Being bad is hard to do! Tasked with raising the monstrous horde and overrunning the kingdom, it might seem like a done deal. After all, the stories you usually hear is about how hard good has to work to overcome evil. But it's clearly not as clean-cut, a lesson imparted by Necronator, the latest game from Infectonator developer Toge Productions.
Serving as the invisible overlord, as is often the case in strategy games, you summon monsters from a portal that has spawned near a local town. Using mana as the currency, you have to raise an army (or at least a sufficiently armed gaggle) and storm the locals, butchering peasants, stomping on guards and tearing down the buildings. Ah, evil: it's hard work, but the hands-on nature makes for great job satisfaction. Unlike Infectonator, which essentially involved dropping a bomb and hoping for the best, Necronator is a proper strategy game. You have different monsters you can spawn, ranging from skeletons to orcs and zombies, as well as a few hero units that unlock as you progress. As an evil overlord you are also armed with spells to unleash more devastation from above, a part that becomes pretty crucial later on.
The monsters and spells can be upgraded, as well as the amount of mana you have, how fast it recharges and the strength of your spawning portal. If the latter gets destroyed, you cannot spawn more monsters into the map and might soon be overrun by angry locals. You can also buy additional spells and the various unit types, once unlocked, also need to be purchased. But at least it is easy keeping your bottom line healthy. You make cash from attacking villages; even if a raid fails you keep the cash and can invest in your army, making it larger and more potent.
Analysis: Before we get to its flaws, I'd prefer to gloss over them first. Necronator is a lot of fun and worth at least a minute or two of your life. Usually we would start a review on JIG with a breakdown of the controls, but befitting of any strategy title there is a bit more under the hood here and playing the game is by far the best way to wrap your head around things. Some keys are crucial, such as the [Z] short-cut to select all units, but the entire game can be played using only the mouse. Progression is linear: you only have one village you can ever attack to move forward, but you can attack villages previously destroyed for more cash or to defeat the little challenges. Progress to other villages and provinces are unlocked by destroying the town in front of you and as you overrun the kingdom, you encounter hero units in certain locations. Killing some of these unlock hero units on your side.
Investing in your unit upgrades is crucial, as the game slowly rolls out ever-more dangerous guards, not to mention the odd hero (who can be very devastating). Thanks to the single spawn portal and being only limited by your mana supply, you can easily spawn a new army and keep feeding monsters into the battle. More than once a fight has gone bad for me, but I managed to turn it around with some quick unit spawning and a meteor shower (or two) to level the playing field. That will teach the locals from trying to put a stop to my slaughter!
But this is a pretty ambitious use of Flash (it even has a decent soundtrack and sound effects), so a few annoyances surface. Foremost is the navigation around the map. You can use the WASD keys or click on the mini-map: either is fine, except that clicking on the mini-map removes the mouse from wherever you are focused, while the WASD keys means your fingers are slightly removed from the other shortcuts (for example, making [Q] the 'Select All Units' would make more sense). This might seem like a petty suggestion, but Necronator is very heavy on micro-management.
That exposes another flaw. Your units are simply not very disciplined and some easily break away from the main group and wander after a threat. Such initiative is usually rewarded with death as they get ambushed by some log-dragging peasant - even the dark spawn benefit from safety in numbers. When told to target something the monsters are great, but left to their own devices and they are a bit unruly. Initially this isn't a problem, as you only look at them. But later it becomes necessary to drop a few destructive spells on pesky archer or magic units to help even the odds. Essentially you spend a lot of time making sure your army doesn't get out of hand, which is tricky when you are assaulted from all sides in later battles. It's also nearly impossible to control specific units. You can select them individually or grab a bunch by dragging a rectangle over them, but the small play area and lack of a mouse scroll makes such maneuvers tricky and perhaps beyond most players. In the end you just constantly launch all your units at one spot, hammering the 'Select All' key to keep netting the new monsters you have spawned.
But when you look at the big picture, these are more nitpicks around a game that is actually well-executed (bar a bug that sometimes locks up a battle or some scenarios that are simply ridiculous to fight - taking on three heroes at once? Seriously?!). Necronator is a fun game and there is a lot to relish between the unit upgrades and surveying fields of gore and dead peasants. It's always a good sign when a game beats you over the head and you simply keep going back for more.