Undead Inc. Review – It Rarely “Endswell”

A fun roguelike management sim that needed more time in the oven

Posted By | On 06th, May. 2024

Undead Inc. Review – It Rarely “Endswell”

Undead Inc. gives players the reigns of managing a morally ambiguous medical facility, and let me tell you, the experience is a fun and frustrating one in equal measure. Rightsized Games and Team17 have crafted a tightly balanced management sim with an engaging roguelike structure. The roguelike progression kicks in when the authorities put pressure on your medical business, forcing you to extract personnel to start a new subsidiary all over again. It’s an engaging loop tarnished by bugs and some small interface inconveniences. Perhaps worst of all, it’s a design that loses its luster after just a couple playthroughs, as the variety of content and replay value dries up quicker than other management sims. But I’m getting ahead of myself, the core gameplay is still worth exploring here, so we’ll do just that.

If you’ve played resource management games before, you’ll be familiar with the kind of gameplay Undead Inc. offers. The three different map biomes are divided into cells comprising the various properties you build and manage. As a director of an Endswell Medical subsidiary, you rent property and hire medical staff to sell pharmaceutical treatments and diagnose patients. There’s a feeling of pride when you hit a point in the gameplay loop when the cash flow from your operations overtakes the cost of building it all. Sitting back and watching your doctors and patients successfully generate profit in the well-oiled machine you’ve established provides a sense of accomplishment and joy that occasionally rivals the highs of other management sims. But the feeling of accomplishment is always short-lived in Undead Inc. due to the entropy of its risk/reward roguelike loop, and because of its modest quantity of content.

"Raking in cash is fun and rewarding, but very short-lived."

Undead Inc. expects you to engage in black market operations after establishing the basic above-board medical facilities. I tried avoiding the black market entirely during several runs, but the lack of available properties and rental space above-ground, in addition to the large franchise fee, rendered it a fruitless endeavor every time. The game funnels the player into performing a very specific routine to succeed, and there’s not much freedom or creativity left for the player to come up with unique solutions.

You must excavate and risk fighting gangs underground to establish black market money flow to succeed. Just as there’s no way to avoid black market deals in Undead Inc., there’s no way to avoid the pressure of the law and the need to do extraction. The cops will discover your underground base and catch employees in their transit to and from work, ultimately leading to employee casualties and large fines. This comprises Undead Inc.’s roguelike loop: establish above-board operations, expand into the black market, and extract what you can to start a new loop. It’s a fun loop, but it offers very little flexibility in playstyle and a shallow content pool.

Undead Inc

"Black Market operations are fun to research and employ."

Despite all the covert underground activities like researching bio-weapons and manufacturing mutant gorillas, what you see is what you get, with very little new to explore after the first handful of successful campaigns. Career Mode mitigates this lack of content with randomized biome maps instead of the pre-set maps in Scenario Mode, but randomization can only do so much when there’s not a lot of content to play with in the first place.

The dozens of perks and goals add replayability by giving you checklists to work toward, sure, but they don’t vary up the gameplay much, instead providing an achievement system that rewards you with buffs and advantages during a campaign. I built 90% of the legal facilities in my first couple of hours of play and researched all the above-board pharmaceuticals in no time. There’s only one basic doctor’s office and one pharmacy you’ll be building the entire game with no variations on them whatsoever. The scant amount of above-board facilities is likely a design decision intended to funnel the player into the black market, yet this intention renders the basic phase underbaked and redundant.

The game could’ve done a better job of giving the player some creative tools like color schemes or custom names for employees to vary up the content. As it stands, there’s almost nothing you can customize in Undead Inc. If you want a more streamlined, linear sim experience, Undead Inc., does a good job supplying that.

Undead Inc

"You cannot customize your workers, and the lack of at-a-glance info is a bummer."

