Review – Kingdom of the Dead

Something about a cool looking stylized first person shooter always pulls me in. Fast paced twitch shooting married with over the top horror enemies and a cool ass art design will get me every time. Games like Into the Pit and BPM or less horror but still showcasing cool design like Bright Memory: Infinite and Serious Sam have a way of pumping me up. Kingdom of the Dead hits on all the things I mentioned above which is why I had to play it. Fast paced FPS? Check. Cool art design? Check. Kick ass boss designs? Check. Let’s see how the full game stacks up though.

In Kingdom of the Dead you play as Agent Chamberlain, a professor turned Army General who now works as a secret government agent known as the Gatekeepers. With his trusty pistol and talking demon sword, who helps him track down the demon gates, Agent Chamberlain has to defeat Death and his armies. You begin in your office where you will select a mission from a dossier and then select from three difficulties that have side objectives to them. You then fight your way through a level, fight a boss, and close a demon portal.

Kingdom of the Dead Dossier

In the mission select you can choose your difficulty which will also add additional objectives for replayability.

For the most part, each level is standalone, there aren’t any story lines that weave through the game. Your objective is to kill demons and close the portal with your demon sword. Speaking of the demon sword, there isn’t really a good explanation of how you get the sword, but it’s what helps you track down the portals and close them. You don’t need to do any tracking yourself, but it’s just the bit of story of why you have and need the sword. In general, the story is lacking only giving off a little summary of the level you’re going to and the demon that is residing in it. That’s okay though because it’s mostly about the gameplay.

As I’m sure you gathered, Kingdom of the Dead is a fast paced first person shooter that takes its inspiration from the classics. No reloading, fast speed, big groups of enemies, no regenerating health, it’s classic. You will begin each level with only your pistol and demon sword, and then find other weapons as you progress through the level. No skill trees, no weapon mods, nothing like that is featured here. The only issue for me is each level will repeat the same enemies. There are an okay variety of enemies, but I found they got stale after the first few levels.

Kingdom of the Dead Demon Gates

Use the demon sword to close the demon gate after defeating the boss.

It’s not to say that there aren’t any new enemies in later levels, because there are one or two, but the enemies just don’t match how unique each level is from one another. This also goes for the weapons. They’re pretty standard weapons, nothing out there or cool. You have a standard pistol, shotgun, rifle, chain gun, grenade launcher, dynamite, and your sword. The one unique weapon, the sword, also has an effect that is never explained and I don’t know what it’s supposed to do. If you kill enough enemies with it, you fill up a meter and it starts sparking like electricity is running through it. Yet, it doesn’t seem to do any extra damage or any electrocuting effects on the enemies.

The level design is very well done, offering quite a lot of different locations and they all look great in the art style. They’re mostly linear, but there will be a couple hidden paths for secondary objectives and big battles. This also goes for each levels boss. Majority of the bosses have great designs and are fun fights, besides the massive Bat. The thing never took flight, it just crawled towards me and I easily killed it. Anyway, the level and boss designs are really good, I just wish the normal enemies reached that peak also.

Bat Boss

This level is a great example of awesome level ideas, but a not so great boss encounter.

For the most part Kingdom of the Dead ran fine, my setup is more than capable for this title so I didn’t run into any performance issues. However, I did run into some glitches, mostly with the AI. There were quite a few times, at least two per level, where an enemy would get stuck inside walls or objects. Normally this isn’t a big deal, however, it seemed like it was always an enemy with a long range attack. They would be able to still shoot or throw fireballs at me, but there was no way I could hit them. Besides that there were other times where enemies and even myself would get stuck in environment details, but it was never anything game breaking.

One of my favorite aspects about this title is its art design. I know I’ve already talked a bit about it above, but it can be repeated. The pen and ink hand drawn graphic novel art design is very cool and well implemented. It style can mean a lot of areas are extremely dark and there were a couple times where I couldn’t find where to go for a minute, but it wasn’t a big deal. Usually I just look for the glowing white enemy eyes and follow the path of death. Besides just the art style, the level designs are really good and all feel unique. Like the one above with the giant bat, this arena is filled with whale corpses that the bat has been beaching and feeding on.

Unfortunately, the sound design doesn’t match up with how great the art design is. The general sound effects are low quality and don’t have much of an impact. Enemy growls and such don’t hold any weight so they don’t add much to the horror either. The soundtrack is okay, not great. It has its gothic sound that does match the visuals a bit, and a couple decent battle tracks to get the blood flowing. Unfortunately, a couple is all it really has and it will simply repeat the same tracks.

Kingdom of the Dead has a lot going for it from its great art direction and level design and its understanding and appreciation of that old school FPS gameplay. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t quite hit on all notes with its lackluster general enemy encounters and sound design. Outside of the boss fights I was eventually getting bored of the normal encounters, but then a boss or a cool part of the level would happen and I’m right back in it. Ultimately, it feels like it needs just a bit more love, but I want to see more of Kingdom of the Dead in the future.

 

Graphics: 8.0

The pen and ink hand drawing visuals are nicely done, and the bosses and levels have some cool designs. 

Gameplay: 6.0

The general FPS gameplay is decent, and the level design is good, but the enemies are a bit lackluster.

Sound: 5.0

Sound design is fairly basic featuring some low quality sound effects for enemies. The OST has a handful of blood pumping songs, but not enough variety.

Fun Factor: 5.5

Level design and boss encounters really push the fun, while the general encounters and enemies become fairly dull. There were also issues with enemy AI and them getting stuck in walls.

Final Verdict: 6.0

Kingdom of the Dead is available now on PC.

Reviewed with an i7-9700k, RTX 2070, and 16gb RAM.

A copy of Kingdom of the Dead was provided by the publisher.