There is something quite delicious about being evil within a videogame. Normally we are tasked with saving the world, but in this early access preview the name of the game is wanton destruction and apparently the extermination of a large amount of animals. Those poor, poor chickens.
Playing like a cross between a top down shooter and a strategy simulation Nekro tasks you with controlling a demon that has the ability to raise other demons from the dead and control various elements of the world while attempting to complete a set challenge. This could be the elimination of a target, the collection of souls or a standoff where the quest is to simply hold the position. In the early levels they do pack in a variety of goals, it rarely asks you to do the same thing twice and the continuous changes are a good sign of things to come.
The upgrade system is also interesting, allowing me to unlock and upgrade both the demons I can summon and my main avatar. The amount of options is initially bewildering, and sometimes the best upgrade path to take is not always obvious. However this variety of choice is welcome, and it should allow me to customise in the way I want and create a reasonably unique style. For example I concentrated mostly on my demons, making them stronger and finding buffs that would assist them in battle with the intention to stay in the background and support from afar. However that idea does run into some problems while actually playing the game.
On the field itself the action plays out in a standard loop of killing, eating, earning blood and raising demons. The blood earned from the eating of the dead provides the ability to summon various demons based on what you have unlocked in the skill tree. There is a tipping point where the action can get a little frantic when moving, eating and rising whilst being chased by a large and varied amount of bad guys but, at least initially, it is not too much of a problem.
There is a problem however, one that caused me to be entirely unable to progress past level 7 and ultimately curtail my whole experience. Up to that point the progression had been tough but manageable. Balancing my army with my own abilities was creating a sense of triumph when a level was completed and there was some interesting choices I had to make when planning my assault so that I did not find myself in too much trouble.
But level 7 changed all of that. Tasking me to destroy a statue while being assaulted by waves of bad guys is simply too hard at such an early stage. Hitting me with high level enemies that have a lot of hit points and strong attacks led to my forces being decimated within minutes which left me running around the level trying to do too many things at the same time, never having enough fingers or accuracy to complete any of it. Quite simply it put a stop to the game, it gave me a brick wall I could see no way of getting past and without the option to respec your abilities, I was unable to try a different way. If I passed the level it would be luck more than outright skill.
It is unfortunately incredibly frustrating and feels more like the end of the game rather than the start. The learning curve, which had already been a little harsh, but still manageable, is completely skewed at this stage with the only option to restart and hope that your next playthrough with different options provides a better chance of progress.
Of course this is still in early access and the fact that this is being updated regularly this particular issue may not be there after future patches and looking on the forums this has already been flagged as a problem area. There is no reason to believe this will not be looked at going forward.
For the moment however it is a bit of a progress stopper, something that was both unexpected and unwelcome. The building blocks for this title are interesting, and there is definitely a genesis here to latch onto, but further development and a bit more refinement is required. I want to enjoy this game, and I was starting to, but there are blockers currently in place that undermine the initial efforts. I hope the developers can continue to even out this difficulty curve, if they do I will definitely return as, after all, it is so good to be so bad.