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Video Game / Iratus: Lord of the Dead

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Iratus: Lord of the Dead is a Dark Fantasy Dungeon Crawler Role-Playing Game, where you take on the role of the titular necromancer, who has been recently awakened and now raises the undead minions and sends them out in order to break out from his underground tomb and reach the surface. His undead parties must fight through the numerous patrols of the living, who know very well what awaits them under his reign, and so they confront his horrors through Side View Turn-Based Combat.

This game was developed by the Russian studio Unfrozen. It was funded on Kickstarter on June 21st, 2018, and then published by Daedalic Entertainment and released on PC through Steam Early Access on 24th of July, 2019. Even before release it had attracted the reputation of the "reverse Darkest Dungeon", as this time, you are the ancient evil attempting to get free, and which commands undead, interchangeable pawns, while it's the opponents that are now all subject to fear and stress.

See also Vambrace: Cold Soul for another 2019 game Inspired by… Darkest Dungeon, but which went in a more story-driven and Lighter and Softer direction.

Tropes present in this game:

  • Action Girl: Defenders, Barbarians, Dhampirs and Explorers are all female warriors of the living, while the Pyromancer is a female boss. Bards and dwarven Oracles are also female, but they are limited to the support roles, and will instantly flee if they are the only ones left in a group.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: Many of your minions' attacks can be upgraded to ignore enemies' armor. Magical attacks will ignore it by default as well, although they can be stopped by magical resistance instead.
  • Arrows on Fire: The Egyptian-styled Brides of Iratus are undead female archers. One of their moves is a so-called "Flames of Love", which is a Multishot of flaming arrows that inflict burning on their target.
  • Automatic Crossbows: Dhampirs pair these together with swords.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: In the ending, The Sage reveals he orchestrated Iratus' prison break because the forces of 'good' were so corrupt and self-destructive that it would take an evil overlord to set things right. The Sage offers to canonize Iratus as an anti-hero if he'll go back to sleep until the next time evil is needed, as Fate demands. Subverted when Iratus tells the Sage that Fate can go fuck itself, and that balance is nothing before the Empire of Death.
  • Bear Trap: Overseers can throw these right under the feet of your minions, which will inflict damage and lock them into place. You can still push them to a different spot by moving another minion in their place, but that'll just make that other minion damaged and trapped instead.
  • The Berserker: Dwarves have Berserkers who fight bare-chested, and while they dual-wield axes, they are actually rather weak with them at first, subverting the notion you can efficiently fight with two weapons with no ill consequences. However, they actually become stronger as they lose Sanity; while they lose 30 Sanity on their own with every turn, they also have 200 of it from the start, in order not to make it too easy to kill them through stress.
  • Big "NO!": One of the Banshee's abilities is a charged-up "Noo!", upgradable to either "Nooo!!!" or "NOOO!!!"
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The first forces that got around to fighting Iratus' minions are disheveled prisoners forced to work in the mines and regularly whipped by cruel Overseers. Among them are criminal rogues who are prone to the betrayal affliction, and then there are the voodoo priestesses who will murder weakened allies for a permanent damage boost. Their Key Master is absolutely corrupt and was known for "accidentally" leaving some prison cells open right as a gang looking to settle scores with the prisoners was in the vicinity. However, they literally stand against a Necromancer who despises life and intends to literally kill off all of the living and reanimate the intact corpses as his slaves (and regularly gloats about how nicely their extinction is coming along). The only consolation is that Iratus' minions are still sentient; some are Punch-Clock Villains, some are eager to serve Iratus, and some are forced to fight for Iratus against their will.
    • In the second region, the Dwarves are not actively malicious towards their kin, but their insatiable greed led to the budget cuts that accidentally led to Iratus' freedom in the first place. They have also lost respect in their traditions and ancestors in favor of technology, with their boss being a genius inventor.
    • In the third and fourth regions, you are then up against the parties of adventurers who are far closer to the cheerful High Fantasy archetypes of Dungeons & Dragons then the grizzled warriors of Darkest Dungeon, just to amplify the contrast when you butcher them. However, they also employ the Pyromancer, a Psycho for Hire who can barely control her fire magic and the Monster Slayed who became a killer for hire after the number of Blighters was thinning out.
      • Evil Versus Evil: The final battle against the Grand Magister firmly entrenches it as an evil against evil struggle; while the forces of death are definitely evil, the Grand Magister is no better. He enslaved thousands under minute charges to work in the mines, and used the proceeds to buy technology from the Dwarves, and when his embezzlement inadvertently freed Iratus, he used the chaos to conquer nearby kingdoms and other races, all while his Corrupt Church purged the 'heretics' with painful executions to make his Order look good.
