Coming from the clever folk over at Marvelous Inc comes a new twist on the zombie genre. Now, I can almost hear the groans out there as you read that sentence but bear with me: this time it is actually something at least a bit new.
Going by the name of DEADCRAFT, and starring a half-zombie protagonist, this is firmly in the zombie/survival action genre, and the question I hope to answer here is whether it is worth your time. So come with me to the end of the world, just for a change, for a tale of the dead, and crafting.
Admit it, as with any good zombie game, the story is everything. Well, that may be an over exaggeration, but a good story is a nice thing to have, isn’t it? Well, in this case, Reid, as our half-zombie hero is called, starts the game being pursued through the Ark, the last city of Humanity; eventually escaping to the outside world. The story from that point revolves around Reid trying to get back into the Ark in order to take revenge on the leaders of the city and hopefully lead to a new and shiny future for all. So, with the narrative, if not not exactly nailed on at least in place via Pritt Stick, we can move on to what else DEADCRAFT has to offer. There’s a fair bit.
Presentation wise the game is absolutely fine, with no major issues to report. The action is viewed from an almost top three-quarter view, kind of like a Diablo clone, but slightly more vertical. The zombies are slow and shuffling, as you’d expect, except that is when it goes dark and they get glowing red eyes, move faster and become a lot more aggressive. Try to be tucked up in bed by dark, is my advice.
The human inhabitants of the slums have all picked their outfits straight out of the Mad Max wardrobe, with bits of metal and spikes being very much this season’s look. The world has a suitably worn look to it as well, you know, being the end of the world and all. Sound is pretty well done, with some conversations being fully voice acted, and some not, but other than that, the swish of weapons, the crack of gunfire and the groaning of zombies are all pretty much as you’d expect. The game moves at a good pace as well, and while it isn’t going to give Diablo 4 any sleepless nights, it is perfectly adequate.
DEADCRAFT is split into roughly two halves: one side being combat and exploration, and the other the crafting side of things. I’ll deal with the crafting side first as this is where the majority of the new touches are.
See, as we awaken in the game, we have a house with a bed, and an outdoor area, complete with a field already there. This is our home base, and the idea is that as we collect Survival Points – as they are known in DEADCRAFT – we can unlock not only new skills for Reid, but also new things that he can build. So, for instance, you’ll want to build a campfire first, as a cooked rat tastes a lot better than a raw one. Following on from that is a crafting table, so we can make bigger and better things, a storage shed and so on and so forth. So far, so standard survival crafting, right? Well, this is where DEADCRAFT takes a left turn and brings in new features.
You see, being half-zombie, Reid has the power to control special zombies that are christened “Frankies”. These Frankies are crafted from the corpses of human survivors that Reid meets and either kills himself, in the case of the local gangbangers, or that he happens across after killing a bunch of zombies. These corpses need to be planted in the field, and watered with zombie blood (stick with me here) and when they are done growing, they can be harvested and then placed on the field of battle before any skirmish. The idea being that the Frankies will take a lot of the heat away from Reid, and deal a lot of damage in return.
Some Frankies have clubs or knives, some have firebombs, and the rarest ones have guns and have retained the knowledge about how to use them. But this isn’t all and by taking the Frankie and crafting it again, various static turrets can be crafted, like the peashooter, which is a Frankie with a rocket launcher bolted to it; ideal for defending objectives. It is possible to have a lot of fun crafting Frankies, and this has been a big hook for me.
Exploration and combat also roll up into one ball, and the way it works is a little odd. Reid has a set amount of energy that he can use in a day, and when the energy is gone, his health starts to tick down until he dies. It is possible to boost energy with the correct items, but these are few and far between; it is easier to have Reid back in bed by the time his energy runs out. Resting in bed will reset his energy and he’ll be ready to face the next day. Every action takes energy, be it crafting, gardening, fighting or even scavenging water, and so you really need to keep an eye on the meter. And you need to watch his hunger and thirst meter, as he will need to eat and drink to stay alive.
Being a half zombie also leads to an interesting quandary. If Reid eats only human food and drinks water, he becomes more human, which means he has less health and does less damage in battle, but people accept him more easily. On the flip side, if he eats zombie chunks and drinks zombie blood, he will become more zombie, gaining powerful melee abilities but also much more likely to be attacked by passers by. This balancing act is a very interesting mechanic of DEADCRAFT.
The only complaint I really have is that the pacing is a little slow. When you are given missions to accomplish – as is inevitable in games like this – sometimes they are to grow vegetables or build a structure, both of which either require multiple in-game days, or a lot of grinding in order to find the materials you need. Personally, a seeming lack of progress towards where I want to go can be a little frustrating while tasked to perform no end of fetch quests. Luckily the game is just about interesting enough to keep you coming back, if only for the Frankies.
All in all, DEADCRAFT brings something new to the survival genre. It’s a bit too slow, but fun nonetheless, and if you are tired of regular survival games, this is different enough to offer a change of pace.
DEADCRAFT is available to download from the Xbox Store