Let me start by saying that I’ve been waiting for The Unliving ever since it was announced, Necromancer/Summoner is one of my favorite types of classes to play in most video games but so many video games just end up doing it wrong. The Unliving manages to capture the very essence of being a Necromancer by having an army of undead to control and decimate your enemies, but while the art direction and the core concept of this game are fantastic everything else is lacking.
Your units and summons are extremely stupid, often getting caught on the terrain or each other, sometimes they just bug out entirely and just stop moving or attacking altogether allowing the enemies to pummel me to death despite these bugs the core gameplay is actually quite solid but the funny thing is that I would actually prefer this exact same game just not as a roguelike, don’t take this the wrong way I love roguelike games but most roguelikes that I enjoy are ones where the run is just super addicting and fun or through every death I end up earning more experience, leveling up and growing stronger in the process. I think The Unliving would be a much more solid experience just as a single player RPG but anyways this is a roguelike so let me talk about my problems with it.
The basic premise is that when you die at the end of a run you get points based on how many units you summoned during that session, those points are then spent at the Hub to slowly unlock additional abilities but these abilities aren’t permanent upgrades that are contributing to your overall character, these are just new items that can be found in the loot pool during your next session which to me defeats the entire purpose of a roguelike. Where’s my permanent upgrades? Where is the sense of progression? Why do I not feel like I’m getting any stronger? Without having these elements, it doesn’t matter how fun the play session is, it just doesn’t feel like I’m actually gaining anything by playing through the game, I’m not saying that the game doesn’t have progression, it’s just that it does a terrible job explaining it to the player and you get it way too slowly.
Although I’ve gotten to the second area in the game a handful of times, I don’t feel like I earned it in any way, it was just that I happen to be luckier or take less damage in that particular run. It most certainly doesn’t feel like the game is getting any easier the longer I play it and most of the time when I die, I have no idea what killed me, the game has overlapping effects and targeted abilities you can’t dodge because they are hard to see. Your party is going to grow, at later stages two screens are easily taken by your horde, meaning there is an insane level of cluster happening every second; enemy AOEs, your spells, your minions’ attacks, and some enemy’s targeted abilities locking onto you are all on the screen at the same time. I like challenging games, but randomly losing all your health due to something you can’t see or can’t react to is not fun at all.
There are just so many bugs and missing features that I can’t name each and every one, I understand that the game is still in Early Access but in my opinion, they should have waited a little longer to release it on Early Access with at the very least the necessary features like a map.
Overall, the core gameplay in The Unliving is fun but with all the bugs, missing features and the way progression works I just can’t recommend buying this at the current state. In saying that, the developers are very active and are taking criticisms quite well so there is still hope for when the game eventually leaves Early Access.