Review: The Unliving [PC]
Developed by Rocket Brush Studio and published by Team17 comes a ghoulish game of grim gallivanting. Awaken as the lord of darkness, and raise your army of the dearly departed. Pick up your scythe and prepare for panic inducing plays of paranormal pestilence. Combine the tactics of Pikmin and the powers of Hades to create the ultimate in undeath.
This is The Unliving.
A dance most macabre.
We follow in the footsteps of the frightful Necromancer, a deep voiced amnesiac who apparently has caused everything to go sideways. In your cathedral of the unliving, your allies/underlings await your arrival to aid you in your ongoing quest. Your soul has been fragmented and scattered across the land, and you must venture forth, slaying and raising armies in the process. A commander of a perpetual horde of dead, the dark forces are yours to cultivate.
The Unliving is a real-time-strategy game with rogue-like elements and a wicked good art style. Gameplay is pretty well split between both elements. So. let’s sink our fangs into the strategy. There are many layers to the skills in The Unliving. You have a ranged magic attack that follows your cursor, that becomes a scythe attack if you focus close to your character. You can earn different abilities as you traverse the levels, linked to bones, blood, and spirits. All magic requires life-force, indicated by your magic meter.
The Army of Darkness
No army of the horde is complete without troops. With every mortal you remove from this coil, you will have a fresh corpse to take advantage of. However, each unit is part of a predetermined group, and you won’t be able to raise the dead until all members of the group are dead. Beyond your own magic abilities, your troops can also gain abilities. There are four types of undead you can raise in The Unliving: fighters, ranged, giants, and unholy. Each section has attack, move, and magic spells that can empower them.
When death ultimately claims you again, you are sent back to the cathedral. The burning skulls you’ve collected and soul crystals you’ve harvested can be used to upgrade your future runs. There is a huge, and I mean capitol H U G E unlocking tree that boosts your stats for your weapons, spells, and troops. You also have your throne that can power up the Necromancer specifically and is persistent in between runs.
Sadly it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to The Unlivings game-play. While it is in early access, the current flaws hold it back pretty badly. Having limited means of recovery is standard in any rogue style game. However, controls are king in a game of difficulty. Commanding the army of death is a toxic mix of unresponsive and confusing. It’s hard to put into words but there are multiple actions tied to a single key or click. This results in trying to do one thing and something else happening, which results in you taking damage or losing life-force. In its current state, this is far too punishing.
The Unliving gives me conflicting thoughts. On one hand the real-time strategy elements of the game works really well in conjunction with the rogue elements. Being able to command and call hordes of undead throughout the levels is fun to mess around with. However, the grindy nature of the game plus its bugs makes for a bit of a slog. Maybe once it is out of early access we will see a more fluid experience, but until then tread with care. Definitely worth trying, but it’s potential has yet to be met.
The Unliving is available in early access for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Mac.
Review key provided by Team 17.
The RTS and Rogue elements of the game make for fun gameplay. However the early access shows and the controls need a lot of help. Still enjoyable, but you might get frustrated.