Reflection on Dead Island Riptide

It’s been a number of years since video gaming was counted among my foremost leisurely activities.  This is due to a number of reasons; part of it is other responsibilities, another part is growing up, and at least some of it is that there has not really been anything eye-catching to lure me back to my Xbox.

Of course there have been exceptions.

September 6, 2011 – The release of Dead Island.  I saw the trailer on Escapist Magazine and could not wait for this title to hit the shelf.  It looked like it was finally going to be the zombie apocalypse game that we were waiting for, especially at a time where zombies were poised to take their place as the foremost monster in pop culture.

It offered heart and compassion in a visceral and threatening situation.  Nothing was going to keep me away from Walmart on the 6th. The days that followed saw a lot of late night gaming (and a few sick calls to work) with  my at-the-time future roommate That Damned Besaw.

If you really want to know what ShallopNewf 2011 thought of the original, you can check out the review here

Let’s fast forward to present day.  Dead Island:Riptide has been released for about three weeks.  Once again with That Damned Besaw I made my return to find myself stranded on another island not too far from Banoi… surrounded by infected.

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It’s been about 12 hours since I finished Dead Island: Riptide. Upon concluding the main story there was a considerably loud discussion between myself and That Damned Besaw about how we felt about it.  This was followed by a drive in the car, spending some time with my girlfriend, and finally playing a number of hours of Kingdoms of Amalur.  Only after all that do I now finally feel calm and collected enough to talk about what I just went through.

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Riptide is not going to get the same treatment as the original, I’m not going to separate the review into segments and tell you how it ranked because really I’ll just be repeating myself.

Therein lies the real problem I have with this game.

Before I proceed, I need to make you aware that this review is most likely going to contain spoilers.  While I’ll try to keep it to a minimum and not anything too drastic, but really after reflecting on the series there isn’t anything about the narrative that should take you by surprise anyway.

If you like zombies, and you don’t want to have anything spoiled go ahead and play the game. You’ll definitely have a good time.

… Now, where were we?

Ah yes, Riptide.  Well I was asked earlier on Facebook when I made a comment regarding my gaming experience,

“Are you talking about Dead Island, or the new one?”

My response?  “Is there a difference?”

There’s no better way to sum this whole thing up than that.

The Good
I have to give credit where credit is due on this game. The dev team really did do a lot of great tweaks to the whole experience.  The fighting controls stayed familiar, yet the skill tree and leveling system was modified.

I really like the idea that the more you use something the more you would level it up.

The story itself continues pretty cohesive from where the previous game ended, so it really did feel like a true continuation of the story.

A couple of the new sights and mechanics were pleasant.  The bunker style missions where you needed to fortify an area while fighting off a horde of walkers was a very welcome addition, as was boat travel.

New zombies made the experience more unique from the original, especially the addition of the “wrestler” and the “screamer” zombies.

One part of the original Dead Island that I commented on was addressed in spades with this second outing and that is the feeling of that survivor instinct.  There were times in DI that I was surrounded by zombies and died, but I never did get the feel of dread that comes with realizing you are on an island completely swarming with the walking dead.    Riptide, with its continually spawning enemies and more aggressive(it seems) AI, has done that.

Walking through the jungle in Palanai, I really felt like I needed to take my time and hopefully get by without encountering too many.

The Bad

If there was only one major complaint I would have to make concerning the original Dead Island it would have to be directed towards the narrative itself.  The story is superb right up until you start nearing the climax.  I’ll be the first to admit that they didn’t really do anything different with the zombie apocalypse scenario, with the whole government = bad guy mentality but for the most part it was relatively solid until the very end.

The ending to the first game is comprised of a pitiful boss fight that I was able to overcome by just using Sam B’s special ability a single time, followed up by a chopper taking them away.

I really can’t go into more detail than that, but basically for as good as the game play experience was, and how passable the story and characters where… the best way to describe Dead Island is “predictably, anti-climatic”

… Riptide suffers from this and more.

Ripdtide is still far too new for me to be so bold as to actually explain the ending, but it essentially ends of being less satisfying than the original, and yet surprisingly similar.

Really that’s mainly it.  Gameplay-wise the game is indeed solid.  I’m not a fan of the players starting at level 15 since this is supposed to be a new game and not just an expansion…. but narrative-wise that makes sense because the characters are experienced in the situation so that can be excused.

The Same

This is THE main topic of conversation between me and That Damned Besaw.  We both spent 50 dollars to get this game anticipating a great experience that will continue the story in new and thrilling ways.

A couple of nice tweaks does not make up for what we encountered through the game.  It began with just comments here and there, “oh man you know this place reminds me of the jungle in the first one”… “this path is a lot like the resort area in Dead Island”….. “this fort is almost identical to the church from the first one”…

As these comments came fast and furious, ESPECIALLY near the end, we started paying more attention to it.  Entering the “bank” in the city of Henderson was startling when we entered the very same room from the first game when the main characters were talking about how to get to the security desk.

The last act of the game takes place in “the docks” of a city… not only is it very similar, but it is IDENTICAL to the layout of the “prison” from the first one.  There were points when I was going through it based on memory almost.

The entire last act of this game was a carbon copy of the original, the only difference is they changed some textures, they put in big tanks where there once was bars.

As we explored Mr. Besaw and I were labeling what we saw.  As we entered the large room where the final fight was going to take place I remember him welcoming me to the cell block, because it was identical.

Conclusion

I’m actually not as outraged about this as Besaw is, I actually don’t mind the recycling of levels, but when it seems like half the game is like that and you still want to charge me over 50 dollars for this game…. I’m expecting a new experience.

The end result is basically a still-solid gaming experience.  If you liked the first one, you will like this one.. had I the chance to do it over, I would probably wait until this is a 20 dollar budget title before getting it… but if you want to get your fix and see what happens to the immune after the events of the first game there is almost enough going for it to warrant the price tag.

If you can then wait… if you can’t then you’ll have fun but don’t go in with high expectations.

Dead Island Riptide… it’s still a Dead Island game so it’s worth a play,  the gameplay has even been improved, but the extra content just isn’t there and the story is just going to leave you lacking.

I don’t do these much anymore, but for the old times sake, I”ll give it a rating.

8/10 – recycled levels and a tired, bland story hinder an amazing game play experience.  I think it suffers from being rushed out way too early before it was truly completed.

Considering this is a new company, as pointed out by my friend Echo, I will end this with saying that I am certainly anticipating a time when they get everything together.

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