Kingdom Of The Dead Review: Stylish Death

Relive the 90s in this super stylish FPS in a war against Death and his armies. Kingdom of the Dead out now on Steam.

Kingdom of the Dead has reminded me that I really enjoy FPS titles. Let me level with you: the Call of Duty series spoiled it a bit with all the technological advances and setpieces. Considering I’m a slave to cutscenes, that might indicate how the genre well was tainted for a time.

BUT… as an old school Duke Nukem 3D fan, QuakeHexen – and the more recent Ion Fury, it has to be said that Dirigo Games’ title is the cat’s pyjamas and par with these. Why is that Mr Knight, eh? Well, stop waving that pistol at me for a sec, and I’ll explain.

It’s the presentation. Yes, fickle as that may be, Kingdom of the Dead is a belter. It’s stunning, unique… different. For starters, it’s hand-drawn and black and white. Hhhhm-mmm. Like the classic Wii title Mad World, it pops with the occasional colour – be it blood or ammo drops.

Kingdom of the Dead Review - Street smart
Being street smart will get you nowhere… Source: PR

The game’s look has this gothic feel, with artwork that wouldn’t look out of place in something like Berserk (the manga). Though 3D, all the scenes and modelling have a crosshatch effect as if every single asset was hand-crafted. It was?! Holy moly, this game looks good, but it sounds good too. A bit repetitive at times, the music is perfect – especially during the boss battles.

Ok, let’s section off the aesthetic side of things and focus on gameplay, but with a quick detour to Storyville. Set in the 19th century, you play Agent Chamberlain. A former professor who’s since swapped career hats and become Army General for a secret government program called Gatekeeper. Though it sounds cliche, you have to rid the world of Death as he accumulates an army of monsters intent on enslaving humanity.

Each stage starts at your office – a P.I. like setup where you head over to your desk to select the level to play from a dossier. There are three difficulty levels for each of the nine areas to strive for. It’s typically the same design of storming an area, killing all the minions, a boss, and then destroying the location where evil originated. There are secondary objectives, too, if you fancy it.

As a first-person shooter, Kingdom of the Dead is the same as any other configuration; only there’s no reload button. It’s pretty cool actually as you can focus on your aim with a continuous spree, pending the weapon type. There are about eight weapons available, with each stage beginning with a Sword of Omens-like sword and rootin’ and tootin’ pistol. Yes, the shotgun is a good ‘un as expected, but my favourite was a rifle. In case you’re wondering.

Kingdom of the Dead Review - Tremors 5
Tremors sequel? Source: PR

Though there’s no reload, the weapons tech isn’t that great, so you have to compensate for recoil and the like. Naturally, the pistol is the best all-rounder with a decent aim and reload. The frequency of headshots is also a feel-good factor until the hordes swarm you.

And this is yet another highlight of the game: the variety of enemies. They aren’t entirely unique in their patterns or abilities (some are melee, others use a gun, and even teleporting mages), but the modelling is awesome. Kingdom of the Dead doesn’t feel samey as other 90s FPS were. Backtracking looking for keys was a nightmare or encountering the same old grunts a bore. That is not the case here at all.

So, what gives? A perfect game? Here it comes… the difficulty can be a bit troublesome at times with the bosses, but the worst part is the respawning element. Checkpoints are generously located on each stage, but that generosity isn’t replicated with ammo. Ammo can be pretty sparse, but if you can hoard enough, it makes the bosses a lot more manageable.

The first boss in Kingdom of the Dead was a Tremors-like worm that could one-hit kill. Not paying attention to its attack patterns, I’d repeatedly die, thus losing my stash. Respawning outside a boss area is great, but when ammo is minimal and you spawn with less than when you died, you have to rely on your sword, which is incredibly ineffective against bosses. On the upside, the sword is quite chatty, more so than your horse.

One of the best FPS’ I’ve played of late, do check this out if you want to relive the 90s without all that faffing about with keys and the same old labyrinths. Kingdom of the Dead is a cool-looking game that I had to keep binging it at every realistic opportunity. Out now, make a note, take the plunge and add it to your wishlist. It’s brill.