Dead Island. A game that failed because of its marketing. When the first trailer was released for Dead Island, the world went mad for it, only to find out once the game was released that it failed to live up to the awesomeness of the trailer. It was a game quite simply you either loved, or hated. There was no middle ground.
Now we have Dead Island: Riptide a sequel that has had no hype or marketing, and only the arguably sullied name to push the sales. But, could the lack of hype or fancy marketing work in the favour of Techland’s new game? Read on.
Dead Island: Riptide is literally a continuation of the first game, (which means you can use your Dead Island save data) the events continue from the end of the first game, with our four heroes seemingly rescued only to find out that some dark organisation is after their white blood cells. Why? So they can make a chemical weapon of the virus that affected the island and make a vaccine. Things go from bad to worse when a storm hits the boat they were travelling on and they end up shipwrecked on another infested island. Huh, how’s your luck! As you can see the story isn’t particularly strong and neither is the acting and awkward accents, thankfully the story is skimmed over, but the acting is here to stay.
So here we are then on another tropical island called Palanai, lush jungles and rivers (created by the very storm that smashed your boat up). Gone are the tourist hotspots, hotels and churches which were the main features of the first game. Instead we have mud huts, bridges and tree houses. It’s kind of like a tropical Ewok village. It also looks super, thanks to the Chrome Engine 5 chugging away under the hood. However, things are not quite as sandbox as they may at first seem, sure you can travel all over the place at will, but only on the paths they want you to. For example, you can’t go off road all of a sudden to try something different. Despite its similarities, this is no Far Cry 3.
As a result of this restrictive open world, traversing the island becomes more frustrating than it should, with the mini map not being much help, and taking the wrong turn (especially when driving) becomes all too frequent. But still, there is plenty of island to (rigidly) explore, and a new vehicle in the shape of a boat which will help you navigate the countless rivers and swamps that meander through the island. And, as it turns out, is a lot more fun, if only for the reason that zombies can clamber aboard and trigger a QTE from a new beastie called The Drowner.
Other than that it’s business as usual, the same old enemies are back, although some have been given a new lick of paint, but still have the same traits as their predecessors, and that pretty much sums the game up really. Gameplay consists of fetch quests and combat both of which soon get predictable, tedious and annoying. Mission structure is also a bit hit and miss, at times, the mission on your on serving no purpose. A mission early on tasks the player to fight his way to a village to find a boat, you find said boat and have to travel halfway around the island to find a road, only to discover it’s blocked and so you have to travel all the way back, on road (not boat you’ve spent all the time finding), to the very same man who told you to find the road in the first place. WHAT IS THE POINT!! Although to be fair, there is more variety in the missions than there was in the first game, but still the majority are made up of get this, get that fetch quests, rinse and repeat. Which when compared to, what I consider its nearest rival Far Cry 3, seems even more shallow and dull.
Combat also suffers from the same flaws as the original. Sure it has that unique analogue combat mode, which I quite enjoyed in the first game, but for some reason in this version, it seems clumsy(er). I guess enemies falling through you and some off collision detection doesn’t help matters much. Thankfully anything and everything you see can be picked up and stashed away for the creation of weapons. And this is where Dead Island comes into its own. Get a Blue Print, find a workbench and then get creating. All sorts of things can be created, it’s like Borderlands only a little bit more Blue Peter. It’s really good system, but It’s shame then that the degradation bar makes a return, meaning that any weapon you may have spent hours collecting parts for, will soon lose its power and need to be repaired at considerable cost. It’s something that I didn’t like about the first game, and I don’t like about this game. Sure it can add some suspense to the proceedings but once you start leveling up and have some decent weapons, you’ll find yourself not using them because you don’t want them to break. This wouldn’t be such an issue if combat wasn’t so frequent, I mean you’re pretty much fighting all the time, and more often than not find yourself vastly out numbered with just a flimsy kitchen knife which to me seems a cheap way to keep you busy, when in fact all it does is bore you. It also frustrates as the base enemies around you level up at the same time you do so you never really get that sense of becoming more powerful.
Techalnd’s answer to this are the pretty exhaustive skill trees, when you level up, you get skill points, which means you can add new skills to your set, from inflicting more damage when drunk to a new running slash move, adding some strategy to the proceedings.
If you don’t fancy smashing your way through the game on your own, The co-op function returns and is slightly more efficient than it’s predecessor. Stronger enemies tend to head toward the stronger players so co op games are fairly balanced. A with the first game, if there are any other players near by,and allows you to join in or not. it’s so simple, and i’m glad it makes a return, although It would have been nice to have a local Co Op mode though.
So basically what we have here is more of the same, it really is as simple as that. There is nothing ground breakingly new here, and the tweaks that have been made are minimal, but do make a small difference. The island of Palanai although good looking isn’t as charming or easy to navigate as Panoi, the rivers do add something, but not much. The combat is too frequent and at times scrappy to be really enjoyable.
It’s a shame that Techland didn’t use this opportunity to develop the game some more as the concept is sound and the ideas are all there, just poorly implemented. The acting grates, and the AI is a little ropey at times meaning that you feel alone on the island but for all the wrong reasons.
Saying that though, the last zombie game I played was the god awful The Walking Dead from Activsion. That was really bad, and compared to that Dead Island: Riptide is a stormer!
The trouble I have is this. I enjoyed the first game immensely, it was a bit different, cooky and was a blast to play For a zombie game, it worked well, and at times it gave me the creeps. I could put up with the many flaws, and enjoy the game for what it was. But for some reason Riptide doesn’t hold the same magic, I really found it a struggle to enjoy, the flaws that I could previously ignore just frustrated and angered. The only thing that sent shivers down my spine in the end is the thought of playing the same game over again.
I said at the very start that Dead Island is a game that you either love or hate, and the same applies to Riptide. If you loved the first game, you will like this, if you hated it there is not a damn thing in this new game that will change your mind.
If you want paradise islands, play Far Cry 3. If you want Zombies, play Left 4 Dead. If you want both in the same game, I would probably play the original.