I love roguelikes. That’s a statement that you probably will deem obvious due to me reviewing and recommending too many of them on this blog. If you’ve followed me for a while, you may know how much I love it when developers take the roguelike or roguelite formula and add their own twist to it by introducing new mechanics or adding a new genre into the mix. Today, I’m reviewing Necronator, which is a game that I had my eye on for quite a long time since it’s developed by Toge Productions (who are great) and since it’s published by Modern Wolf (who are also great)… on top of that, you get to play as Undead beings on their quest to become tyrants after beating a hero, which is right up my alley.
Developer: Toge Productions Publisher: Modern Wolf Genre: RTS, Roguelite, Tower Defense, Card-Based, Indie Release Date: July 30th, 2020 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC Copy was purchased.
Necronator takes the deck-building roguelike formula and adds an RTS-ish twist to it. Your portal generates mana that you use to cast spells, utilities, or summon units. You have to take down enemy towers to have them attack enemy units and with each tower, you generate more mana, which means you win. But while the premise is somewhat simple, there is actually a lot more to the game than that. For starters, you’ve got to switch the path that your units take to make them go to different areas and you’ll have to deal with a lot of different enemies. On your journey, you obviously will get stronger by adding cards to your deck, upgrading or removing them, and by gathering relicts that grant you and your units benefits (more on that later)… but the enemies also gain relics as time goes on, making the game ultimately harder the further you go in.
The game allows you to control one of three commanders, each with their own playstyle. Number 7, the Death Knight, always redraws until he has a full hand again and is probably the easiest character to learn and master but as you play him, you’ll unlock new decks that focus on buffing units or overwhelming enemies with sheer strength. Meanwhile, Mirabella the Doll is an Unliving Spirit that mostly utilizes spells in combat. She has a reduced redraw cost and cooldown and her decks mostly consist of spells that allow you to place toy soldiers, static turrets and other buildings, which is very interesting in my opinion. Mirabella is probably my favourite character… and at last, there’s also Luavira Heartwing, the Seducer of Darkness, who has more portal health but has to rely on sucking enemies dry by syphoning their mana out of them and using that to summon her own. You can also sacrifice your portal’s health in order to cast powerful buffs and/or wreck havoc onto enemies but overall, I find her quite tricky to play and a bit too slow for my taste.
These three commanders are representative of three different classes, I would say, which is fun as it allows all sorts of players to play the game and enjoy it. I like how the different commanders also have their card repertoires and kits similar to the classes in Slay The Spire, which results in each run being a bit different from another despite it still being the same game. But that being said, I mostly spent my time playing Mirabella as I just love this playstyle of pushing forwards and raining spells and teddies down on enemies. The summoner fantasy is something I adore and love in games and I’m amazed at how well it’s implemented here. I even was able to beat the game first-try with Mirabella by finding a few relics that reduce my card costs whenever I play certain cards and then I added a relic into my inventory that grants me 25 mana whenever I redraw, which is always a profit since Mirabella’s redraw-cost is at 20… but with the right cards, you can reduce the cooldown plenty and even make it completely free, which is amazing as you can just spam that button to generate mana and then summon powerful units into the battle.
Still, you’ll have to manage your paths, your card numbers, your draw and the average costs quite a bit. Adding more cards can be great and all but it sucks when you have to wait for enough mana to use them. Similarly, you can draft cards after battles and after elite battles, you can even draft relics (or choose to skip them) but the game doesn’t always grant you the OP-combos, so you’ll need to make it work for you somehow which is why you’ll need to visit rest sites and shops in a world map similar to Slay The Spire and Curse of the Dead Gods. Shops can give a great boost to your card pool but also allow you to remove cards while rest sites allow you to recover health or upgrade cards. Upgrading cards is a whole thing on its own by the way where you have different options for your cards to specialise into that also randomly generated, like making your skeleton archers deal AoE damage or having them crit more.
But then again, I love the game. I just love it. I could talk here for ages about the many great things that I loved about it, like the story that is in there that may not be as deep as Hades‘ but it still is quite entertaining. And the music is nice and I love the art style… but there are still things that bothered me.
For starters, you have three save files, so I would think that you can quit at any time and continue later… but the game does actually never tell you, which is a bit annoying, especially when you have a good run that goes longer than expected but you don’t have the time to finish it… but well, you can continue it at any time again, which is great… it’s just a bit dumb that the game doesn’t tell you. You can see how I’m reaching here to find something to criticise. The other thing that is also somewhat minor is that the game sends anonymous data to the devs to analyze bugs better and performance stuff… which is nice… if you were to select it. My issue is that it automatically has it enabled in the settings by default and you’ll have to click on it to disable it. If I had not checked the settings, I wouldn’t have known, and there are people out there that don’t like it when their data gets sent somewhere even if it’s anonymously. I also would have liked it if the evolution/upgrade tree was bigger and if you could upgrade cards that you already upgraded, but I guess there’s probably a balancing reason there.
While all of this is super minor stuff, I think my only real concern with the game is that it doesn’t mix things up too well and that the bosses are the same each time. Having different biomes or variants would have been amazing here, similar to other roguelite games. At the same time, when you have a successful run and it goes very well, I’d love it if I could just continue in Endless Mode after beating the campaign. I mean, Endless Mode is a thing that you set up before your run… but I’d love it if the game asked you whether you want to continue your run or if you want to quit now and start a new one. I feel like that’d be a great feature to add.
Either way, I loved Necronator to bits. I was actually quite happy with how polished this game is and how well it runs even on the highest settings. I’m looking forward to unlocking more cards and relics and I’m really excited for some of the updates that may come out soon. I mean, there are over 200 cards in the game so far, which is a lot, but I believe there are gonna be weekly challenges as well soon, which is quite nice to add more replayability to the game on top of the ascension system and the level editor and stuff. Hence, I highly recommend this title to anyone looking forward to a fun little RTS-like roguelite game that plays on the undead side of things!