Preview: Dead Island Epidemic
Title: Dead Island Epidemic
Developer: Stunlock Studios
Publisher: Deep Silver
Planned Release: Not Yet Announced
I have to admit that I was unsure what I was walking into when I took a shot at Deep Silver’s upcoming MOBA title, Dead Island Epidemic. I knew of the Dead Island franchise, being a fan of the first game and its sequel, Riptide, but I knew nothing about Epidemic. It probably did not help my cause when you understand that I am a huge rookie when it comes to MOBA games. I get some of the concepts and premises, but I am not a daily player, so some of the nuances might leave me in the dark. Given all of that baggage, I was surprised and engaged with my time in Dead Island Epidemic, even with its quirks.
As stated, Dead Island Epidemic is a MOBA (or ZOMBA if you take Deep Silver’s spin on the genre), but it does not feel like it fits exactly in that genre. Instead, it mixes things up with two different modes of gameplay, as if it is trying to appease two different audiences. I started in the PvE arenas, called Supply Runs, where you go in and hit specific checkpoints where you pick up special items. Make your way to the last checkpoint and you are home free with your cash and salvage items intact. Once you get your feet wet here, you can move on to the MOBA portion of the game, where you control points on the map against multiple teams of human opponents while the environment tries to put a crimp in your style.
Enemies are dynamic, starting with simple zombies that you can take out with simple attacks, but later on, mobs of the same zombies can challenge you. And don’t forget some of those big bosses that you tackled in the past, as you will be attacked by Rams, Floaters and more. When these bigger enemies come on the scene, it leaves you with some tactical questions and strategies that you might have to scramble to overcome in Supply Run. In the MOBA mode, they can be even more advantageous, as you can either agree to team up or destroy the large, powerful enemies, or maybe pit them against your enemies, leaving you time to get control points under your belt. It makes for some very interesting and challenging gameplay.
In this early beta, each mode offers up a handful of maps and unlocks that you can earn over time, although you do get to start with a few well-built and leveled up characters to play through the game. I did take a spin with the prebuilt and heavily leveled characters, to get a feel for the game, but I also unlocked a few characters to see what happens when you use a lower leveled character and the game was far more challenging, as you would expect. Just as an aside, I did think it was a bit of a mistake to give these high level characters in the beta, as it takes away from learning the core mechanics of the game.
Gameplay is interesting in itself, but I think the bigger chance for Stunlock Studios was the sharp departure from the ultra-realistic graphics that have been the staple of the Dead Island series. Here, you get cartoonish, colorful characters and maps. It seems as if the team played a ton of Team Fortress 2 while developing the game, leading to this change. Better still is that the look charms you over time, as the colorful characters make for a fun experience, and leave you with less frustration when you die.
Dead Island Epidemic is coming along rather nicely in its closed beta. It does have a few stability issues to work out as I have had games crash while going back to the lobby several times, as well as having the game crash out in the middle of a game. But Stunlock Studios is putting together a solid experience that should appeal to both those new to the MOBA genre as well as those that are looking for a nice challenge and visual change of pace. Look for more on Dead Island as it moves closer to a final release.