  • Black Knight: The Dark Knight is one of Iratus' available starting troops. Their description calls them "A manifestation of living void contained within a suit of knightly armor" and goes further to note that they "despise existence and seek to reduce everything to nothing.".
    • Due to being essentially empty suits, however, they actually have one of the lower HP values and lower base damage then the Skeletons: moreover, their only straight-up physical attack only deals half of that value, and even the gimmick where they deal additional damage equivalent to 50% of their current Armor and Resistance values only just gets it up to base damage at the best of times. Thus, they are chiefly about inflicting stress damage through things like their empty gaze or "Futile Hopes" stance (which automatically inflicts stress damage to enemies every time they receive a buff.) Moreover, they get to heal themselves through Life Drain that hits the entire group of enemies as well.
  • Brainwashed: Again, the Brides of Iratus, who are specifically assembled and brainwashed so that they can only think of how much they love him and how much they want to kill anyone who could have harmed him. Their "Thoughts of Him" ability increases their all their damage per turn by 10 by making them look at a magical image of Iratus, and can be upgraded to 14 with an upgrade that renames the ability to "Love Potion".
  • Continuing is Painful: Downplayed. While it obviously hurts to get a whole group of minions wiped out, and it brings you a step closer to failure through running out of troops, the group of defenders who brought them down will still be wounded and/or won't regain their losses when you assault them with your next group. Played straight with bosses, however, as they completely recover to full health and minions to keep you from wearing them down via attrition.
  • Corrupt Cop: The Key Master in charge of the entire underground prison abused his power like crazy, to the point a gang could pay him to leave cell door open so that they could settle scores with another prisoner.
  • Corrupt Church: The Grand Magister leads this. Using the crisis of Iratus rising from the dead to conquer other nations and races and plans to defeat Iratus so he will be seen as a savior and saint.
  • Cowardly Lion: Banshees, despite being excellent instigators of fear, are themselves extremely fearful and would themselves flee if not spurred on by Iratus' will.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Averted in some cases. For instance, Dark Knight's default melee attack gets weaker as they get more damaged, because they are literally sentient void within their suit of armor, and so are extremely dependent on that armor's integrity.
  • Critical Hit: It wouldn't be a Darkest Dungeon-inspired game if sudden crits from either side that could potentially turn the tide of battle weren't present. Some of the skills get unique bonuses from critical hits as well. For instance, Fallen Dhampir's "Aim for the Soul" will restore 30% of MP on a crit.
    • Human Swordsmen will be so upset if they miss an attack that they'll gain +20% accuracy and 50% greater critical hit damage. This is especially deadly if they are paired with the Oracles, who'll mark your minions and ensure every hit they take will be critical.
  • Dem Bones: Skeletons are the most balanced of your basic pawns, with decent early-game defence due to their shield and scraps of plate armor (plus the ability to tank further hits by going into a defensive stance), acceptable reach and damage from their swords, some stress damage attacks, as well as a highly useful ability to negate the enemies' stances with a Shield Bash. Their description even pokes fun at their Jack of All Stats role, stating that they are proud of their mediocrity and consider it in poor taste to be different in any way. They are also immune to both buffs and debuffs (though they can overcome the former with a specific item), and one of their attacks can hit many, many times if said enemy is sufficiently buffed.
  • Demolitions Expert: Your opponents include Sappers, who attack exclusively by throwing the blast charges used for mining.
  • Drop The Hammer: Plain Hammers are wielded by the human Workers, who mainly seem to attack through throwing them. Dwarven Hammerers have electrified hammers that are slammed into the ground to deal great damage to the entire group of minions, but require a turn to charge up, and are also rather inaccurate.
  • Dual Wielding: Dwarven Berserkers carry two axes. Their Golden Golems have four arms and carry a sword in each one of them.
    • In the next stage, elven rangers fight with two swords, and Bandits carry two sickles.
  • Dug Too Deep: The mining operations of the dwarves, who used prisoners sent to them by the human kingdoms as cheap source of labor, are what eventually resulted in a search party locating Iratus' grave. They ignorantly broke the stela with the incantations binding him, thus setting off the entire game into motion.
