Dead Island wowed the gaming community with its amazing trailer, showing a zombie breakout in reverse culminating with a father shoving his undead daughter out of a window. The trailer reflected so very little of what Dead Island actually was as a game that it would be understandable if gamers turned on the game with fist-shaking rants of “false advertising.” However, this wasn’t the case and a lot of gamers (including myself) quite enjoyed the Dead Island‘s RPG like elements of leveling up skill trees, maintaining, upgrading and crafting weapons, as well as performing quests for the NPC quest givers of the fully realized island getaway. For a relatively unproven studio and publisher, it was quite the surprise.
In the event that you haven’t play the first game and are curious about this sequel, I first must ask why since the first game is available now for dirt-cheap. Anyway, to recap: at the start of the game, the player was tasked with choosing one of four playable characters. Each character had stats and a weapon specialty – be it guns, knives, thrown, or blunt weapons. Once the player had selected their character they were ushered into the game proper and were given a quite linear path that served as the tutorial before releasing the player into the large island of Banoi. From there the player could pretty much go wherever they wished, finding and completing sidequests along the way or merely pursuing the critical story path. Since the game was an action RPG, as you completed more quests and killed more enemies you earned XP which could be used on various trees, all beefing up your character’s combat, health, fury, barter skills and so forth. After a patch, enemies scaled to your level so the game was never a cakewalk and revisiting areas you cleared in the beginning meant facing tougher enemies later.
The island of Banoi was a massive playground to explore and the combat was incredibly satisfying. Sure the game had technical issues like frame rate, clipping, an atrocious map, and got inexplicably more linear as the story wore on but the game was actually a lot of fun. Dismembering zombies in a multitude of ways can be fulfilling and silly. Dead Island was ambitious to say the least, made even more so by the fact that the game also featured online co-op. Though one caveat was that in playing by yourself, there were no AI controlled teammates so in cutscenes the rest of the cast would be there as if you had been surviving with them the whole time only to disappear again immediately after the cutscene was over. Nothing game breaking, but immersion breaking for sure.
Anyway, by this point you may be wondering why I’ve spent over 400 words talking about Dead Island when this is supposed to be about the sequel, Dead Island: Riptide. Well the reason for that is that it’s practically the same game! You start in an extremely linear, narrow environment while learning or relearning how to play, get released onto the new island proper, find quest givers and are pretty much able to wander as you like. You level up the same, you craft weapons the same, you fight the same, you lose stamina while jumping the same. Are we clear on how similar these games are yet?
While I have only been playing the game for about 3 hours, the only notable differences I’ve seen are that the player is no longer tied to their specific weapon type and can become proficient with any weapon the more they use it successfully. And in the main menu, all potential quest givers in the immediate area are listed and you can now accept their quest from the menu without having to fund them and talk to them. While it makes it much more gamey and far less role playingy (I know), it’s actually a great idea I would love to see implemented in other games in the future.
So far, Dead Island: Riptide, for better or worse, is more of the same. Look for my full review next week.