It didn't have a name. Not affiliated with any government, not owned by any company, those that worked for it simply called it the Agency. Its mission - to combat the forces of the undead, both in the Old World and the New; to protect civilisation from the forces of darkness.
As a new recruit to the Agency, your task is simple enough. Take on the various missions on offer, go to the darkest corners of the Earth and slay the ghosts, demons, vampires, werewolves, monsters and other evil creatures therein. Standard issue equipment is a trusty old six-shooter pistol and a two-handed medieval broadsword, but there are more weapons to be found as well as other useful equipment (a backpack, silver bullets, trophies for instance). You'll also encounter bonuses that temporarily boost your abilities.
Control your agent as he wanders forests, catacombs and crypts with the keyboard, looking around and aiming with the mouse. You can switch weapons with the number keys or the mouse scroll wheel. Be careful to conserve ammunition - extra ammo can be found amongst the random pickups and bonuses but the type and frequency is entirely random. You also have a limited stock of dynamite, handy for when a horde of nasties are closing in. Blast away (or swing, in the case of the broadsword) at the encroaching horrors to clear whole rooms - a cleared room is safe for the rest of the mission, while leaving before every monster is gone will mean they respawn.
Missions are varied - ones not related to the plot include the standard "wipe out all enemies", destroying curses (smash the curse markers in key rooms) and killing guardian or boss monsters. The plot missions relate to a deadly talisman, discovered by five adventurers and broken up between them, and your quest to retrieve all the components before terrible evil befalls. But all missions play in much the same way - go in, blast everything, try not to die. Scoring points means levelling up, and that means enhancing your attributes as you see fit.
Larva Mortus is, quite frankly, gorgeous. The intro sequence plays like a film - the graphical style and animation is minimalist but works very well. The visuals for the map, the trophy room, the equipment room and so on all echo a gothic feel from the beginning of the twentieth century - even the weaponry on offer is reasonably period (forgiving Mr Tesla's electrical offering). The main game itself is actually a little at odds with this, looking very slightly more clean cut and modern, but the atmosphere is not hindered.
Atmosphere is something that Larva Mortus oozes, helped in no small way by the moody, orchestral music. It fits the theme perfectly, and varies between missions. There are also tons of sound effects that include gunshots, monsters, explosions, doors, traps... Both the sound effects and music volume can be individually adjusted, and there's also a master volume that affects both at once.
So far I have died about twenty times. And I keep coming back for more! Dying, ironically enough, is not fatal - if you fail a mission you can try another one (plot missions are always available). You can always play easier sub-missions in order to gain experience and equipment, and indeed you have to gain some experience before you can start on the plot. Every mission is randomly generated, as are the monsters and the pickups, so you'll never play quite the same mission twice.
There are some issues, of course. The random mission effect is rather irritating when one wishes to try again with different tactics, for instance. The crossbow is a pretty weak weapon of strange properties and appears to be the most imbalanced of an otherwise well balanced array of firepower. I collected all eight main weapons in relatively short order, which initially gave me concern that the development curve was too swift, yet the additional items that enhance your weapons continue to surprise me even now. Ammunition is often an issue - choosing the right weapon for the right enemy type is the lynchpin of your strategy.
This is an absolutely fabulous offering and one that demands a look. Download the demo and give it a try - once you're blasting away and levelling up, I know you won't be able to resist. Get in there and do the monster mash...
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