  • Easy Logistics: Played with. On one hand, you can lose the game through running out of both the undead minions and the "parts" (mostly organs looted from enemies' corpses) to assemble them. On the other hand, the assembly process is still rather simplified. For instance, you only need body parts and some looted metal armor/melee weapons to make Zombies that always carry guns: presumably, you have some offscreen mining facility in your underground lair dedicated to mining sulfur and saltpeter and then burning charcoal to make infinite supplies of black powder for them (since none of the early-game enemies even carry guns).
  • Elite Mooks: Many of the living enemies have Elite versions that are better dressed and have more elaborate equipment.
  • Enemy Chatter: All the living enemy types get their unique lines. While their morale is still high, they can be quite amusing, too.
    Miner: You are even more boring than a shift in the mines.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: The Ghost's melee attack is named "Cold Grasp", and will both deal cold damage and freeze the target in place for the next round.
  • Evil Laugh: Iratus narrates the entire game, and he may sometimes just laugh when his minions score a good crit, or wipe out the group in their way.
  • Fat Bastard: The Key Master is an archetypal example, being fat and visibly unkempt, as well as cruel and corrupt. Nevertheless, he is not half bad with a heavy crossbow, and he and his prisoners are all that stands between Iratus' minions and more sympathetic people. His death is immediately followed by a rampage through the dwarves' domain.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: Dwarves have heavily armored Flamethrower troops. For some reason, they are often somewhere around the third row when the battle starts, even though they can only attack from the front, due to high potential for Friendly Fire.
  • Flunky Boss: The first boss is the prison's Key Master, who'll continue to summon more basic prisoners to fight for him. He can also buff them and restore their sanity by jangling the keys in his hand, sometimes explicitly saying "Hear this? This is the sound of your freedom."
    • The third boss, the Pyromancer, will also summon Fire Elementals to assist her.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Averted. Some of the offensive abilities must hit a certain number of rows, and will end up hitting their own if there are not enough of the enemies to absorb all the damage.
  • Game Over: Part of what makes this game stand out from other Darkest Dungeon inspired games (and also a chief reason why it's so difficult) is that it's actually possible to permanently lose a given run if you run out of usable minions and have too little resources left to create any more, forcing you to start over in the Mines with none of your Talents, buildings, unlocked minions etc.
  • Glowing Eyes: Pretty much all of your minions have eyes that either glow white, or red.
  • Gold-Colored Superiority: The game literally marks elite enemies by giving them golden weapons. Sometimes, it's really amusing, like when you see Elite Miners that are in still in chains and wear neck irons...but those are now golden chains and neck irons, same as their pick-axe.
  • Golem: Stone golems are some of the most threatening guards deployed by the human wardens. They are sturdy, immune to stress effects and burning, and heavily resistant to damage, as attacks that deal less then 16 damage do not even scratch them, unless they are either magical or explicitly armor-piercing. They also have a 50% chance to take a hit for their allies, and deal 26-52 damage with their stone fists (by comparison, your starting minions have between 60 and 125 HP).
    • Amusingly, their "Humanarium" entry states that they were only intended for mining, and that there were even laws passed to prevent the living from doing this dangerous work. Of course,a Golem is said to cost as much as a hundred prisoners stuffed with strength-enhancing potions, and so you face far more half-naked human Miners with chains around their ankles then the Golems.
    • Dwarves deploy Golden Golems, which are much smaller and more humanoid in their shape, but have four arms and carry a sword in each.
    • Iratus can potentially create Bone Golems as well, though it requires A LOT of murder to get enough bones for them.
  • The Goomba: The first opponents faced by your minions are Prisoners, who are dressed in rags and fight with mere daggers, motivated mainly by the promise of receiving reduced sentences. Needless to say, they don't last long up against Dark Knights or cannon-wielding Zombies.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: The three levels you choose from at the start of each run are called "Cakewalk", "Good Always Wins", and "More Pain!".
  • Life Drain: Dark Knight's "Hunger of the Void" skill drains a fraction of life from all of the living enemies, and transfers it to them.
  • Horny Vikings: Dark Knights wear helmets tipped with large, straight horns. Dwarven Berserkers have one full horn on their helmet, with the other being mysteriously broken, and human Barbarians have large, curved ram-like horns.
  • Monster Compendium: In keeping up with the premise, it's called "Humanarium" here and mainly describes the living fighters (with the occasional golems and such) standing in the breach against your monsters.
  • Morale Mechanic: Your living opponents are demoralized when they suffer losses and receive crits, and receive morale boosts when they bring down your minions and inflict their own crits. Many of the minions also possess their own attacks that inflict stress damage, which will eventually push the enemies to insanity (though this sometimes makes them stronger) and eventually outright kills them. You can even defeat bosses in this manner, and stress-based party builds are often outright overpowered, though this may yet get fixed by the time of full release.
