Surviving Dead Island
Developer Techland takes us back to a horrifying fictional world where zombies are everywhere and survival is the first, last and main order of the hour with Dead Island: Riptide, sequel to the well received Dead Island from 2011. The sequel was launched late April and we immediately set out to brave the coasts and forests of Palanai, a new island replacing the originals' Banoi isle.
Riptide takes off where the original games' plot concluded, and the four survivors of Banoi emerged from the horror only to be captured and detained on board a military ship- where researchers are trying to understand their immunity and develop a cure for the zombie plague. During their time on the ship the characters team up with a fifth immune character joining their ranks and meet Frank Serpo, the immediately-obvious contemporary bad guy, a civilian with interest in the plague that seems to be running the operation from behind the scenes.
After the brief exposition, outbreak ensues and the ship is marooned on Palanai, where the survivors immediately resume hacking, slashing, bashing and shooting a seemingly endless horde of zombies while completing missions and finding a way off the deadly archipelago. It was immediately obvious that plot is not the game's strongest point, and even our flexible suspension of disbelief was stretched to its' limit (and beyond) by it.
Dead Island V2.0
Not much has changed from the original game- the basic and addictive formula of watching your stamina and looking for weaknesses in a wide variety of zombie types and bosses while bashing them with improvised as well as high grade weapons is valid, and the array of quests and sidequests involving other survivors or tactically important locations and objects around the island is also intact. The immune will have to gather weaponry, upgrade their equipment and collect cash and craft materials in order to improve their odds against the new and improved horde of undead.
Some of the new quests spotted during our bloody journey through Palanai were rescue missions involving non-immune civilians and more interestingly- the all new siege defense events during which the survivors' home base will be relentlessly assaulted by waves of zombies and all civilians will attempt to ward them off using whatever means available. The home base will take a more meaningful role in this sequel and players can take side-quests to improve its' defenses, the stores available for their use and the various survivors' personal skills.
Riptide includes a large variety of weapons and equipment, as well as new vehicles like the motorboat, and upgradability means players will be able to experience dozens and dozens of different instruments of second death to be used in their struggle to survive. Unlike the original, in Riptide cash and equipment drop much more liberally, leading to a more action oriented experience rather than a pure survival-horror setting. Weapon maintenance which was a staple of Dead Island is now more of an upkeep experience- with no lack of materials to add challenge to the task.
Sadly, not only zombie flesh is rotting in Palanais' sun, and Riptide feels like an unfinished offering- during our time on the isle we noticed clipping issues, horrible AI glitches causing enemies and friendlies alike to lose their path, and even more basic failures like survivors who aren't helping their mates during the siege defense missions- in a game where one dead survivor means game over, that can seriously harm one's experience.
The fast travel locations are spaced widely and the vehicles are not abundant, which means too often we found ourselves trudging along for long periods of time through the forest between missions. The on-screen radar has no minimap, and the GPS function only works when you close in on an objective- together these failings spell frustration for newbies to the isle and can cause further delays in actual gameplay.
The Co-op functions are even more severely punishing, and among other bugs we encountered a broken spawn system sending us to the other side of the island from our partner. Moreover, if you join in on a friends' more advanced mission, you will not get that mission completed on your character and will have to replay it by yourself later- which is disheartening and makes coop that much less attractive.
Except for cash and chest rewards, all loot is free-for-all and shared, which can potentially lead to theft or misdistribution of loot, especially if you are playing with strangers online. This problem is further boosted by the set loot spawn locations which can attract hoarders and thieves on a permanent basis.
All in all, Riptide is a fun experience, but one littered with bugs, difficulties and overall neglect- it seems as if Techland was in a hurry to ship out a new game and did not bother to clear out the kinks and deliver a finished product. We can only hope to see some patches and fixes for the issues we encountered, perhaps then Palanai will rival Banoi as an island worth exploring fully .