types, things don’t ever really hit a “true” RTS level of forward thinking, meaning those who are fans of the Zerg Rush style of gameplay can see some level of success here, though players with a keener tactical mind than mind can also find enough to dig in to.
There’s some RPG elements at play as well in regards to your necromancer’s advancement, with different equipment and weapon types to customize to your playstyle. There’s even an advancement system that seems to let you create three different types of necromancers; one that wades into the thick of battle, one that relies on having as many minions on the ground as possible, and one that uses mostly spells and abilities.
Finally, Undead Horde’s playful approach to what is otherwise considered to be deadly serious and dramatic ties the whole experience up in a neat package. You’re a scourge upon the land, to be sure, but everything is presented in such a charismatic and goofball way that you really can’t be brought to feel bad. I appreciate a villain that makes me smile, and the NPC dialogue and motivations for your actions are the best of Saturday morning cartoon silliness.
The experience of Undead Horde I’ve had so far is one of delight. This absolutely feels like one of those lovely gaming gems that just seems well-woven and well-built. Things might be a touch too simple for those who are hoping for extremely deep strategy, and five chapters still seems a wee bit on the short side, but the game’s asking price for early access seems appropriate enough to me.
Overall, I’m looking forward to seeing where things go from here, but I don’t expect there’s too much development time needed for Undead Horde. It already feels polished and brilliant as it is and I definitely hope it will find its fanbase.
Now if you’ll excuse me, the humans of this realm must taste the weirdly adorable icy fingers of undeath!