  • Mummy: One of the undead minion types under your command, unlocked once you manage to upgrade at least one minion to 5th level. They are also really versatile, able to attack physically, curse enemies with their touch for a Damage Over Time, inflict stress damage, reduce enemies' luck, and even use their affinity with curses to remove debuffs from the rest of the group, which can be used to either provide Iratus with Anger to fuel stronger of the minions' moves, or to heal themselves. A group of four Mummies can thus last through a lot of engagements.
  • Nintendo Hard: The game is usually considered even harder than the already infamously difficult Darkest Dungeon was. For one thing, there are no in-battle healers for the undead, only the occasional units like Dark Knights who can perform Life Drain. This means that unless you found a game-breaking build, the question is often not longer whether your current party can make it through the next dungeon whole, but whether they can make it through the next encounter. While your minions go back to Iratus' crypt after every battle, and the wounded ones can be left to recover and swapped out for fresh ones, it's easy to lose one or more minions per battle, and you can only gain new ones through assembling them from body parts looted after victories.
    • The entire game can also end very early if you simply run out of minions and the supplies to make them, in stark contrast to Darkest Dungeon, where the Hamlet had no shortage of desperate men and women willing to fight for free for a chance to escape the demons of the past, and only the hardest difficulty could result in the entire run failing due to sustaining too many casualties or exceeding a time limit.
    • On the flip side, the game, while still in an early and incomplete stage, looks set to be a lot shorter than Darkest Dungeon, with a duration closer to something like Slay the Spire. Most importantly, only defeat each boss once, and then put the entire level behind you once you do, transitioning to the next chapter of the game, of which there are currently three. The more broken builds (mostly those assembled around stress spamming) hardly take any casualties during combat and can breeze through the entire Early Access version in 3-4 hours.
  • Our Banshees Are Louder: Banshees are ghostly women that are completely unable to attack physically, but are focused on psychological damage instead, which can eventually kill their enemies just as well. They also have the "Absorb Fear" ability, which actually restores the enemies' sanity...but also converts all that fear into mana, allowing Iratus to rain down pain with offensive spells. Moreover, restoring Berserkers' sanity will drastically slash the damage they are dealing.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Wraiths, the lore indicates that a wraith is an Necromancer who went too far with his attempts to cheat death, to the point he lost most of his power and the result terrified even the rest of the Necromancers back when they still had a Guild. Now, though Iratus is the only Necromancer left and no longer bound by Guild's restrictions. In combat, he is a bluish hooded figure, and is most effective at dealing stress damage, but unlike Banshees, he can also do real damage through curses and Cold Grasp. Moreover, he has good magical defenses as well.
  • Our Ghouls Are Creepier: The default ghoul model is a green-skinned female redhead with sharp, blood-drenched fangs and claws.
  • Our Liches Are Different: Subverted in that these powerful magical minions are not really true liches since they lack a phylactery or an actual soul, but Iratus "borrows" the design of true liches and imbue these pseudo-liches with a portion of his power and escense. They have been known to take on the mannerism of their creator.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Zombies here are much stronger than the usual example, because Iratus saw how much recoil can be absorbed by a dead body, and gave all his zombies straight-up cannons (plus a pistol sidearm). Thus, they are the party's ranged tanks, as they have low initiative but some of the highest HP of all early-game troops. The actual cannonballs are just as powerful as you would expect, but require a lot of rage build-up, and have a larger-than-average miss chance, so their main attacks are grapeshot (which hits the entire group, but only deals 7-8 damage to each), pistol shot, and/or Bombardment from the back ranks.
  • Powered Armor: Dwarven Hammerers are completely encased in the heavily armored equivalent to a diver's suit.
  • Power Fist: Punching with powered bronze fist is an alternate attack of the Hammerers. While obviously weaker than their mighty hammer, it also doesn't require any charge-up time.
  • Powerful Pick: These are the main weapon of the Miners, though they also complement it with a torch.
  • Power Floats: The more ethereal spellcaster minions like Banshees, Ghosts and Liches will always float above the ground. The human mages will also briefly lift off the ground when casting some of their spells.
  • Randomly Drops: Many of the post-encounter drops are random, although investing points into Alchemy raises the probability of certain drops, like Brains, Architect's Souls or just plain body parts.
