I’ve been a huge first person shooter fan since the very early days of Wolfenstein 3D and Doom (1993). It’s rare to see not only a first person shooter with a western theme, but a horror western theme. But while Kingdom of the Dead has a compelling premise, it doesn’t really ascend any of its parts beyond game jam level.
Kingdom of the Dead is a first person shooter where you play as a undead hunter with a sentient talking sword in a parallel Old West full of occult practices and the undead. That sentence alone is enough to sell me on the game, but oh boy, is Kingdom of the Dead a disappointment. It’s not necessarily a bad game, it’s just a game that doesn’t feel very finished–and therefore, lacks in fun, and never quite meets its full potential. Let me first go over the good.
If you haven’t gathered, I really like Kingdom of the Dead’s premise. It comes ever so close to having an atmosphere or horror and dread–but it doesn’t quite get there. Its art style is dark, but I like how it looks almost penciled in. I also appreciate the level design work, but for its visuals and for the situations it puts the players. But even with these praises I’m generous, because Kingdom of the Dead is a bit of a wreck.
While Kingdom of the Dead has a great concept behind it: hunting undead in the Old West, the soundtrack, animations, and dumb AI really stop this title from meeting its potential. Kingdom of the Dead comes oh so close to being atmospheric, but it just ends up looking dark and muddy. And while I appreciate the pencil/ink-style shading, it’s almost too much with Kingdom of the Dead’s dark levels, and just makes everything look hairy.
Since Kingdom of the Dead is a first person shooter, it’s important that it at least gets that part right. It doesn’t. Shooting is slow, and cumbersome. There are several different weapon types, and none of them are fun to shoot. There is also an option to fire from “iron sights” but it seems like the developer doesn’t know how guns work, and instead just has the character look down the barrel of the gun—while still relying on the reticle. Another insult is the fact that Kingdom of the Dead doesn’t even let you keep your weapons from the previous level, so you have to find them all over again on each mission. But the most disappointing this is the sentient sword itself: it’s a lousy weapon. It has absolutely no reach, so you have to practically be on top of enemies to use it—and it’s not even fun to use!
While Kingdom of the Dead certainly grabbed my attention initially, I barely enjoyed my time with it. Its attempts at an interesting story, and a dark horror atmosphere are almost successful—but they don’t quite land. On top of gunplay that just isn’t fun, Kingdom of the Dead is a mostly miserable experience.
Kingdom of the Dead is available today on Steam.
A Steam key was provided to us for the purposes of this review.