What do you get when you combine Lovecraftian horror, the wild west, and graphic novel artwork? Kingdom of the Dead is what you get! Is it a match made in hell? Read on to find out!.
Kingdom of the Dead presents you with a rather interesting narrative, you play as Professor Chamberlain who’s swapped the lab for the life of guns, swords, and undead slaying. Running an agency that works for the government he’s handed a talking sword that has the ability to close off portals from Hell to stop the advance of evil on the world.
Initially, when you start the game you are presented with 3 cases to work on, think of this as the game’s level selection. Once you have dealt with them you get some more, this allows you to progress through the game in any order you so like.
The levels have a similar feel to each other in that it involves you entering the area and chasing a big boss throughout it, usually involving several boss fights.
The game’s difficulty also ties to your objectives, the standard difficulty is just reaching the gate at the end of the level and destroy it, higher difficulties have additional objectives which add to the replay value further than just turning your foes into bullet sponges.
Visually from an art direction, Kingdom of the Dead is an absolute treat. The very limited use of colour leans in beautifully to its horror vibe and makes stuff like ammo and health pick-ups and explosions really pop. The only issue I found was that in darker areas it’s almost too dark and leaves you open to attack from enemies you struggle to see, could be a design choice but it did me dirty a few times throughout.
In terms of presentation, there are a few things holding this title back from being something truly special, namely the animations and the sound effects.
Enemies in this game and especially the big bosses have really stiff animations. This is quite a contrast to how good the weapon animations look, especially the revolver which is just bliss to watch.
Sound effects are also quite dulled and ineffective, the revolver sounds like a pop gun and the shotgun just doesn’t have that umph you need from such a workhorse weapon. The music is also incredibly hit and miss here, some stages have wonderfully atmospheric tunes whereas others, especially level 1 have really out-of-place Synthwave style music on repeat.
The gameplay in Kingdom of the Dead is that of a classic first-person shooter or as they are affectionately called nowadays “Boomer Shooter”. You’ll travel through the game’s stages waging war on the undead with a plethora of weapons such as a Revolver, Shotgun, Rifle, Gatling Gun, and even a talking sword.
The gunplay in Kingdom of the Dead ranges from satisfying to the middle of the road, nothing is quite like nailing a headshot and the game knows this by giving it a satisfying crunch and a lovely red fountain as your reward. Chunkier enemies unfortunately feel too much like bullet sponges and don’t even hit stun nor react when you pump them full of lead.
You have all your standard enemy archetypes to deal with, rushers, flying, ranged, “Cacodemon” style foes, nothing completely original but nothing to really complain about aside from the fact there isn’t really much deviation in how you deal with them that hasn’t already been present in every game since Doom.
The levels are fantastic horror spectacles that lead you through some really interesting areas, they lack a lot of interactivity and at times do just feel like window dressing in a horror-themed ride rather than intricate areas which you can explore and could feel almost lived in.
For fans of the FPS genre, Kingdom of the Dead is a nice treat, it’s a fairly long title with a lot of charm and replayability through really rough around the edges. Performance on the launch build was much more stable than my first playthrough which was a godsend but it still feels like it’s struggling in places.
It is a shame that the areas that aren’t quite as strong as its unique premise and art style hold it back in the way it does. This doesn’t by any stretch make it a bad game, I have had a lot of fun with it and will no doubt continue to do so, it just reminds me a lot of middle of the road, almost budget PS2 games where there was a lot of heart and so much stuff you wanted to love about it but the game just didn’t quite match what it was trying to do.
A fun horror classic FPS with alot of heart but just doesn’t quite hit the mark all of the time.