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  • Writer's pictureCJ

Kingdom of the Dead: Review

Kingdom of the Dead is a first-person shooter by Dirigo Games with a unique ink drawn gothic style. You play as Agent Chamberlain, working for a government agency waging a war against the forces of the Dead.

The style

The first thing you’ll know diving into this game is the distinguished stylisation. Dark and gloomy as befitting the setting, the visuals are hand-drawn, looking like high-quality sketches in an artist’s notepad.

Everything in the world being in black, white and shades of grey really makes this game stand out among other games of the same genre.

While this can sometimes mean spotting enemies against a black backdrop hard, I couldn’t call this a negative. As it perfectly fits the theme of ‘what hides in the shadows.’.

The gameplay

You’re equipped to a demon infused sword and a revolver right away. Though I rarely made use of the sword other than to get a feel for it. Finding shooting to be the best way to deal with the dead.

You quickly pick up a variety of other firearms including the staples of shotgun and rifle, as well as other beefier weapons like TNT and Miniguns.

The ammo laid around is generally speaking enough to not need to fall back on the sword but to still give you reasons to try out the gun variety. My only issue with ammo was losing large amounts of it if I died and get sent back to a checkpoint. You do not retain the amount you had when activating the checkpoint, but then this is a good reason to not die.

Check out some of my gameplay here:

At times the game feels like it was designed as a roguelike, with burst feeling like ‘runs’ of the section. I am glad that it wasn’t, as keeping progress through checkpoints prevented my usual temper tantrum calling it quits. There is a story being told here, though the minute-to-minute gameplay felt wonderfully arcade in the same way Doom feels.

On that, I can see a lot of Doom in this game. From the obvious connection of fighting the forces of hell/death to the fast-paced action and avoiding enemy projectiles. There’s even a floating eyeball monster.

The baddies

Speaking of eyeball monsters, the enemy variety in this game is wonderful. Starting with skeletons with swords, rifles, and pistols, which give the game a spaghetti western vibe. You also have plague doctor looking magic users who fires balls of light at you. Eagle like birds attacking from the skies, whom I did have a problem with them being nearly impossible to spot against the dark sky.

The truly impressive looking baddie is of course the giant worm. It might be my love of old Dune, new Dune, Gears 2, and Tremors but I bloody love a giant worm. These appear to pop up at the entrances to the next section of a level. Get caught by them and it's goodbye. So, staying on the move while prepping your bundle of TNT is imperative.

The story

The King of the Dead has raised an army to take over and destroy all life, simple stuff. You are a general in the army and now agent of a program called the GATEKEEPER bureau and you have a demonic sword somewhat reluctantly helping you with your mission to close up portals to the underworld.

The narrative isn’t front and centre in this game, which would be the fast-paced gameplay. But its story certainly serves the purpose of taking you from one mission to the next. It seems like the kind of game in which a rich lore could be written about behind the scenes, but that doesn’t have any huge effect on the game.

My opinion

I really enjoyed what I got to play of this game. Once my eyes adjusted to only seeing monotone shades, I could really appreciate the art style in motion. On my first death I was a tad frustrated, as I hadn’t reached a checkpoint yet so feared it might be roguelike and was glad to later see it wasn’t. But it caused me to rethink my approach. That being trying not to get hit, as health is a resource not an auto regenerating bar.

This approach later changed again when I discovered running through Doom-style proved more effective. Until it wasn’t, at which point I found the necessity in a balanced approach.

I played with Mouse and Keyboard, which isn’t my preferred input for an FPS (I know, gasp), so would love to next time get the controller out on this one.

There is also cheat codes that can be used, something which I find lacking in a lot of games since the early 2000s. As a fan of accessibility, I would like to explore those in some detail.

Overall, the game is great, a fast-paced blast ‘em up which oozes style. Definitely recommended.

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