Iratus has a lot of promise. It really does. The game actually learnt lessons from Darkest Dungeon, the map generation means there’s interesting decisions to make as you work your way to the boss
Iratus: Lord of the Dead Story
I want to love this game, I really do, but I can’t.
Iratus has a lot of promise. It really does. The game actually learnt lessons from Darkest Dungeon, the map generation means there’s interesting decisions to make as you work your way to the boss, there’s a graveyard that provides incrementally more useful assistance (and more critically, it takes time to build up so you’re never quite able to steamroll the game simply by putting more slots into the mortuary to recycle your units). The idea of “parts” providing stat benefits is good (albeit the benefits provide for the investment you need to put in is abysmal), the artifacts you can equip on Iratus offering conditional benefits is well thought out.
So there’s lots of good. But then you play the game and go “Oh dear”.
The developers clearly thought what makes a good Darkest Dungeon is difficulty, as opposed to challenge. Challenge is where you’re tested on your knowledge of systems and your ability to come up with good strategies that counter steadily evolving enemy compositions. Difficulty tends to be stat and gear checks. In this case we have mobs with anywhere up to 70% crit chance (lolwut), mobs that will chew through your squishies regardless of position (so positional play seems to not help you out here), mobs that will stack block/ward and then AE the everliving hell out of your entire team. All of the mobs are tuned to what appears to be endgame compositions, and this is in the first floor, and that doesn’t count the game tossing in “elite” versions of their normal brethren who can and will annihilate your entire team single-handed.
Mobs that crit your units for well over two thirds of your units health (if not one shotting them) before you have time to take action, and it should be noted that none of your starting units really have the defensive facilities to withstand this kind of punishment. Again, this is on the first floor. The information the game provides is not helpful in planning for what comes ahead, you get a portrait of what is possibly the lead unit in the enemy team but that doesn’t tell you if the enemy team has elites in, or if it has “specials” like the golem which require magical damage to really make a dent into. (The Golem, by the way, has low accuracy, but can very easily one shot just about everything you have).
Iratus: Lord of the Dead Gameplay
The units level up their skills but their abilities and raw stats do not improve with them in anything more than a token sense, so the sense of power gain is limited, the parts can be upgraded similarly, but until you get to rank 3 (purple) or possibly higher, again, the gain is very limited. This makes for a game where losses are absurdly punishing and a team loss on the first floor is grounds to wipe the save and start over.
It’s a shame because the art, the sound design, everything else is right there. But with the balance so far out of whack and enemies being designed for what I can only term as “Russian” difficulty, this is a game that will only appeal to people willing to bash their heads against a wall constantly in the hope that the RNG will offer them a good set of rolls. Playing this as a game of skill is not an option because it only needs one good team comp by the AI and you’ll lose your entire team and there is *nothing* you can do to mitigate this.
Oh, and a retreat button that kills your whole team?
Who thought that was a good idea.
Iratus: Lord of the Dead Final Verdict
Great promise, ruined by a misunderstanding of the concept of Difficulty
Difficulty is not “Make your opponents so uber that they can hulksmash the player in one go if they score a crit”, that’s not difficulty, that’s just saying “HARR HARR I AM DEV AND I CAN CRUSH YOU”, you want to make difficult, you make the game full of interesting decisions. Right up to combat, you’ve got that -nailed-. The player choices -in- combat are there too, but your enemies need *work* and need major retuning for this to be the game it could be.
Updated: Since the new updates and patches
Further bashing my skull on this game has yielded progress. Amusingly it turns out that the tools you need to get further in the game are locked behind achievement gates. See, you only start with six classes available to you, of which I’d say three (Dark Knight, Zombie, Bride) are absolutely useful, with Banshee being useful in specific cases, and the Shade only helpful if you can set up a stress team (more on that another time). The Skeleton is a pile of toss and should be ignored at all costs.
Thing is, once you unlock the mummy or if you’re going for a magic/stress build, the Lich, suddenly your options open up. This is particularly true of the mummy who can stack a debuff which decreases luck and essentially robs your opponents of the ability to crit you, whilst at the same time INCREASING your chance to crit.
Long story short. The starting classes aren’t great, once you unlock a few, you can improve your starting team and the first floor isn’t such a teeth clenching horror.
That does not say good things about the design though.
I’ll give the game a second blast to see if it merits a re-review.
Not the game it is right now.
What do you think? Did Iratus: Lord of the Dead exceed your expectations? Or was the challenge too much to bear? As always, we welcome all views. So, feel free to air your stance in the comments.