Death Inc. is described as a hybrid of real-time strategy, god game, and business simulation. You control a reaper named Grim T. Livingstone, tasked to spread the bubonic plague throughout 17th century England with an array of infected minions. But as in any true god game, you do not have direct control over your units, you can simply issue commands and hope they follow through as you wanted. Thankfully, control in Death Inc. seems easy to use and minions are smarter than you'd think for a bunch of undead.
Control of the game is largely done by a "unique 'freehand' paintbrush-like control system." In fact, the motions are so fluid that it seems like the perfect fit for a touchscreen device like the PS Vita. Thankfully, the controls feel equally smooth using a mouse and keyboard. By simply left-clicking and dragging across the screen, Grim appears and lays down a bright pink (or green, yellow, and blue) path for your infected minions to follow. Any minions that are near or on the line will immediately follow the path you drew until it ends or they come in contact with enemies – basically anyone who's not already infected. Pink orders are followed by everyone, while the aforementioned green, yellow, and blue allow you to fine tune orders so that only specific unit types carry them out; unarmed, ranged, and armed melee, respectively. There are eight standard fighting units and three rare support units. The eight standard fighting units are Peasants, Militiamen, Archers, Soldiers, Musketeers, Brutes, Pikemen, and Cavalry, while the three rare support units are Monks, Plague Doctors, and Captains. In addition, there are also a few siege weapons that can be found scattered in some levels, which can be seen in the following video:
If you took a break from reading this spotlight to watch the video above, you probably saw another feature of the game demonstrated – special abilities. The one shown off in the video is Plague Rats, which when cast on an appropriate building causes infected rats to pour out and attack any enemies near by. Additional abilities include death from above via Pigeon Pox, mass panic and evacuation via Norovirus Brunch, and Exploding Livestock because, well, didn't everyone enjoy rampantly clicking on sheep in Warcraft just to watch them explode? (Please don't call PETA)
Although Death Inc. is largely about ordering your minions to attack and infect your enemies, you're free to tackle each map in your own way. Levels aren't linear, but rather a sandbox with multiple paths. There are even physics puzzles along the way that can help you if you so choose to tackle them, such as ordering your minions to turn a wheel that opens or closes a gate (depending on whether you want to get out or prevent enemies from getting to you). And if you remember from the opening sentence, this game is also part business simulation. Along the way you'll be collecting souls that can be spent to hire underlings, complete secondary challenges, decorate your living quarters, and more.
A demo was released back in February that provides a small taste of the game. It's just one level with no special abilities, no siege weapons, and no physics puzzles, but it does allow you to test out the fluidity of the controls. It's available for Windows (28MB), Mac (32MB), and Linux (28MB), so no matter what you're running, you can go try it out. Although its Kickstarter campaign was unsuccessful, developer Ambient Studios assures us that they're "working extremely hard to make this beautiful, bonkers, original game a reality for you all." In addition, if the reliance on colors worries you, the Kickstarter page mentions that there will be a color blind mode. So go vote Yes because while the Kickstarter wasn't successful, Death Inc. certainly deserves a spot on Steam's digital shelf.