Dark Light

I’ve been a fan of the strategy genre for a long time. In fact, I started my gaming days playing games like Age of Empires and Age of Mythology on my Pentium PC (yup, those were the days). Strategy games aren’t respected anymore by a generation of gamers that wants everything to be spoon-fed. Despite that, developers have been constantly trying to make games that progress the genre. There’s a new set of roguelikes that use the concept rather well – where you encounter turn-based combat at several stages, building up your skills on the way. The first game that made this feature popular was Slay the Spire – following a card-based format for progression. Following its immense success, many other games tried to innovate on the formula while keeping the core strategic gameplay intact. Necronator: Dead Wrong is one such game.

Story & Narrative

Necronator is basically based on a parody magical school for the undead, said to specialize in the ‘dark arts’. The main character is a graduate from this school – an ambitious one, looking to spread the cause of the undead throughout the world. ‘Necronators’ are heroes of the undead- some of the most powerful among the undead legions. The game mentions one such ‘Necronator’, and it seems the main objective is to aspire to him – that means to kill everything in sight. You have your own undead armies with you on the march, and more folk (mostly undead, some orcs & creatures) will join you on the way to victory.

The game seems to be set during the frigid winters in the ‘North’, where people are busy staying inside the walls of their castles and fortresses fending off the cold. The setting seems oddly similar to the Northrend, the frigid northern base for the undead in the Warcraft universe. Quite a bit of inspiration has gone into making the game, especially in it’s setting (or are they meant to be easter eggs? If they are, that’s neat!).

Gameplay & Mechanics

If you’re familiar with Slay the Spire, Necronator utilizes its core concept for progression. You start off with a deck of cards with spells and creatures and have to upgrade it – tearing apart any living settlement that stands in your path. There’s a map you can consult to see the path you can take towards your goal – the boss fight of the stage. Every stage has a randomly generated path from one point to another which can be taken by your undead army towards your goal. In between fights, there are campfires to rest, heal and upgrade your forces, markets to get reinforcements from crafty businessmen looking to make a quick buck, and random events that grant a choice-based effect randomly.

Every battle starts with the undead portal at one specific point on the map, with the main objective being to destroy the enemy fortress (or fortresses). There might be smaller towers or keeps on the way, which hold the line against your undead horde early on. Units are spawned by playing creature cards from the hand. These undead units will move along the path towards the enemy fortress, till they encounter an enemy, whom they will strike down. Spells are cast by using spell cards from the hand and can grant a range of positive effects for your troops or negative effects for your enemies. One needs mana to use the cards from the hand, which is generated from the undead portal and any living fortresses or towers/keeps that you have “haunted”. It’s a neat little tower defense game where you get to be the attacker for a change.

What’s truly amazing is how the developers designed the mana costs to be “just” right. Mana is generated at a pretty slow rate, so sending in a ton of troops at once is not something you can do to win. Normally, spells are cheaper than creatures and help your units survive so that they can be reinforced later on by more units from the portal. A subtle balance has to be struck between choosing to cast a spell, summon a creature or wait and watch out for the enemy’s movements – your mana pool isn’t large enough for doing all those at once. Note that your mana regeneration increases once you take over a tower or a keep, which will display the “haunted” badge and start producing mana for the undead – so waiting for one of them to fall before making a big push is certainly worth it.

There’s definitely some disappointment in the fact that the living doesn’t try to retake “haunted” towers or keeps, which would have added another layer of strategy by holding existing choke points on the map. There’s always the possibility that it wasn’t added because it might have put a bit too much pressure on the average Joe playing the game, or simply because it doesn’t make sense (something about human fear of haunted places).

In later parts of the game, you are not restricted to a single path but have the option of sending units to multiple paths. Just click on the alternate path to send your units along that path. Choices in paths are another layer of strategy and interaction added to ensure the player gets to exercise their mind while playing the game. You can take on hordes of living soldiers through one path, or sneak through the back to strike a critical blow at their fortress through another – the choice is all yours. Note that the clock is ticking, and enemy reinforcements will head for your portal if you can’t take their fortresses in time.

If you don’t feel bummed out from all that thinking and decision-making in a video game, there is yet one more layer of strategy involved at the map level. One needs to choose their path at every intersection, which can lead to some interesting circumstances, to say the least. There’s also the decision-making involved at a market in upgrading the deck, or at a campfire in deciding whether to upgrade a card in the deck, heal up some damage to the portal, or remove a card from the deck. If removing a card from the deck sounds like a peculiar choice, it really shouldn’t – removing useless cards guarantees that one’s strategy can be carried out as efficiently as possible.

Visuals & Performance

Necronator uses a pretty weird graphics palette which might make even a “retro” gamer go ‘EWWW!’. If you’re someone who takes graphics into account in determining your experience in a game, then you are going to be disappointed. The graphics disappoint not because of the low-poly models used, but because of the offputting art design. It combines 2D sprites (for all units) and 3D textures (for the battleground and all assets on it, including trees, mountains, fortresses, towers, keeps, huts, and walls). The contrast seems really striking at the end of the game when you win or lose – the units seeming like two-dimensional silhouettes standing on three-dimensional snow. If that itself isn’t enough, it seems very little effort was put into the animations of the units – you don’t see them lift their arms to strike their enemies. The fighting animations are very peculiar and off-putting, to say the least.

The game itself doesn’t have any performance issues of its own and seems to run fine without a glitch. There’s only a minor issue – mouse clicks don’t register on various locations on the map, and occasionally needs to be double-clicked (likely due to the small clickable area around the images used in the map). There don’t seem to be any game-breaking bugs whatsoever, so positive points for that.


Sound isn’t an area where Necronator excels. The main soundtrack of the game isn’t exactly what you would consider memorable in any way. The main menu theme stands its ground, but that’s about it. The in-game music mostly seems like prerecorded sounds are played at definite intervals when an event is executed (for example, when a battle happens). This is a really bad way to introduce kinks in the flow of the game – and damages the user experience really badly.


Necronator: Dead Wrong isn’t the most polished or deep tower defense roguelike in the market, but it definitely does a great job of ensuring the game is fun and enjoyable to a larger gaming audience.

1 comment
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts