Review – Nightmare Reaper

A retro-infused boomer shooter inspired by Quake, but with randomly generated levels instead of carefully crafted linear maps full of secrets and well-designed scenarios. No, I’m not talking about the decent (albeit largely forgettable) Strafe, released back in 2017. Nightmare Reaper is a game drinking from the same (several) fountain(s), which already made me worry it would suffer from the same issues which plagued that game. Retro shooters are my bread and butter, and I was eager to try it out, but I can’t lie I was a bit worried. Let’s see if Nightmare Reaper managed to improve upon the failures of its peers.

Nightmare Reaper Platforming

The real nightmare was the annoying platforming sections we endure along the way.

Many people will try to link Nightmare Reaper to Doom first and foremost, but considering it features free-form camera controls and platforming, I couldn’t help but think that Quake was its main source of influence. It may feature zombies, demons, macabre imagery, but it’s all Quake, with the exception that its visuals are weirdly reminiscent of a Minecraft-ish low-poly design, with some excessively poor lighting effects, coupled with sprite-based characters and items. It’s not exactly ugly, but I don’t think the art style fit perfectly with the source material. The game ended up looking a bit too much like a Minecraft mod, even though it featured somber imagery and a heavy metal soundtrack by Andrew Hulshult, of Dusk and Ancient Gods fame.

Nightmare Reaper Plot

Nightmare Reaper has an overarching story. It’s just not very interesting.

The combat is fast-paced and frantic as you would expect from a retro-inspired shooter, with the exception that you don’t exactly have the ability of freely carrying as many weapons as possible from level to level. This is where Nightmare Reaper‘s looter shooter elements come into play: you can carry as many (randomly acquired) weapons as you can find inside a level, but you can only equip two of them at any given time. Furthermore you can only take one weapon with you from level to level. The complete lack of balance between weapons, combined with the fact you will always find a billion of them on the next level, made me pretty much ignore the risk and reward effect stemming from the game’s looting nature. I proceeded to take a loyal pistol with me to each following level. They get the job done.

Nightmare Reaper Book

Grab this magic spellbook to be reminded we are never getting a sequel to Hexen.

I have mixed feelings towards Nightmare Reaper‘s elements. I don’t mind looking for loot and not being able to collect weapons like in Borderlands, but I don’t think retro shooters profit from having randomly generated levels. You simply cannot beat a well-designed level crafted by a creative human being. There is absolutely no balance in Nightmare Reaper‘s map generation: I had a miserable time dealing with a labyrinthine test of patience by the time I had reached the second level, with frustrating platforming sections, traps and poor lighting, for example. In contrast, I was greeted with ridiculously easy levels further down the line, with little to no traps or route deviations.

Even though Nightmare Reaper has a plot (and a weak one at that), its gameplay loop and overall structure didn’t clash well with the presence of an actual narrative. I don’t blame the developers for their attempt, as they even had the smart idea of setting the entire game inside a series of nightmares. You know, the one place where nonsense thrives above everything else. I never felt like I was progressing with the plot. I simply felt like I was playing a map randomizer, the kind of tool you download after you’re done with a game’s initial set of levels.

Nightmare Reaper

Whatever the hell this weapon was supposed to represent, it was hella overpowered.

Nightmare Reaper has the foundations of a pretty fun shooter, namely thanks to its strong combat and visceral nature. Sadly, I do not think its looter and roguelite elements improved its overall gameplay in any way. On the contrary, to be honest: the overall map randomization made some early levels insanely frustrating to deal with, while later stages felt like a cakewalk. It’s not a bad game, far from it, but you cannot beat the creativity and imagination of an actual human level designer. This could have been a much more entertaining FPS had it ditched its randomization elements altogether, focusing its efforts on some strong level design instead.


Graphics: 6.5

Nightmare Reaper opted for an unusual blocky, low-poly approach that didn’t make it look like a retro shooter from the 90s. Instead, it made it look like a Minecraft mod with sprites for enemies.

Gameplay: 8.0

Your standard (and responsive) “boomer shooter” control scheme/gameplay loop, with some roguelike elements that didn’t exactly fit in that well with the overall package.

Sound: 7.5

The soundtrack was composed by the great Andrew Hulshult. It is pretty good, but it is one of his less memorable efforts. The game is also plastered with voice acting, and it never works.

Fun Factor: 7.0

Nightmare Reaper has the foundations of a great retro shooter. Sadly, its looting and randomization elements are less of a feature and more of a hindrance.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Nightmare Reaper is available now on PC.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of Nightmare Reaper was provided by the publisher.