Dread Templar is a return to the classic days of shooting games. A time when players had to memorize a level layout with no objective markers, forced side missions, or escort quests to distract them. The title takes us back to the basic roots of the FPS genre, and there are only 2 rules here; Destroy or be destroyed. Let’s dive right into our Dread Templar review, which I think is easily one of the most fun retro shooters coming out of early access.
Dread Templar is a game that clearly shows a lot of love from the developer for the retro shooter genre. It’s a love letter to fans of classic shooters like Doom and Quake, but without all the frantic rocket jumping to propel you miles above your enemy. To replace rocket jumping is a smooth animation that resembles walking, paired with the ability to do a dash, and slow down time to the point where the enemies don’t appear to be moving, but you are.
In all of its intricacies, Dread Templar is an exemplary game that truly shows it is a mix of modern and traditional FPS games. There are no objectives constantly flashing on the screen, no AI companions to watch after, just hoards of enemies to combat in a variety of settings, with an even broader assortment of weapons and lots of gore and violence to complement an excellent gaming experience.
The gameplay is front and center here. As the Dread Templar, you have a wide range of weapons at your disposal to use at your behest. As you progress through the game you also improve and upgrade your arsenal of weapons to unlock alternative firing modes for them. These come at the cost of consuming ammo at a faster pace. Some moments even took me back to the days of the Serious Sam and Painkiller games which also followed a similar formula of filling your screen with enemies to murder as you best see fit.
Your weapons range from the basic pistol to shotgun, and even a powered-up gauntlet that just empties the screen in one shot if aimed right. Each weapon has an alternate firing mode which you can activate by right-clicking on the selected weapon. The pistol for instance becomes similar to an Uzi, and the shotgun turns into a sawed-off. Different weapons have varying ranges of pros and cons when using their alternate fire to fight the endless waves of enemies, but to counter this, ammo is also generously peppered throughout the experience. While you won’t always find the ammo for your preferred weapon, it also is a lesson in adapting and making the most of what you have versus what you wanted.
The beautiful display of watching enemies explode when you shotgun them, and use your Katana to further destroy their corpses into a messy explosion of blood is a very satisfying feeling which is also a very cool detail in the game that just goes to show the levels of blood the game has attached to it.
I love the Katana
The highlight of the game is the Katana. The weapons need no ammunition, and the alternate fire turns it into a devastating spear-like weapon that can be thrown at enemies, however, at the cost of a VERY lengthy cooldown. However, combining the Katana with your ranged weapons becomes a great way to fight enemies later in the game. It can prove really rewarding once you start timing using your Katana, throwing it at an enemy, switching back to your weapons, and repeating. It really helps make a very chaotic yet meticulous gaming experience like no other.
The other weapon that gets a highlight is the bow and arrow. This is also very versatile as you have more ammo at your disposal when compared to the Katana. All you have to do is wait for the arrows to refill automatically, no need to find separate ammo for them.
Upgrades and Enemy Variety
Lastly, another major feature of the title is the ability to upgrade yourself and your weapons as you play. With the help of a simplified token system, you can explore the game and even hidden parts of the game called Side Areas, where you can find these as rewards and more with the prospect of upgrading your weapons to fit more damage, capacity, cancel reload, and other perks to your weapons that can make them even more powerful for later levels.
The enemy variety here is no joke. You have enemies who will fight you at a range, up close, with weapons, and many other ways for them to change their way of fighting you. The game does not reward one style of play, you must always be vigilant and alert when it comes to fighting enemies in a room, as death can easily come from even the most basic enemy you take your eyes off.
With the current gaming generation’s obsession with graphics, anything that does not resemble a real-world parallel is considered outdated or ‘ugly’. The game laughs at this vehemently and shows a gritty, classic take on graphics that resembles the 1990s to 2000s era of shooters, where levels are simple when it comes to graphics but complex in layout. This can make backtracking a little challenging if you do not pay attention to where you are and where you need to go.
The graphics are simplistic yet beautiful for the genre. This is technically a callback to simpler graphics, but also nostalgia for the fans of these games who thoroughly enjoy the visual aesthetic of caves, abandoned temples, and other similar setpieces that have become a rarity in the modern-day gaming landscape.
That is to say, the graphics are anything but dull and lifeless, but the lighting effects and carefully chosen design here really helps make this game feel old yet new at the same time.
This is easily the shortest part of the review, as there IS a story, but it’s not the center of the adventure. You are basically hunting down a demon to get your soul back or something like that. There is no context or juxtaposition here to help you establish a clear direction of why you are killing endless hordes of enemies across each level, you just are doing it for the sake of doing it.
Ordinarily, this is where I feel the game could have been better. Though considering the source material that inspired the title, I can say this is a place where you won’t be motivated to buy the game for its story, rather the fast-paced action that awaits you and the variety of methods you can employ getting to that brass tacks action with little to no interruptions along the way.
The sounds are easily my favorite aspect of the game as well. From the sound effects of the enemies to the metal music matching the tempo of the action going on screen, the game does a brilliant job of making sure you are visually and musically stimulated throughout your experience. Metal is not my most listened-to genre by any stretch of the imagination, but I still found the music to be rhythmic and really fit well with the action on display, where I felt it was scripted, but each enemy encounter has music that fits the current combat going on, and you rarely ever get to hear the same beat with each encounter as the duration of these battles can last a few seconds to even minutes.
The weapons, environment, and other aspects of the sound are also well-designed, so you always feel like you are in a world where your movement matters. Every step you take has a purpose, and there is music to match it, which, while it sounds bizarre, is something you must experience for yourself by playing the game to discover this.
Dread Templar is the right game for you if you miss classic shooters like Doom, Quake, Painkiller, or Serious Sam. You will encounter enemies at a variety of locations ranging from packed hallways to open areas which have an entire buffet of enemies where you are either the predator or the prey. How you handle the situation is up to you and your utilization of weapons currently at your disposal.
There are no mini-maps, objective markers, and very little handholding here. This is not a game for fans of arcade shooters, you have to combine movement with rapid aiming to fully survive the 20+ levels in the game. There are additional game modes here, like a Horde mode, for you to have a curated experience and sharpen your FPS skills. This is a game that, if you get good at it, will reward you with a rush and excitement that few other games offer.
If you liked titles like Prodeus, or Cultic, this is another game that will be right up your alley. The system requirements are generous enough to where any computer built in the last 10 years can run it at 60 FPS with no doubt in my mind.
What did you think of our Dread Templar Review? Share what you think about it in the comments below.
This review is based on the PC version of Dread Templar. The key was provided by Dead Good PR.