GAMING BLEND

Nekro Preview: Action-Strategy For The Wicked

By Pete Haas 2014-03-02 15:07:43 discussion comments
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"Myth meets Dungeon Keeper" is a ballsy way to describe a new game. That's how darkForge pitches their action-strategy game Nekro, though. They managed to raise over $150,000 on Kickstarter with that premise. Can they deliver on their bold claim, though?

Like Dungeon Keeper, Nekro makes you the villain. You're a necromancer stalking the countryside and killing any animals or humans in your path. The beta version had two different characters to choose from. The first, the Alchemist, tosses grenades that can explode on impact or over time. If an enemy gets too close, he can knock them back with a swipe of his explosives bag. The Grimm Keeper can blast enemies with a red beam of energy or toss a health potion that heals all minions in the vicinity. The necromancer can also equip trinkets that can summon a horde of ravenous fleas, boost their health, or provide other beneficial effects.

Minions are the main weapons in his arsenal, though. The Necromancer can unlock up to five different minion types, ranging from vampire bats to ravenous plants. You have a choice between two different creatures for each slot. For example, the third minion on your team will either be a flying acid creature that can launch a kamikaze attack at a group of enemies, or a giant mouth that springs out of the ground and consumes a foe.

Each minion summon requires blood, a finite resource that you recharge by consuming corpses. The basic challenge with each map, then, is to take down lesser enemies to build up your reservoir of blood and then create a small army that you can use to take on the powerful groups of enemies and bosses. You almost always have less blood than you need so managing your supply is a constant battle. Will you summon several bats or one big mucus monster? Will you sacrifice a corpse to create a more powerful plant monster or eat the corpse and summon a weaker plant?

Trinkets likewise have to be used carefully. Some are extremely powerful and can turn the tide of a battle. You can only equip four trinkets, so you'll have far more trinkets than slots within a few levels. Furthermore, each can only be used once.



Nekro really clicks once you've got a few different minions and trinkets at your disposal along with ample blood. At that point, you can start to develop strategies on how to assault enemies. You can't build up an endless horde of soldiers as you might in some real-time strategy games so you have to figure out how to get the most use out of your minions and trinkets. They can be powerful or worthless depending on your tactics.
The selection of trinkets, minions, minion upgrades and Necromancers give you a lot of possibilities on how to conquer the battlefield. On my first play-through, I steamrolled enemies with brute force while supporting my army with healing. The second time around, I let enemies chase me around the map while my minions whittled their health away.

Recovering from a lost battle isn't as fun. When you have no minions and little to no blood, you have to take a break from your main mission to find corpses or weak enemies to take down. Both of those things can be in short supply later in the map, when you're preparing to take on the bosses. The Necromancer isn't very durable and dishes out damage slowly so soloing any respectable enemy requires you to kite him across the map. Run, run, dash, zap, zap, run, run, dash, etc.

Kiting works a little too well, too. Enemies eventually retreat but will turn right around if you hit them on their return trip. Furthermore, their health doesn't reset when they reach their original position. The lack of checkpoints in missions provides even further incentive for this cowardly strategy.

The first levels ofNekro demonstrate that the game is an enough of an action RPG and strategy game to attract fans from either genre. I hope the enemies in the other 21 levels will push players' tactical abilities even further. I also hope that players gain some tools to help them bounce back quicker after a loss. We'll find out whether Nekro can live up to the challenge when the game launches later this month on PC, Mac and Linux.
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