It is fairly commonplace for the royalty in fantasy kingdoms to go into dark dungeons and root out evildoers at their very source. Gaming history is full of these sorts of stories, so it's good once in a while to go the other way. From the dungeons to the castle, Reverse Crawl is a lighthearted turn-based tactical role-playing game by Nerdook Productions where you fight your way back as a Necromancer Princess and her reanimated father, the Revenant King.

Putting you in charge of the villains is a refreshing take on minion swarming games. Each combat you select from various groups of minions to send against the heroes. Among these minion groups you'll find melee specialists, magic users, ranged fighters and other traditional fantasy RPG roles. You'll have to decide which groups to send out to counter the specialties of the hero waves, and it can be a little tricky at times, as the decision to save your better squads for later in the mission or send them out early can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

You don't just have your undead hordes to help you take back your kingdom either. Along the way you'll recruit goblins, dark elves, and more before reaching your destination. These will be added to your roster of minion groups to choose from and will allow for even more dynamic (and consequently difficulty) decisions to be made. You'll also have spells to aid you in battles, which draw from a resource pool called threat. Threat is generated by killing enemies and spawning in new units. Managing threat is an integral part of the game, as the amount of threat needed to cast a spell increases with each use.

Naturally there is a progression system besides the new units you acquire through your adventures. You'll level up as you complete missions as is typical of RPGs, and each level you'll get to choose upgrades to either your units or spells. This gives you the opportunity to tailor your party to your playstyle, however it feels like it restricts some of your decision making later on, as you may find yourself with units too far behind your others to be usable. Luckily the game has a random element to offset this potential flaw.

Each time you send out a new wave of minions, your available groups will have random traits assigned to them. These can be buffs such as additional chance to dodge or higher critical chances, debuffs in a similar vein, or things like units replacing themselves once per battle with a new unit. You can reroll for better traits a limited number of times per mission, and the right buffs can make a weaker group much more versatile against the heroes than otherwise would be expected.

On the other hand, I found the spells to be mostly underwhelming. Summoned units were too weak to last long in combat, and direct damage spells were also disappointing in their power level. Healing spells were much more useful, as their effectiveness seemed to genuinely help swing the tide of battles once in a while, but often I still felt like the effects weren't quite worth their cost.

The game looks good, with a quaint visual aesthetic that according to the developer, Sim Yih Chun, is a natural evolution of his personal artistica style. This style has grown from his time doing his own art design from his flash games on Kongregate, as well as his previous Steam release, Vertical Drop Heroes HD. The lighthearted look and narrative to the game stems from his preference for "fluffier" tones which are consistent through his work.

Contrasting the light look and feel is the sound design, particularly the music, which is generally somewhat sombre and at times heroic. This works fairly well with the genre and setting, though it isn't a particularly remarkable soundtrack, and it neither improves nor hinders the game itself. The sound effects do their job, with weighty impact sounds on attacks, and magic spells or abilities having their own telltale sounds to illustrate what's going on.

Reverse Crawl is lighthearted and accessible enough to be appealing to folks who aren't necessarily into tactical RPGs, though it can get rather challenging in places. Folks who are interested in getting into the genre could very likely find this a nice entry point, as it avoids being overwhelmingly complex while still providing some interesting mechanical decisions. Dedicated genre fans might find it a bit light in that department, but I think it's a refreshing take on the genre that at the very least warrants a try.