February 10, 2022

Welcome to Hell! Kingdom of the Dead (Steam) Review

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The elements of this game are so familiar, so over-used, that within a few minutes of the opening scene we can predict with certainty almost everything that will happen.

A professor turned General is part of an elite organization tasked with preventing an army of the undead from taking over the world with its vast monstrous horde. The General, it seems, has had a troubled past, haunted by encounters that have left him questioning the process of taking and giving life.

After many battles, he comes back to his hometown and settles into the family home where he takes time to reflect. After a while, he will be summoned once more to face the demons of his past that are now wreaking havoc upon the land. By the game's end, he will try to prevent it and in the process, attempt to justify the non-stop killing again. Welcome to the Kingdom of the Undead.

Kingdom of the Undead, by developer Dirigo Games, takes you back to the glory days of Doom and Heretic as it grabs you from the top, engulfs you, and shakes you to your very core. There are glimmers of a brooding terror and epic scattering of blood throughout the game, particularly since it is designed in a matte-stencil-painting backdrop that gives off an eerie vibe. The opening scenes, for example, create a dark and foreboding place making every level feel claustrophobic and sinister.

If you've played any first-person shooters from the last decade or so, you'll know exactly what to expect as you venture past a massive gate leading to a number of strange but well-designed areas. Naturally, each level is packed full of groaning and grotesque monsters that drag themselves from the ground and come charging at you from places of darkness.

Like Doom, Kingdom of the Dead offers many ways in which you can die. You can run screaming through a corridor with hundreds of demented monks chasing you or you scurry up a steep embankment only to be taken down by something that looks like a giant eyeball tossing giant fireballs at you in an attempt to smear your flesh to the ground. Conversely, a pitch-black room might seem like a good place to hide but an ominous giant bat will tell you otherwise.

The weapon assortment consists of the usual ones you would normally find in games of this nature. You have the shotgun, the single barrel revolver, some dynamite, and the almighty sword you can go with when you run out of ammunition.

And just like first-person shooters of years past, Kingdom of the Dead is not restricted to range or angle, meaning you can be shot, pulverized, and brought down from miles away either from above or below. So it's important to always scour your surrounding and to constantly be on the move.

As the title so implies, the game features a mass of wholesale blood-letting with indefinable brain matter splattered across tombstones. Unlike the imps from Doom, however, the monsters here are a lot more temperamental and display some advanced AI. They're clever and won't just wander into the sites of your shotgun.

But my biggest nitpick with the game is that it has too much darkness. I know the design of the game is intentional, but I've spent way too much time stumbling around and back-peddling in pitch dark rooms; heck, even the outdoor scenes felt like I was inside a cave.

There are just too many dark areas to navigate and when you're tossed in a maze-like labyrinth and have enemies shooting at you with accurate precision and you can't see them, minutes literally turn into hours.

Even with these nitpicks, they weren't enough to ruin my experiences with the game. At its core, Kingdom of the Dead is the equivalent of Doom, Night of the Living Dead, and Outlaws all mashed up brilliantly together, and is a proper example of a good game designed with limited resources. There are no fancy 3D effects or embarrassing voice actors, instead, the technical aspects presented are professionally done. To be clear, the overpowering element of this game isn't just in its gameplay, but in its atmosphere.

Overall, I was never bored or frustrated enough that I didn't want to keep playing. Even if I had to restart a level, I was very much willing to do so just to keep the story moving along. Essentially, Kingdom of the Dead is an evolution of the old first-person shooter that does not require a hefty PC to keep things entertaining. If you're in the market to try a game that tests your reflexes rather than your wits, you should definitely give this one a try.

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