  • Resurrective Immortality: Iratus will be reborn when killed, but his body can be bound with incantations, which is exactly what happened the last time he attempted to Take Over the World, and it was only the appearance of a party of prisoners looking for easy loot that freed him. Should he run out of minions and resources, you'll be shown a Game Over screen where he gets butchered by the victorious living, and a message "You can now go back to sleep...or restart the game and try again!"
    • However, his immortality is not 100% complete, as he knows that the world will eventually end, and when it does, even he will die with it. Thus, his main motivation for the whole campaign you are waging is to see the plans he hatched for millennia come to fruition before it happens.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Your living opponents have a chance of fleeing from the battlefield when things go south. They'll be marked with a white flag symbol if they are about to escape on their next turn. Depending on how well the battle is going, you can either focus attacks and try to finish them off to get their body parts, or focus on bringing down those that are still an active threat.
    • Moreover, the only way to unlock Vampires as a minion type is to cast a spell that infects the living with vampirism onto a living warrior, and then letting them flee. Doing this five times unlocks the encounters with Dhampir enemies, and getting five Dhampirs to join your side unlocks Fallen Dhampirs as a permanent recruitable unit.
    • If a battle is going badly, you can command one of your minions to sound a full retreat, causing the other three minions to escape on their turns, but forcing the minion who sounded the retreat to take an entire round of the enemy party wailing on them, which typically maims or kills them. However, Iratus cannot retreat completely; the enemy party must be fought again and again until they die. On the plus side, the enemy does not restore health or sanity between fights.
  • Shield Bash: Skeleton's "Put in their place" attack amounts to a shield bash. While not as damaging as a sword slash, it has the advantage of completely interrupting the enemy's stance, which becomes increasingly important against more advanced enemies like Oracles, Sappers, or Hammerers, whose stances lead up to exceedingly powerful attacks.
  • Shield-Bearing Mook: The normal dwarven warriors carry shields and can "raise shields" to buff their defence. Their flamethrower wielders carry shields as well.
    • The human adventurer parties can also contain heavily armored Defenders, who carry large tower shields.
  • Shock and Awe: Fallen Dhampir minions use electrical attacks such as Lighting Dash. Zombies' Bombardment can also be upgraded to deal electrical damage (and thus bypass the armor of tough enemies like golems).
    • Dwarven Hammerers wield powerful electrified hammers that may hit all of Iratus' minions at once with blasts of lightning. Thankfully, they can only use them after a spending a turn on charging up, which gives you a chance to interrupt them with a stance-breaking attack. They are also one of the least accurate units around.
  • Shoot the Medic First: The Oracles' ability to heal allies is certainly no boon to you, but it's not even the main reason to prioritise them. Their ability to mark your minions and make them receive automatic crits for the next few turns, as well as a stance where they skip a turn in order to unleash a holy attack on your entire party is, however.
  • Skeletons in the Coat Closet: Brides of Iratus wear very skimpy outfits that are mainly composed of bones in a few strategic places. This likely explains why they are one of your most fragile units, with even a skeleton exceeding their HP count by a third.
  • Smoke Out: There's a Smoke Bomb item which can be equipped on Iratus so that it'll be automatically deployed during the next fight, slashing the enemies' accuracy for its duration.
  • Stance System: Both minions and their living opponents can go into stances to receive various benefits and/or charge up an attack that'll be unleashed next turn. There are also skills that'll nullify stances.
  • Technicolor Toxin: The poison clouds created by Liches are green in color.
  • Villain Protagonist: Iratus is a very much evil necromancer who outright refers to life as a "disease" he intends to extinguish, and reanimates undead minions to hack their way through the living guards desperately trying to keep his hordes from reaching the surface, then has them gather the flesh of the fallen to reanimate into further undead minion types. The only consolation is that his minions still retain a sentience and some personality, to the point they can be placed in a library to study books (and convey what they learned to Iratus for minor experience gain) and may even taunt the living warriors with "Don't resist, and we'll resurrect you!"
  • Weakened by the Light: Played straight with your minions. Even the basic Workers can use the light from their oil lanterns to slash their accuracy by 30%.
  • Whip of Dominance: Overseers carry whips. While these deal little damage (and will often outright fail to get through your minions' armor), they have no qualms about using them to enforce discipline among their underlings, thus buffing their accuracy and damage while pushing them to the front lines. Ironically, groups containing multiple Overseers may even see them whip each other. Iratus can learn a magic spell portrayed with a whip, which also pushes a minion forward and buffs their accuracynote .
  • You All Look Familiar: All units of the same type are identical to one another, with elite versions getting a gold paint job. The same applies to Iratus' minions, but they can be dressed up in skins.