Reverse Crawl – What We Think:
Reverse Crawl plays around with the usual fantasy tropes by putting you in charge of typically “evil” minions: zombies, skeletons, goblins and the like. That’s not an entirely unusual premise, and in any case, it’s not what gives the game its appeal. The seemingly casual but sticky tactical fights, on the other hand – plus developer Nerdook Productions‘ appealing house style – make it hard to put down.
“A dungeon crawl where YOU are the dungeon!” crow the game’s marketing materials, and…that’s really kind of overstating things. Even if it were entirely accurate, it’s not like games haven’t already done that; there was the venerable Dungeon Keeper, of course, not to mention more recent games like Impire. Even the broader premise of “playing the bad guys” has been done time and time again in games like EvilQuest and the Overlord and Grotesque Tactics series.
In any case, none of that really matters. In Reverse Crawl, your main characters are in fact an undead ruler, the Revenant King, and the necromancer princess who resurrected him, and you do fight against typical “heroes” like knights and clerics, but…it’s complicated. As bits of storyline unfold, it becomes immediately apparent that everyone’s just trying to get along in this crazy mixed up world.
And the “bad guys” are awfully charming, anyway, from the grunting goblin shaman to the brash dark elves to the Revenant King himself – he’s not so sure about this new “undead existence” thing, and he’s frankly a bit creeped out by the princess’s affinity for ancient tombs and skeletal minions.
A lot of the game’s likability comes from the recognizable Nerdook art style. As previously displayed in Vertical Drop Heroes, the character design is a mixture of anime in the “super deformed” style (think small, cute, stubby and exaggerated) and a bit of contemporary Western animation. It works well here, giving even the nameless zombie minions a friendly charm.
Maybe Not So Complicated?
The game itself revolves around combat, and it’s just about the simplest approach to hex grid tactics I’ve ever come across. Units are basic enough that even a complete tactics beginner could pick up Reverse Crawl with no trouble; archers shoot, zombies swipe, wizard-types blast magic missiles, and that’s pretty much it.
There are a few additional tricks – like your own powers that build up slowly over time and let you do things like heal your enemies or summon extra minions – but Reverse Crawl is more checkers than chess.
The strategy, such as it is, comes from paying attention to the more randomized elements and choosing which groups of minions to send into a particular battle. As each fight starts, you’ll see how many waves of enemies you’ll have to finish off and how many groups of minions you get to summon.
The groups of minions from which you’ll have to select will also spawn with random traits; they might be extra weak, for example, or they might do extra damage or have a little extra armor. Certain minion types do better against particular enemies, too. The undead are weak against clerics, for example, while larger minions like ogres and wraiths are good against large groups.
But Definitely Fun!
Still, there’s not a ton of depth here. Reverse Crawl feels like a mobile game, even though it isn’t one; it’s that casual. It’s casual in the best of ways, though; it’s fun, it’s never frustrating, and it offers new minions, enemies and even bits of plot often enough that you never feel like you’re just grinding away out of boredom.
If you’re looking for something with the depths of Final Fantasy Tactics or the like, Reverse Crawl is bound to be a disappointment. But for what it is – a light tactics game that’s easy to pick up and heavy on the charm – Reverse Crawl excels.
Watch the trailer for Reverse Crawl below: