Monday, December 29, 2014

Effort grades don't pay the bills

Escape Dead Island is not that bad. It's not that good, either, but its failings are specific to its execution of what could have been, or rather, what almost were, interesting ideas. I would place a fair some of money on the fact that the second draft of the story, the one right before it was passed through the Dead Island filter but after it was salvaged from a moist bar napkin, would have made an excellent budget title. I mean no disrespect by using the word budget. Not every game can be Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed, nor should they.

Picture this: a small scale open world action game that sees the player wind up on an island overrun by zombies. The player's companions are killed off but in a way that never shows the actual perpetrator. As the player explores the island things do not add up: voices of his dead friends beg him for mercy, then taunt him. Zombie appear and disappear at random. The play is 'killed' over and over, but keeps coming back. The island itself begins to mutate into an enemy. The twist is that the player was infected as soon as he arrived, killed his own friends, and everything else has been his remaining consciousness trying to escape the zombified body.

Escape Dead Island was almost this. It was buried under one note repetitive combat, atrocious voice acting and writing, annoying characters, a disastrous decision to use cell shading for a comic book feel, and innumerable other bad decisions but it was there. Small clues like zombies becoming little more that shambling shadows and the main character waking up in impossible places are cleverly used alongside silly, what the fuck moments, the best of which being a rainstorm of shipping containers. This game would have been awesome if it just wasn't so terrible.

But it wasn't awesome. The twist would only have worked if the main character was sympathetic for the player. He is written in such a way that no one, and I mean no one, will like him. Even when he finally cracks and fights the zombie version of himself I was unmoved. No feels for the douche bag. The game is not so much an open world as it is a few areas connected by narrow tunnels that the game engine uses to camouflage insane load times. Navigation was so difficult that I had to use the pop up, 'go here' arrow for everything. It's just poorly executed on every front.

Worst of all, the game backs away from its own idea in the end. Yes, the hero was a zombie, but he gets better. There is a cure and he sends off a message in a bottle as a warning. Escape Dead Island was this close to being an interesting turn on the zombie game. All it had to do was not be bad and finish what it started. I can forgive a game for being of poor quality because it is not always the game's fault. Wasting a good idea due to cowardice is a cardinal sin.

Escape Dead Island is not that bad but I despise it for not being better.

No comments:

Post a Comment