So many boomer shooters to choose from and so little time. We're a lucky lot, FPS fans—we are absolutely spoiled for choice! It can be easy to gloss over many of these FPS titles, and sometimes they simply fall under the radar. With that in mind, it would be a real shame if Dread Templar shared that unfortunate fate. It can be rather unassuming at first, but if you give Dread Templar some time, you'll have one word bouncing around in your head by the time you're done with its Early Access build: Badass.
Dread Templar is developed by a single individual at T19 Games and is published by 1C Entertainment, known for other titles such as Graven and Wrath: Aeon of Ruin. This experience throws players into literal Hell. Your job? Slay the demons. Utilizing a special dash ability and a bullet-time mode, you'll be pumping demons full of lead through this roughly three-hour experience.
The Tools of the Trade in Dread Templar
Dread Templar hits a lot of good notes—notes essential for a well-crafted boomer shooter. The first thing that impressed me right away was the sound design. Sound design is integral to any good FPS game. For one, the guns should sound powerful. The first gun you receive in Dread Templar (or guns, rather) are pistols that you duel-wield. These wicked twins are total beasts and sound the part. These pistols have one of, if not the most, satisfying gun sounds I've heard in a long time. With these, you'll be slinging lead like Revy from "Black Lagoon" and be just as menacing.
I'm happy to report that the other weapons are equally girthy in both power and sound. The shotguns pack a big punch, turning demons into meaty pulp. There's this bow and arrow that plinks at enemies from afar, creating a satisfying sound as you land those headshots. Not to mention, most weapon designs are pretty stellar. Some weapons have this demonic, magical look that is a joy to use. Conversely a little strange that you get sub-machines you can duel-wield, but they have silencers on them. Why subdue the power of these bad boys when everything else sounds so powerful? They just don't compare to the rest of the pack.
In addition to sound, weapon variety is also rock solid. You have your FPS staples of course, like the aforementioned shotguns, pistols, and submachine guns. A unique, wrist-mounted trap launcher can be used to stun and shock enemies, allowing for you to unload on these paralyzed demons. There was one point on the very last level where my jaw dropped as I equipped Dread Templar's equivalent of the BFG. You'll have to see for yourself, but this weapon is appropriately devastating.
Kicking demon butt and taking names is what Dread Templar is all about, and these wild weapons are accompanied by a hardcore soundtrack. Sick guitar riffs abound, with little downtime in these tracks. There was one point where I could hear these almost Gregorian, Church-like music played that sound turned into this demented, hardcore melody that served as a perfect companion for slaughter.
The Hellish Landscapes of Dread Templar
This boomer shooter favors the low-poly style many FPS games utilize nowadays, and the sprite art is excellent. Enemy designs have a nice variety and are fearsome to look at. Meanwhile, most of the levels have a dark, omnipotent atmosphere that accompanies Dread Templar's hellish theme very well.
I would like to say that the level design is also fantastic, but unfortunately, it falls short. I enjoy these types of games for their weaving pathways and the almost labyrinthine nature of levels. For Dread Templar, it just seems too linear. You'll probably never stray off the path to advance forward. Players are tasked with finding keycards throughout levels to proceed, as well as pulling levers to open doors. Where these keycards are—or even where you put them to proceed—is overt and there's not a great deal of exploration.
I do appreciate that there are optional side areas where you can gather extra weapons, upgrades, and health pickups, but that's about the only time you stray off the path. These side areas are easy to find and are said to be more challenging. They're really not hard though. Still, because the level design isn't excellent, these side areas served as a nice distraction.
Another issue with Dread Templar and its level design is how easy the game is. It's one of the most generous boomer shooters I have played. Ammo and health pickups are extremely plentiful and you'll never be without. Going forward, I would like to see the locations and amount of pickups tweaked so that Dread Templar poses more of a challenge. Enemies have shockingly low health too. You might feel powerful, but the challenge just isn't there. Granted, I played on Normal, but this is the easiest Normal I've ever played on a game like this.
Gripes aside, I have to commend Dread Templar for adding a bit of originality into the mix. Through the 10 levels in Early Access, you'll find upgrades and upgrade stations. Here, you can tweak your character by adding upgrades that increase the efficiency of weapons. You'll find many pickups that increase ammo capacity, damage, fire rate, and more. The more exciting of these upgrades take a bit more currency (you'll find said currency hidden throughout maps) and have special effects. One of these abilities turned my regular pistols into fire-flinging contraptions that pierce enemies.
Does Dread Templar have some issues? Sure. The level design leaves a lot to be desired, and there's a great deal of balancing that needs to be done to make this challenging. But I'd be a fool not to admit that I had a great time with this brutal new shooter. With proper updates during its Early Access duration, Dread Templar could easily be one of the best in its genre. After all, if it succeeds in making you feel like a badass, that's already a good sign.
TechRaptor previewed Dread Templar on Steam Early Access with a key provided by the publisher. The game does not currently have a release date.