Ghostware: Arena of the Dead

More info »

Ghostware: Arena of the Dead


Action Reborn

EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access

Dead Genres

Arthur C. Clark famously said that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" and while I have seen this concept played with before in fiction, I've never seen it done as blatantly as in Ghostware: Arena of the Dead. This is a world where a neck-beard programmer/wizard uses the power of the occult and technology to raise a small group of zombies/ghosts and force them to recreate the Arena Shooters of his youth. It's also a world where a government hacker will calmly explain that the occult and the information security branches of his agency have begun to overlap. It's not so much that technology has advanced to the point where it's seemingly magical, but rather a world where technology has discovered the arcane and promptly fused with it.

The game is not forthcoming with details about this world or how it functions. This is a good thing as both the player and the player character (big tiddy goth waifu Molly) are left in the dark about how anything works. This air of mystery is enough to keep driving the play forward through the plot even when there are periodic lulls in the action. Indeed, I would have preferred it if the game had been a good deal less forth-coming with its premise. Rather than have the wizard appear as a neckbeard and immediately announce his plan to recreate arena shooters, instead keep him mysterious and sinister at the start. Have him represent himself as a more traditional wizard, complete with a tall pointed hat and flowing robes, and only have his real appearance come later, possibly as a joke. Tellingly, the sections of the game which are genuinely inscrutable like the hacker who interrupts your Capture the Flag match for a boss fight and the monument to Vietnam helicopter pilots tucked away in a supply closet in the hub map, are compelling.

It is difficult to rate the story as a whole, as this game is still in Early Access and the plot ends abruptly just as things are beginning to get interesting. Indeed, for a story-focused game like this while it's still in Early Access is usually ill-advised as you are essentially spoiling the story for yourself by seeing it in its weakest, least-polished form. However, I can confidently report that there is an intriguing premise at work here and I am curious to see where the developer will take it next.

Rough Edges

I expect that those raised on Unreal Tournament and Quake III: Arena will be somewhat disappointed in the initial arena combat sequences. Even guys like me who seldom touch a multiplayer FPS are able to see the cracks pretty quickly. For one, the levels (especially at the start) are about the size of a postage stamp. Since this is a boomer shooter and your character moves like they're on rocket-power roller-skates, the ensuing firefights feel cramped and restraining. The initial suite of weapons is comically unbalanced, with guns like the starting pistol and the ricochet feeling completely worthless while the Bubble-chucker and Grenade Launcher are stupidly overpowered. Of all the weapons you find in arena mode, only the shotgun seems to not be either way too strong or way too weak. Oddly enough, the weapons outside of the arena mode, when the game switches to a more traditional level-based campaign are more balanced and fun.

The enemy AI is passable, being able to actively chase you and hunt you down through both the arena levels and the more open-world objective-based levels. Sure, they have trouble shooting straight or attempting any complex maneuvers like flanking or moving through a doorway, but they know enough to keep moving toward you and shooting at you. The same faint praise cannot be extended to the friendly AI. The first time I was teamed with a friendly AI for a zone control map, the AI managed to get stuck in a corner for the entire map. Luckily there are only a few occasions where you're required to play with the AI, and the colossal screw-ups are only occasional.

The more significant oversight is the lack of any checkpoints or ability to save in the middle of levels. This is not a problem at first because the early levels are all arena death matches, where it wouldn't make sense to be able to save halfway through anyway. However, once the game starts sending you into larger, more complicated levels it quickly gets to the point where I would like to save halfway through or at least have some sort of checkpoint system set up. The bosses compound this issue when they show up, as you are unlikely to beat them on the first try. Fortunately, the game doesn't kick you back to the start of the level, but instead just re-spawns you in the boss arena with the boss' health at whatever it was when you died. While the latter approach gets rid of some of the needless frustration of the former, it robs the boss battles of any tension.

As always, follow Hooked Gamers on Instagram for news updates, reviews, competitions and more.


The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.

Hooked Gamer's Steam Early Access forecasts are intended to help you differentiate between Early Access games that have the potential to blossom and those more likely to fail. We look at the team's ambitions, their track record, and the state of the latest build to predict if opening your wallet will help fund a potentially great game, or is better used to light other fires.