Necromancer Returns is a turn based fantasy army tactics game. It’s incredibly reminiscent of the Heroes of Might & Magic franchise. You follow the Princess in her attempts to regain her lost lands whilst converting the local citizens and monsters to join her army. In all honesty the story is rather shallow, although some of the interactions with characters are quite comical, the writing isn’t exactly groundbreaking and I found myself half-reading and skipping bits towards the end as the story was built on well-known tropes.
The core gameplay really isn’t too different from Heroes of Might & Magic, during combat you have a bird’s eye view of the battlefield, the battlefield is broken into hexagons, with each hexagon representing a legal space for both your units and enemy ones.
Each character is allowed to move X amount of hexagons (it varies for each unit), then they can make an attack (if possible), which is different from the Heroes series. Another difference to Heroes is that your units revive at the end of combat; however the more friendly units that die, equals less gold at the end. I personally really liked this system, as I find nothing more frustrating than loosing 90% of my army to some poor decisions then having to grind to get it back, instead you always end a game on full-strength.
Now the Princess isn’t just a pretty face, she is a hero character in which you can teach various spells to buff your units or kill enemies. The amount of spells you can learn is very limited and you can only gain new spells via levelling up. Although once you learn Freeze and/or Fire Wave, you won’t need another spell again as they’re both stupidly unbalanced. Freeze stops an enemy from making attacks for two turns, whilst Fire Wave does a large amount of damage to all enemies on the field (regardless of their position, you don’t need to target, it just mulches enemies). Whilst it’s always fun to be overpowered, I do think this lack of variation made the game get stale rather quick as their isn’t exactly a lot of builds available so I found myself spamming the same abilities over and over as they got the job done the quickest. Whilst this is probably my fault for being obsessed with Min/Maxing, I still think a bit more diversity would do the game a world of good.
This is one of my biggest issues with the game, there wasn’t enough of it. I think the way it plays is fantastic as it is a more refined version of one of my favorite games, Heroes of Might & Magic 3. I’m aware I’m drawing a lot of parallels between this game and Heroes, but if you play both you will understand. Even many of the enemies come straight from Heroes of Might & Magic, having the same abilities in Battle Monsters 2 as they do in Heroes. For example, Harpies, Cyclops, Griffins and Ents have the exact same abilities and playstyles in both Battle Monsters 2 and Heroes of Might and Magic, whilst I’m sure they’re just trying pay homage, I still think it’s a bit too similar for my tastes.
Now one of the most important parts, the army you can build.
By the end of the game you have 8 different units that may be recruited to fight for you, each unit that can be upgraded into a more powerful version after earning X amount of XP. I gained the achievement for upgrading all units which made me think you could only pick from 8 types of monster, however the army browser leaves space for two extra units (which would bring the grand total to 10), yet I couldn’t find a way to unlock them, so I’m not sure if it’s bad UI or my inability to find secrets.
Fig 1 – My biggest issue with the UI, I’m not sure if I’ve missed something but I’m fairly confident you can’t unlock any more units.
I do feel that the army also lacks variation, whilst each unit does play incredibly different to one another and each one does have a second form encouraging you to play and level up selected units, 8 still seems a tad lackluster, especially as there are no alternative heroes or campaigns.
The game offers two ways to play, the campaign, which teaches you how to play and is also pretty fun. Then there is Survival mode, which is exactly what you expect. You get to draft an army (which actually has more units than the campaign as you can also play as some of the enemy monsters), pick a hero (out of the Princess or what I believe to be two of the game devs), then see how long you can grind it out with your final score being posted on a leader board.
The games art style is quite cute, as its rement of some of the bigger Newgrounds games (if you didn’t grow up spending your time playing flash games like me, then go visit Newgrounds and catch up on some missed childhood), this is due to its Flash style art and animation. I have no complaints over its style, but this is also going to be the next Okami, it’s nice but nothing groundbreaking or too unique.
If you’ve read some of my other reviews you’ll know I’m a bit of an audiophile and I’m a little bit over critical of a game’s soundtrack and here we are again with another completely forgettable OST. The music faded so easily into the background I hardly noticed it was there, whilst this isn’t terrible, it also means there was nothing special that stood out.
This also goes to the sound effects, they serve a purpose and fit in with the thematic of the game, but they’re also nothing too special.
The controls are the easiest to learn and master. Why I bet you ask? Because everything can be done via the mouse and I’m always a fan of a game I can pet my cat and play. It’s simply a case of click to activate; you click to move, click to pick abilities and click to kill!
In terms of challenge I found this game incredibly easy, I think I lost one battle in the entire campaign and that’s only because I attacked something that you’re meant to come back to during the end game. I will admit I am a veteran to these games so it defiantly came a bit more naturally to me, however I’m sure even the biggest turn based n00b could easily learn how to play.
Now here is one of my biggest gripes, the game is incredibly short, I personally completed the campaign in one 4 or 5 hour sitting (however I am a power player, there is probably around 6 hours of campaign to non-turn based veterans) and there is very little in terms of replayability. There is no incentive to play through the campaign again as there are no difficulties, there is no new game+, nor is there an after game or any DLC, the only other thing to do is play survival.
Now survival does add another few hours of life to the game and it is still in development meaning more units will get added eventually, yet in its current form it’s not enough to keep me engaged.
Now I’m aware that a lot of negative things have been said about Necromancer Returns, but that doesn’t make it a bad game. I just feel that’s it flawed due to its lack of variation. The gameplays fantastically, I’ve had no bugs or glitches and I really did find myself lost in micromanaging my army during the campaign. I know that is an indie game, so it’s much harder to create large amounts of unique and varied assets, but Heroes of Might & Magic 3 (the game it tries to be) came out in 1999 and offers 9 different armies and multiple campaigns.
So to conclude, I’d recommend Necromancer Returns to anyone looking for something to kill a few hours or to those that have played the Heroes series to death. But if you haven’t played many turn based army games, I’d recommend Heroes of Might and Magic and X-Com long before I’d recommend this.
Author Jack Brunet