REVIEW: Kingdom of the Dead (PC), Dead Fun
It can be not easy to create an atmosphere in a game. Some games, such as Outlast, require you to remove offensive traits from your character to immerse yourself in the world. Others, like Doom, keep the tension high with fast-paced action against horrifying enemies. Kingdom of the Dead by Dirigo games uses an old-fashioned approach to conveying the horror atmosphere. You are placed in darkened monochrome levels, and you must blast away your enemies using a limited number of reliable weapons.
Agent Chamberlain is a member of GATEKEEPER, a secret government organization. Your mission is to investigate the strange and unceasing happenings worldwide that have been linked to demonic gateways to the Kingdom of the Dead. You will use the information you have received from your organization to embark on missions all over the globe to stop the forces of death. Your sentient blade may be the main tool for sealing portals, but it is far from your most important weapon.
Each stage will start with your trusted pistol and talking sword. You can also unlock other FPS favourites such as a shotgun or long rifle and even a bazooka. Health upgrades will allow you to increase your health, which makes exploration more rewarding. Enemies can also attack you with weapons, such as shotguns and pistols. They will drop ammo depending on the type of gun they used upon their death. These ammo drops and others from destructible containers make ammo abundant. However, Kingdom of the Dead presents a challenge as well.
Enemies are relentless in their pursuit of you. You will be pursued relentlessly by them, no matter how far or fast you run. It’s better to fight them than run away. They approach you on all fours and only raise their arms to aim at you or swing their weapon. This gives them an unmistakable macabre quality. The unease only gets worse when you mix them with other demons and beasts on your quest. This is made even more difficult by the monochrome palette.
Kingdom of the Dead is full of tension-filled gunfights. Sprinting will increase your run speed by roughly two times. This is important to avoid being surrounded by enemies. This creates an old-school circle-strafe, run-and-gun gameplay that makes the visuals pop. Your muzzle flashes show the faces of the enemies swimming around you in the dark, adding to the horror-action feel. This loop is very compelling. It’s thrilling to fight in a cluttered battleground or survive tight battles in narrow corridors with many ammo crates.
Sound effects and the soundtrack will draw you into Kingdom of the Dead’s dark world. The soundtrack is nostalgic and has dark chiptune rhythms that set the mood. The guns sound powerful, with the explosive barrels and dynamite dominating the show. Explosives severely damage bosses, and some may catch fire. Enemies are sent flying as bosses are also affected. It is combined with flashes that give you a glimpse into the dark, creating a feeling of terror as you battle the shadow-drenched enemy hordes. One problem with the soundtrack is that many tracks are repeated from stage to scene, which can make some tunes feel hollow.
The gameplay is enjoyable with great visuals and a music that sets a good mood. However, the Kingdom of the Dead has its flaws. The most obvious is the lack of progression. You can’t transfer your health upgrades or guns from one level to the next, so you have to start over every time. Death results in you losing ammo, and the checkpoints are often not well placed. The whole game feels archaic because you get the same weapons each level along with three hearts.
There are also drawbacks to general gameplay. Although the super-fast run speed is a nice feature, it can cause you to slip on inclines if not used properly. It is possible for enemies to get stuck in walls, and fire at you from inside them. This can be frustrating if they aren’t easily visible. Each level’s difficulty setting feels a little rushed. Greater problems may add more objectives and zombies, but they all boil down into giving each level two fetch quests. You will have to go beyond your limits to collect a collectable. The hardest level will require you to secure all civilians within a story. Finding secondary objectives can be fun, but it can be tedious later on when civilians are often killed off-screen.
The boss fights feel a little lacking. Each boss is a masterpiece of design, and they taunt you as you move through their stages. However, you can easily dispatch them using explosives or the minigun to hit their weak points. These bosses are easy to beat and feel more like buff enemies than bad bosses. It’s a shame, as they never feel like they live up to their great designs.
Kingdom of the Dead is a game that is very clear about what it is. It embraces its violent and dark world with joy while keeping you right in the middle of it all. It’s an exciting thrill ride that delivers action and adrenaline. You will be stopped in your tracks by menacing eyes in the darkness as you try to retreat. It’s confusing and chaotic, with dark corridors filled with glitched enemies. Kingdom of the Dead is a charming and enjoyable game worth the effort despite its clunky gameplay and a short length.