Catching Up on Gaming: Dead Island

Yeah, I know, it's buggy, but there is fun to be had.

Yeah, I know, it's buggy, but there is fun to be had.

Dead Island is a game I'd been curious about for a while, but I'd been put off by the fact that it is highly melee-centric. There ARE firearms in the game, but they're supposed to be extremely difficult to locate, and getting ammunition for them is even tougher. Normally when I play a game, especially any sort of survival and/or horror game, I like to keep my distance and fight from range. I'd avoided Dead Island as a result.

I picked it up on sale at Origin, and so far I'm finding it to be a fairly mixed experience. My initial impression was soured by terrible control glitches. I have a multi-monitor setup, and I found when trying to play with the mouse and keyboard that it wasn't locking the mouse input correctly; I would end up with two mouse cursors, one of which would often stray onto my other monitor with other programs running, and when I tried to click things in-game, I'd end up taking focus away from the game. Frustrating, to say the least.

I haven't resolved that issue yet, unfortunately. I can play it, but to do so I have to use an Xbox 360 controller. Not ideal, but it does work pretty well. It seems to be a good one to jump into when I just feel like a little gaming, maybe a quick 10-15 minute session.

I'm too early in to have a handle on the actual plot of the game, but here's what I know so far. You have a choice of characters to play, each with a different speciality; blunt weapons, sharp weapons, firearms, etc. I went with the distressed-looking lady pictured above, Xian Mei, the sharp weapon specialist/assassin. Each character has a bit of a backstory that brings them to the island, when everything starts going terribly wrong and everyone starts eating each other.

Naturally there'll be a lot more to this story, including what happened, and why, but right now I'm immersed in the whole "What the hell is going on here!?" phase, worrying more about finding a secure, defensible location than in investigating the deeper questions. That'll come in time.

The combat is mostly pretty fun, though it quickly becomes obvious that being mobbed by more than two zombies at once is really, really, really dangerous. The zombies are pretty easy to kill, but it takes enough time that you'll be overwhelmed. I think I've survived one encounter with three zombies; every other time it's been three or more, I've died horribly.

I really love how they handle weaponry. Weapons are easy to find, though they won't necessarily be the weapons most appropriate for your particular character. Blunt weapons are the most common, though I've started finding a few more bladed weapons recently, which is good for Xian. Weapons have a durability rating, and degrade pretty quickly, especially this early in the game; later on, I think you start finding weapons that are a lot more durable.

You'll also find work tables around the island that will let you repair damaged weapons, upgrade them, or create entirely new ones. Keeping your weapons in good shape is vitally important. You can fight zombies unarmed, and it is advisable to do so whenever it's safe, but weapons will take them down a LOT faster. Taking them down quickly is the key to staying alive if you've got several of them after you at once.

There's some good character development stuff straight out of the roleplaying game genres with skill trees and stuff, but I'm not far enough in the game to have played with all of that yet. It looks like there's a lot more to this game than just wandering around killing zombies though, so that's a pleasant surprise. I'm glad I've got it, and I'll be looking forward to Dead Island: Riptide, the upcoming add-on for the game.

It's possible to play it co-op, and apparently there are particularly dangerous parts of the island where that's highly advisable. I might have to see if I know anyone who plays who'd be interested in getting in on a game with me at some point.

It can be difficult to get a real idea of what a game is like from a written description, so if you want a better idea of how it plays, I highly recommend this "Let's Play" YouTube series by Sips and Sjin of the Yogscast. (Viewers be warned about NSFW language, however.)