Global conquest can be a tedious task. The burden of bringing the human race to its knees requires a lot of attention and has little space for fun. But why is that the case? There's no reason we shouldn't be able to have a good old laugh while pillaging a peasant village with an army of the undead. Toge Productions understands this and that's why they're developing a comedic micro-RTS called Necronator: Dead Wrong.
You play as a misunderstood student at the Undead Academy, who recently made a deal with an all-powerful demi-god who has tasked you with leading a global conquest on the living world. Upon leaving the Academy, the godly Necronator presents you with a powerful gem with the ability to raise the undead and have them bend to your will. Using your skills as a commander and the powerful gem, you begin a mission of domination against the human race, razing their settlements to the ground and leaving no survivors behind.
Playing Necronator: Dead Wrong is currently quite simple since the game is in early access. At the moment you currently have only one option, which is to play a scenario tasking you with defeating a specific human population. There are some degrees of customisation available since you can input or select a random map seed that will generate a specific set of levels for you to tackle. This gives a bunch of new ways to approach the singular scenario but don't expect anything wildly unique from this feature. The world map itself is built across 50-plus individual levels, most of which will be avoided on your journey to the final battle. With a design such as this, you can plot your path through each scenario, engaging in as many or as few battles as you feel comfortable with, meaning a playthrough can take an hour or sometimes twice that.
Each individual level is built on a small square map consisting of a portal (a structure where you summon your armies that has limited health and does not heal over a campaign), an enemy castle, a tower in your way to defend it, as well as various degrees of scenery such as trees and cliff faces. Likewise, there are paths leading to each of these structures with signposts determining the direction ally and hostile troops follow, which can be changed with a simple click. To conduct an assault on the towers, you will summon troops who follow these predetermined paths, using strategy to ensure the best chance at crushing the opposition.
Combat is a hybrid between RTS and card-based mechanics. You are presented with a hand of cards that can be used to summon troop units but in order to do so, you will have to wait until you have enough mana to cast each specific card. Mana regenerates over time so it's more of a waiting game before you can place a card however it also gets more complex as you can only have four selectable cards at once and after a card is used, it is discarded and replaced by another. It's quite similar to Clash Royale, except instead of fighting the dead, you are the undead.
To make the Necronator: Dead Wrong experience feel more personal, you have an option of playable commanders and can build your deck of cards out as each campaign scenario progresses. In the game's current state, there are only a limited number of cards available and only one selectable commander (that being the Death knight), however, there are plenty of planned content drops in the title's developmental roadmap, promising another five commanders (among other things).
At the moment, there are several ways to acquire new card units and equipment during a scenario. At the end of each battle, you will have the option to choose a specific card reward from a select few, as well as being rewarded some Souls (the game's currency). Alternatively, you can come across random world encounters that present the opportunity to obtain new items from unusual sources. For example, this could mean heading to a marketplace where you can buy new card units or perhaps even come into contact with a random event that may reward unit upgrades in return for taking health from your portal. These encounters are plentiful on your journey and may even offer the opportunity to acquire a 'relic', which will permanently improve your troops in battle, with limited negative repercussions.
As for the types of troops you can expect to use, they range from different weapon-wielding skeletons to Demon Mages and brutish ogres called Grunts amongst others. Needless to say, every unit type has unique statistics making them have faster movement, higher damage or more health/armour dependant on the type of card. On the other side, the humans use various types of soldiers, clerics, golems and even rams designed to deal massive structure damage, however, they usually can all be defeated by simply overloading the lane with hordes of the undead.
Aside from troops, you will also be able to use spells and utility cards designed to either assist your units or bolster the potential of your hand of cards. Spells range from lightning strikes to healing potions and are all designed to inflict damage or cause status changes on the battlefield. Our personal favourite is the Blood Rage spell that causes troops to go manic, becoming faster and dealing more damage like frenzied shoppers scrounging for a juicy Black Friday deal. The utility cards help improve your hand by offering mana cost decreases or by allowing units to be deployed twice by paying 1.5x the normal mana cost. These unique cards require mana to use but do offer great reward in return.
For a title still in early access, Necronator: Dead Wrong plays well but there are several issues that need to be ironed out over the coming months of development. For example, a lot of the random encounters currently have no weight behind their decisions. You may be given an option to donate a small, medium or large portion of your portal's health in return for an increasingly better reward, however, at the moment, the necessary health amounts to donate are all the same value.
Likewise, the difficulty seems a little off. In our first playthrough, we beat the campaign (on its only difficulty option) by simply following the strategy of spawning as many troops as possible until we unlocked the upgraded soldiers, who seemed to be able to solo complete the campaign as a single unit. These are just a few issues that will likely be ironed out over the coming months, but they are something you should be aware of.
On a positive side, the art style and soundtrack are a pleasure. The game features a cross between pixelated designs, with the occasional cartoon crossover making the title feel fun and digestible to play. There's no spoken dialogue at all, but there is a drum-heavy, medievalesque soundtrack to encourage you to pillage and plunder to your heart's content.
Ultimately, for an early access title with lots of promised content, Necronator: Dead Wrong is a really fun, casual experience showing lots of potential. The micro-RTS card-based mechanics make for an interesting hybrid, which largely seems to be well designed. As well as this the troop varieties and options for strange encounters keep the game feeling fresh at pretty much every turn. You'd be dead wrong if you expect to invest tens of hours on a single playthrough, but the shortened journey is definitely worth a look, especially if you're an RTS fan.