Command Zombie Elves in the Undead Horde Holiday Special [Preview]

Bashing Christmas is probably just as cliché as celebrating it nowadays. There are so many songs, movies, and games that try to dig at the holiday, serving the disaffected youth with a dull edge. Thankfully, the fine folks at 10tons are better than this. Sure, the Undead Horde Holiday Special has you commanding holly jolly undead in the North Pole, which is something that wouldn’t fly at Christmas dinner. However, as a gimmick for a demo to show off what your newest game can do, it’s not that bad. Come for the chance to watch Santa fall to his own workers, stay for the interesting mix of arcade action and strategy.

For those unaware, this isn’t 10tons’ first rodeo. They’re the folks behind Crimsonland, the granddaddy of indie-first dual stick shooters on PC. More recently, the team has had a string of action-packed releases, including cyberpunk roguelike Neon Chrome and Judge Dredd simulator, Jydge. Undead Horde is the next in that line, an action strategy game where you play as a necromancer. After breathing new life into a stack of corpses, you direct your mob towards anything that needs destroying. Along the way, you’ll pick up new loot to augment your abilities and face the evergrowing challenge.

Undead Horde Holiday Special Preview – Monster Reborn

Undead Horde is still in development, but 10tons wanted to share what it could during the season of giving. Hence the Holiday Special, a quick set of three levels that gives us a taste of what we can expect from the game early next year. This is good since this is a type of game that the developer hasn’t attempted as of yet. While most of the team’s games dedicate themselves to arcade gameplay above all else, this is a bit different.

First off, there’s a return to the type of character progression you saw in something like Crimsonland. You aren’t grabbing abilities in treasure rooms, you’re leveling up to boost your stats. Whenever it’s time for an upgrade, there are three different paths to choose, giving you options on where you want your necromancer to improve. Note that there are more than three paths available and you’ll get a random assortment each time. These games are nothing if not replayable.

Undead Horde Holiday Special Preview – Revive

Undead Horde

No matter how buff your necromancer becomes, he’s not going to be able to take on everything. In fact, he’s pretty much always a victim of the dreaded numbers game. That’s why his main ability involves summoning a titular undead horde. In both levels in this Holiday demo, there was a convenient graveyard nearby to start me off right. Once my minions dispatched of the elven defenders, I could summon a pentagram to force them into servitude as well. It’s rather satisfying to roll through the town protected by an evergrowing army.

Once you burst through the main gates, you’ll want to focus fire on a single building. Your walkers attack as a group, being led by an “all units” button that can either gather them to your side or point them in a direction. Anything unfortunate enough to be in their path gets overwhelmed, and then you can swoop in to bring those unfortunate souls back from the brink. It’s an incredibly simple strategy element, but it works in what is assuredly an action game. I do worry about the mechanics requiring finesse in the main game, but the levels presented here struck a good balance.

But it’s the opposite of satisfying to see that strategy turned against you. If you’re not careful with your minions, you’ll find yourself alone and in retreat, which happened several times to me. It was frantic trying to sneak in an uninterrupted summoning spell. You’re not defenseless here, as you wield both a melee weapon and a staff, but you’re no warrior. The staff I rolled with through most of the experience just debuffed foes, and even my most powerful ax couldn’t cut the mob down to size.

Undead Horde Holiday Special Preview – Gravestorm

Undead Horde

Of course, your trip to the North Pole could be different. There’s a focus on loot in Undead Horde, making something more akin to Diablo than anything. Aside from an array of weapons and staves, you can pick up amulets and new skulls to pop on your character, all with various effects. There was a decent variety to what I picked up, which is great since this demo has a limited scope. While the graphics don’t show it off too much, the loot does affect your appearance, which is always a good look.

Like most of 10tons’ work, Undead Horde plays from a zoomed out isometric view. It does zoom in for bits of dialogue with NPCs, which reveals a simplistic blocky style that meshes well with the type of game it is. You never want one of these games to look too good, as the appeal is in the spectacle. You can have 50 or more bodies surrounding you taking on an even greater force, and Undead Horde doesn’t chug one bit. It’s like Dynasty Warriors but with more lasers and particle effects.

If you need a break from Christmas cheer, or if you just want to experience this for yourself, you’re in luck. The developer has put out this demo free of charge on itch.io. As previously mentioned, it’s rather short, but it gives a great tease at what’s to come in the full game. The holiday trimming is fun and all, but this necromancer belongs in the woods taking on treefolk and orcs. Early in 2019, that’s exactly what he’ll do.

The Undead Horde Holiday Special was played on PC via itch.io. The full Undead Horde is coming to PC via Steam in early 2019.