Dead Island: Epidemic, the free-to-play MOBA spin-off from Stunlock Studios,is not without its cheesiness. It’s on par with the series’ general philosophy of zombie-bashing fun. Deep Silver, the game’s publisher, has declared the game the world’s first “ZOMBA,” a zombie online multiplayer battle arena. Clever. And if you abbreviate the title, it spells “DIE.” Now that we got all that out of the way…
The first thing I have to say is this: I’m not a Dead Island fan. In fact, I pretty much hated the original “action role-playing survival horror” game and it’s dreadful sequel, Riptide. It probably isn’t the game’s fault. Dead Island played too much like Fallout 3, a game I really disliked at the time but have garnered a respect for years after the release.
Dead Island‘s homage to the zombie extravaganzas of yore were subpar. You guys remember that first trailer? How could you forget? It’s probably one of the greatest promotional hoaxes in history. Mom and Dad and Little Sally are on an island getaway when all of a sudden there’s a zombie outbreak and everything goes to hell:
Dead Island was about to captivate the shit out of us. In just a few months, we’d be the ones trying to keep that girl safe. Obviously, if that had been the case, we’d probably wouldn’t have been gone ape shit about that little Naughty Dog “zombie” game — which interestingly enough tasked us with keeping a little girl safe…
My problem with Dead Island is that I wanted it to be The Last of Us, obviously. But as soon as you start the game, you know that you’re playing something cute: you wake up from a night of very heavy drinking in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Did Seth Rogen write this?
You can imagine my frustration when I was asked to preview Epidemic.
Well, after participating in the closed beta this week, I declare this: Epidemic is the Dead Island game this zombie-saturated world needed ALL ALONG. The MOBA genre is a perfect fit for this series, as you mindlessly bash zombies and scavengers in the face with neon signs along with three other teammates in PVP matches or Horde mode.
Horde mode is my kind of game, made for a recreational go at zombie island, unlocking section to section of the map, fighting off zombies as you try to secure supply points or destroy barriers. Each horde match lasts about 15 minutes, providing just the respite you need after a bad day at the office. As you progress through the linear map, the zombies get harder, and you have to level up your abilities. Depending on whether you’re a beserker, a weapons specialist, or a healer, you will upgrade your special skills accordingly. You get for skills to unleash on the zombie horde and aid your teammates. By the very end of the match, you get trapped in a big dungeon and forced to fight a massive version of one of the many special zombies (all series classics) in the game. That could mean a looper, which pulls you in with its slimy tongue and basically devours you or maybe it could be a massive hoarder that will constantly bash you into walls and bitch slap you.
It gets serious in PVP. Not only do you have to worry about the zombie horde, but you also have to fight off two other human teams in order to capture supply points (basically, territories). The combination is fantastic, and you can get easily overwhelmed if you’re not paying attention to all the enemy groups. Oh, and the game we’ll randomly drop special zombies in there as well. So yeah, it can suck big time!
There’s a shop where you can purchase new characters with all kinds of abilities, but I mostly stuck to the berserker-type character who liked getting his hands dirty and really getting into zombies’ faces. You can also purchase new weapons, although I didn’t really need to all that much.
Perhaps my only criticism about the experience so far is that after a few matches, Dead Island: Epidemic is unsurprising. You can time when the special zombies are going to show up and you know what massive monster to expect in Horde mode’s final boss fight. It becomes very predictable in the end. But it doesn’t strip away all of the fun. Playing with different kinds of characters and combining different weapons with special skills will mix things up a bit.
Still, I’m glad Dead Island: Epidemic exists. It puts my heart at ease to think that there’s a place for every kind of game, whether it be in the role-playing, shooter, or MOBA genre. Of course, now there’s the ZOMBA genre to consider.