Reverse Crawl – PC

Reverse Crawl is a dungeon crawl where the player leads minions in tactical turn-based combat, through a dynamic campaign with a branching storyline.  We received a copy of the game from the developer, Nerdook, for this review.

The description for the game says that the player is the dungeon, which immediately put me in mind of Dungeon Keeper, but this is a rather different game.  I wouldn’t say that I felt I was playing as a dungeon, but rather playing as the sort of unsavoury creatures you’d normally expect to face in a dungeon.

The Revenant King has been returned from the dead by his daughter, the Princess, after his death at the hands of the Red Queen.  She’s now occupying his castle and lands, and it’s your job to reclaim the King’s lands with a variety of minions: undead, goblins, vampire bats and the like.  The first chapter sees you fight off a few waves of the Queen’s militia as you escape the castle, selecting a minion group to do battle for you.

Each minion group has its own strengths and weaknesses.  Flesh and Bones, comprising two Zombies, one Skeleton Archer and two Skeleton Warriors, is weak versus Clerics but good vs small groups, while Wraiths are weak vs Clerics but good against Poison and large groups (4+).  Minions also have random traits, which can be beneficial, giving boosts to dodge, criticals, health and so on, or detrimental, weakening attacks instead.  You can reroll the selection of minion groups up to three times if you don’t like the choices, too.

Combat takes place on a hexagonal grid, with the creatures with highest initiative taking their turns first, and continuing until one side has been defeated.  There are a few Commands available to each minion, When one wave of enemies is defeated, the next wave is brought into play against whatever remains of the player’s minion group.  This also works the other way around, with the player replacing a defeated minion group with another group to continue the fight against that wave of enemies.  To advance, you need to destroy all enemy groups.

Reverse Crawl Fighting 1

There are a few tactics to bear in mind too, as there are ranged and melee units to position well, flanking bonuses to consider, and during play, threat builds up and can be used for special moves such as summons, magical attacks, healing spells, and more as you advance through the storyline and bring more minions to your side.

Unfortunately, you can’t swap minion groups during battle, so if your group defeats a wave they’re well suited to, but are weak against the next wave, you have to just continue and hope to do as much damage as possible before they’re wiped out and you can send another group in.  This is a little frustrating.

After you’ve escaped the castle in Chapter 1, you’re offered a choice of rewards: improvements to your troops in the form of Skeleton Warriors 1, a damage dealing boost if you choose Magic Missile 1, or more healing power with Dark Healing 1.  You also get to choose the mission to undertake in Chapter 2: Goblins, The Mage, or The Tomb.

Reverse Crawl Chapter 2 mission select

You can only complete a set number of missions in a playthrough, so you have to decide whether you want to boost your ranks with more minion groups, or seek out artifacts to boost your powers and add new ones to your arsenal.  There’s also the matter of the rewards you choose at the end of each successful mission, and their benefits to your troops or magical skills.  Not all choices are good for you; in one chapter, the Revenant King goes after the Red Queen, but is unsuccessful.  At the end of this chapter, the choices are between sacrifices.. to your troops, to yourself as the King, or to your daughter, the Princess!

There’s a wealth of choice, so you can tailor your forces to suit the way you want to play, and leave room for additional playthroughs later too.  A big thumbs-up here!

In between missions, you also face heroes sent by the Red Queen.  These Champions are tougher and provide an additional challenge for your forces.

Hero Hunt

The music and sound effects seemed well suited to the game, changing between selection screens and battle.  I loved the simplistic style of the game, and enjoyed the combat, being particularly surprised at the complexity of it.

I’d have liked to be able to switch between minions to decide which unit to move first, and of course, the option to swap out a minion group if they ended up faced against something they were weak against, rather than just waiting for them to be killed off before fielding the more suitable group waiting in the wings.  I found most of the missions reasonably easy to complete so long as I concentrated on picking the right minions to begin with, and only struggled with a mission when I attempted it without having first gained more troops and upgrades.  It’s an easy game to learn, and if you do end up stuck with a particular mission, you can just drop back to the choices at the start of the chapter and pick a different mission to go on with.

4/5

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