Iratus Lord of the Dead: an infernal roguelike

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The second game of which we witnessed the presentation at Daedalic Days had no pretense of originality, indeed, Iratus: Lord of the Dead did not hide his obvious inspirations, stylistic and conceptual, to Darkest Dungeon. Compared to the title of Red Hook, however, Iratus reverses the canonical setting well against evil by putting us in the shoes of the bad guys, a bit like what happens in the Overworld series . Players will then find themselves supporting the delusions of power of the necromancer Iratus, an immortal being who aspires to control the world with his hordes of monsters, and to do this they must defeat groups of adventurers who have gone as far as the depths of his realm.

Turn-based suffering

The developer of the Russian studio Unfrozen immediately presented us with Iratus as a " hardcore tactical roguelike ", a game that will hardly forgive the grossest oversights. We have had confirmation right from the start, given that, despite her having over a hundred hours of play, the presenter often found herself in difficulty, even in the most basic clashes. Iratus thus seems to follow the path already traced by Darkest Dungeon, following which it is inevitable to run into failures and setbacks, but precisely because of this high gradient of difficulty (the developer revealed to us that the practice of the "ragequit" the satisfactions that derive from a success turn out to be much sweeter.

To explain the "hardcore" nature of Iratus it is necessary to deepen his systems a little, even if the presentation and the very brief test did not at all appease our every question. The first thing you come into contact with is the "camera" of Iratus, from which he controls and supports his minion armies.

It is from here that one can act by enhancing the skills of the anti-hero and his subordinates, or create – literally – new monstrosities and decide which point of a procedural dungeon to explore. The progression system turned out to be very faceted at first glance: in fact, from a menu it is possible to decide in which branch of talent to advance Iratus, between Alchemy, Magic, Wrath or Destruction. The first skill tree is tied to the economy and is therefore very important to improve the organization of the resources that will be obtained with the progression, and for this reason it shows its effectiveness only later in the game. The last three are those of which we have seen the effects directly: they are trees that guarantee our necromancer of the active abilities to be exploited during the fighting. For example, there is a spell that donates initiative points to the minions and allows them to attack before the others, as well as more powerful spells that can crush the targets with a click. Obviously the use of these abilities depends on limited resources, which are called "Mana" and "Ira". The appearance is very similar to that of the Hate and the Discipline of the Demon Hunter of Diablo III and also the operation is the same: some abilities will exploit the Mana resource, while others that Ira, and it will therefore be up to us to plan the moves trying to prevent our power from running out before time. Mana and Ira do not automatically regenerate, even after completing a fight, and this means that to reload the resources it is necessary to use specific objects or some minion skills.

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They are the ones who compose the various teams with which you will carry out the 'exploration of the dungeon and with which we will fight during battles at rounds four against four . They are little more than cannon fodder (but the firm has nevertheless included the possibility of renaming the team members) and can be created with the parts of the enemies killed during the fighting: a nice themed replacement with respect to the recruitment present in Darkest Dungeon. By gaining experience points from wins, our minions level up and can be upgraded by choosing between two different options. Each class – and there are many – therefore has additional margins of specialization and customization, and this is an added value if you intend to create teams with various strengths. During the test, the developer wanted to show us how a very specialized team works, and in doing so presented us with one of the most characteristic elements of Iratus: stress.

Those who came into contact with Darkest Dungeon will remember how this was a very important feature in the game of Red Hook, which also contributed to creating unpredictable and almost always problematic situations. In Iratus, since we are in control of the forces of evil, we can take advantage of this aspect to our advantage. Thanks to specific skills for the drainage of the so-called "sanity" (a purple bar just below that of life), it is possible to cause serious psychic imbalances towards our adversaries.

The effects are various and interesting: in one case it happened that a warrior entered the state of Berserk, with a 50% probability that the next attack would be aimed at a teammate. In another, one of the enemies suffered a major malus on precision and was more inclined to escape from the battlefield. It may even happen that an opponent dies of a heart attack, regardless of the state of the life bar. In short, the same mentality and health are parameters to be taken into consideration not only to build a strategy around them, but also to experience the thrill of tearing down a team by leveraging terror and devious psychological tricks, which is one of the benefits in controlling armies of zombies, vampires and mummies

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Even in the face of the most accurate composition and the best strategic preparation, however, in Iratus you do not have the certainty of being successful. This is because the game dungeons are procedural, as are the fights, and it is never clear what threats await us during the exploration (there are only icons that indicate fights, quests or the possibility of finding important artifacts).

Not only that, even the enemies, divided into special classes, are assorted in an unpredictable way. In the test it happened that the opposing team had a composition that perfectly contrasted ours, and in that case we found it impossible to take the victory home. We do not know if it is possible to avoid insurmountable situations with a bit of experience and a deeper development of skills, in any case this factor underlines the importance of having very diversified teams and minions, without crystallizing into a single strategy. To give more concrete examples we can mention the Golems, rock monsters that are very resistant to physical damage and do not have a bar of sanity. Or the treacherous Demolition Experts, who are able to instantly kill – after a certain number of turns – the two characters to their left. In the absence of a minion that can move them out of position, and thus exploit their ability to make a clean sweep of the opposing team, it is easy for our run to be compromised.

Even the most managerial nature is not lost which asks us to diversify the use of teams, not only so as not to create too many level discrepancies, but also because at the end of a battle our monsters do not take care of themselves automatically. To restore the team's hit points it is necessary to build a building and let the injured people rest inside it for a while (usually a victory is enough to fully recharge the vital bar). There are also other constructions, thanks to which, for example, to train a specific creature and then use it in combat.

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In short, our contact lasted just over half an hour, however the details we came across were many and not all easy to assimilate with so little time available. Iratus is therefore a hardcore game that is also profoundly multi-faceted, and that gives users the ability to master the mechanics with so much satisfaction.

Clearly it is not possible to spend too many words on balance and variety, since the former is uncertain even in the minds of the developers – and this is the main reason why Iratus will be released after a Early Access period – while we have only a vague idea about the second, although the most formidable opponents that will meet in the advanced dungeons are missing. The thing that struck us less about Iratus is its appearance . The art design is pleasant, ruthless and gore, but the colors similar to those of Darkest Dungeon, endowed with an overwhelming artistic personality, and the attempt to mimic its darker traits, have produced a result that does not stand out for charisma. [19659014] function cc_launch_facebook_pixel () {
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