Dead Island Epidemic Preview

So far I’ve spent a fair bit of time playing in the Dead Island Epidemic Open Beta and rather enjoying it. It’s an interesting mix of Top down hack and slash with a strong mix of Rpg thrown in… Basically Dead Island meets Diablo. Hmmm, if it was that I’m guessing it would be rather brilliant but while the gameplay is generally fun and the mechanics rather solid there are a lot of concerns and ways the experience falls apart.

For general play you have a light attack style and a heavy attack to use once you build up a certain rage meter. This forms the basis of your play and I don’t know, it’s rather fun just clicking and killing hordes of zombies. There is a small range of weapons with melee and ranged weapons to choose from that each have there own attack style and changes things up and you can equip multiple weapons at a time.

When selecting a character you get 4 abilities to use as well and I have to say that there is a good collection here. You have the usual styles of damage, tank, and support with each character having their own take on these styles but there are interesting variances within this. It does feel very MOBA-like in combat because of this, and with their being a kind of levelling system during a match so that it is a familiar style of gameplay, however that seems to be the extent of the similarities.

And yes, his skill is a sharknado

And yes, his skill is a sharknado

There is a strong account based progression system here where the more experience you get it unlocks certain facets of your character like consumable slots, gadgets and passives to abilities. As you go up in level you also gain access to better weapons too, not noticeably different but there is a certain amount there.

This does make play add up to something that is more rewarding. You constantly getting experience and unlocking aspects about your characters and new weapons and it is noticeable. I started thinking near the end that the grind for basic character functionality was a bit much, keep some of it as well as the levelling up for more consumables and passives to choose from but at least give people the full use of their character.

My Hulk Smash Character

My Hulk Smash Character

The main style of play I enjoyed was the coop mode called Crossroads. It’s a collection of 4 missions to complete that vary between kill, collect and protect and involve getting supply from that spot and bringing it back to the base. It is a simple formula that doesn’t seem to change much. There isn’t that much variety here: it’s one map and a handful of mission types that you will see quite often but I weirdly enjoy it. It’s the same kind of gameplay but with the differences in people with you, classes, missions structure and with the varying difficulty that depends on the averaged power between players it ends up keeping my interest… at least for now.

It’s rather simplistic in it’s goal of, stick together but it’s surprising how often that goes wrong. Sometimes shitty partners, sometimes just getting cut off from each other during the frantic run back while being chased by the horde. Other times it will all work together beautifully, even through some of the insane level 10+ missions. Just crazy hard at times with a new mix of mechanics but crazy fun.

Here’s a full mission if you want to see it in action

There is a PvP mode to try out that is a mix between this Pve mode and a capture type map. There are three teams and 4-5 points to contest and through capturing these you earn a certain amount of supply to take back to your base. You keep capturing other points to get more supply, kill some of the mission mobs or you can raid the “base” of the other team, or just gank them as they are returning supply so there is often a lot happening. You are constantly contesting these points too and there is a real give and take between teams. It could be rather fun I think once you get used to it.

Now the system works well in this case of progression, it’s once you get to the PvP where I feel it falls a part. There is a noticeable difference here between new and older players in regards to effectiveness. Having your passives and extras unlocked gives you a stronger presence here. Even the better weapons have an impact.

This leads me to the ftp implementation. When you start off you get one character from the tutorial and this is a little limiting on your play. you do get a certain stipend of currency to spend on the store after each match but it is a fair amount of play to able to buy another, more for the upper tier ones. There is a cheap pack for a couple dollars to get the basic characters but there is far more there. You can earn some of them through paying the game as you get a certain amount of credits each match, although earning characters does take quite a while. Oh, and don’t get me started on the currency packs being just a little less than what’s needed to actually buy a character.

these prices... seriously. Micro my asssssssssssssssss

these prices… seriously. Micro my asssssssssssssssss

The issue is that the first basic characters are just that, basic and many of the others seem far more tuned to the pvp with their skill set as well. Some PvE orientated and others just plain PvP. This of course leads to quite a difference based on character, level, and gear between new and veteran players.

Did I mention also that these characters cost insane amount. There are some decent packs for around 20 dollars to get 4 but then you’ve got solitary characters costing that much on their own. There are also weapons in the store that are far better than you will most likely to earn, and that of course are level restricted so newbies can’t use. I hate to cry witch at times like this but really, it’s a little pay to win.

Overall there just isn’t much here but the bare bones mechanics and a single map for PvE and PvP. The mob types and mission structure are rather simplistic as well with little variability. It’s heading to a release state now and well… this just isn’t enough and there should already be a lot more, there needs to be a bit more. They’ve done well with the combat and progression but there just isn’t enough to keep me coming back bar trying to grind out a few more characters on the same map. It is fun though, and probably fun enough to keep playing for a bit longer as I enjoy this coop style of PvE and you just don’t get as much of it. Hopefully they can continue on with development and creating more content for the game at a reasonable pace.

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