But at the end of the day, if it feels great to control, lack of customization can be overlooked, right? Well, unfortunately, Undead Inc. is hit-and-miss when it comes to its interface and controls. One great thing about Undead Inc. is how easy its systems are to understand. The tutorial is optional and well-explained with story tidbits to keep one entertained throughout. I don’t play a ton of management sims, and even I felt at home with the familiar information overlays and drag-and-click gameplay of Undead Inc. Undead Inc. runs at a smooth 120 FPS on mid-powered PCs, to the point where even my five-year-old laptop could run it smoothly. The game is optimized well for a variety of setups and plays silky smooth with intuitive mouse and keyboard controls.

It’s a shame then, that there’s not more convenience features in some of the menus and overlays. I can’t count the number of times I wanted to highlight multiple workers to send them to a single location, either to mount a collective assault against the gangs or to gather maintenance workers to fix a bunch of rooms. You cannot control more than one worker at a time, which causes problems when you need multiple people for a situation ASAP.

What compounds this issue the inability to tell what a character is doing at a glance. You have to either manually find them on the map, or click on the Characters tab and then individually click on each character’s profile. That’s a total of three separate clicks just to see what your characters are doing, which is a tad much for multi-task-centered games like Undead Inc. There really should be a quick overlay that gives you character status at a glance like other management sims. The game has three fast-forward toggles and conveniently placed facility tabs, so it’s disappointing that controlling your workers is so clunky in comparison to the other intuitive menu designs within Undead Inc.

Undead Inc

"Each mode has a limit of one save file accompanied by consistent autosaving."

By far, the biggest convenience flaw in Undead Inc. is the forced ironman mode limiting you to a single save file per mode. It belwilders me why a game that encourages trying out the different Directors and biomes would lock you to a single save file per mode where choices are set in stone with constant autosaving. People love experimenting with different scenarios and campaigns in management sim games, so I have no idea why this forced single save system exists in Undead Inc.

That leads me to the thing that makes me loathe loading up Undead Inc. the most: the bugs. The pre-launch bugs were bad in Undead Inc., breaking my save files multiple times and crashing the game consistently.  Kudos to the devs for being transparent about existing bugs such as the one mentioned, but the mere existence of these pre-launch bugs just magnifies the cons of a single save file auto-save system even more. Team17 has assured us that these known bugs are being fixed ahead of launch, but these problems should still be addressed here since it’s the version being reviewed.

Undead Inc

"Bugs permeated my time with Undead Inc., but thankfully most of these should be patched ahead of launch."

Undead Inc. Is a fun and engaging management sim that provides a roguelike loop rife with future potential. Despite all the criticisms I have with the single-save system or the bugs, I was consistently engaged throughout the entire experience. The multi-tasking is fun and there’s a great satisfaction in those rarified moments when you feel on top of everything. I look forward to returning to Endswell Medical, but not until it gets a makeover with some patches. What we have with Undead Inc. are the beginnings of a great game with some novel ideas and a fun gameplay loop. I’m looking forward to the customization that modders will inevitably add to the game, as well as future expansions including more content. But as it stands, Undead Inc. is an underbaked management sim with a unique and promising roguelike structure.

This game was reviewed on the PC.


THE GOOD

Controls and game structure are easy to understand, which is helped by an excellent optional tutorial; Multi-tasking the various facilities and employees running them is engaging and satisfying; The roguelike structure is promising, even if it lacks content to keep players coming back for more.

THE BAD

Interface design isn’t as convenient as it should be; Single save file per mode with forced autosaving is way too restricting; No customization options and no way to vary up playstyles outside of picking a Director and perks; The lack of unique biomes, facilities, and research hurts the game’s longevity; Numerous bugs and crashes infesting the pre-release version of the game I played.

Final Verdict:
FAIR
A fun but flawed management sim with a compelling roguelike loop. Lack of customization and content prevent Undead Inc. from reaching its potential.
A copy of this game was provided by Developer/Publisher/Distributor/PR Agency for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.

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