Set in a zombie-infested pixel world, Deadly Days sees you take control of a number of survivors in the hopes of stopping the outbreak once and for all!
The game itself is a rogue-lite experience. Expect to die over and over again in order to level up skills and unlock new items. This isn’t one of your stay-alive-until-the-very-end deals, oh no! Dying is part of the game, and is expected too. How else will you unlock all there is to see?
Fans of rogue-lite games will be right at home here and will feel a sense of familiarity. Start a new game, get as far as you can and then tragically lose everything as you succumb to the hordes of the undead – and then start right back at the beginning! Rinse and repeat.
Of course, this being a rogue-lite title, death is not the end. Far from it. Yeah, on one hand you lose all of your current progress, but you will be rewarded with new items and skills that you can then take forward into your next playthrough.
There’s no real campaign here. Yes, there is a story of sorts – the zombie outbreak was caused by infected meat making its way to burger chains, which in turn, make their way to peoples’ stomachs. Burger + infection = zombies! But that’s about as far as it goes. Instead of a ‘proper’ campaign, the player undertakes a number of missions (something we’ll touch on later), in order to carry on surviving. One of these mission types is aptly named ‘Burger’, where you are tasked with destroying a burger joint in order to get burger maps. Once all of the burger maps have been discovered, you will find the location of the main burger joint, which you will need to destroy in order to stop that pesky zombie outbreak!
Let’s take a look at the various missions that I briefly mentioned above. The core bread and butter of the game is the survival aspect and that is handled via missions. Missions are completed in order to gather resources – such as food and weapons. There isn’t a great deal of variety here, as all mission types are essentially the same: Go to town, scavenge materials and return to your base. You’ll be doing the same thing over and over, with a few changes depending on what mission you pick.
All missions are essentially scavenge affairs, where you head into town and loot buildings in order to gather items and objects that can help you survive another day, but you may encounter a special building or location, depending on what mission you pick:
- ‘Hospital’ – Adds a hospital onto the map that you can scavenge for medical supplies
- ‘Air Drop’ – Adds an air drop somewhere on the map that you can find and gather materials from
- ‘Warehouse’ – A warehouse will be somewhere on the map for you to scavenge
It’s worth noting that missions are given to the player as a choice of 3. Which one do you pick? Do you go with a hospital scavenge in the hopes of picking up medical supplies or do you go with a recovery mission in order to add another survivor to your ranks? The choice is yours.
Speaking of survivors, you’ll start the game with two. These are randomly-generated by the same process, so there’s no character customization here but there doesn’t need to be in all honesty. Each survivor has a starting weapon: a pistol or a knife (which character gets what weapon is decided by the game). Survivors can be levelled up in order to gain more health and stay alive for longer. Levelling is done by one of two ways: you can use food to directly level up your characters at your base, or you will level up naturally as you complete missions and kill zombies.
In order to expand your settlement and gather more survivors, you’ll have to be on a recovery mission, which plonks a survivor down at a random location in town and you must help them escape – there’s no other way to increase your survivor count. You want to get the balance right with this. Yes, having more survivors will mean you can kill more zombies and loot more areas, but it also means you need to keep an eye on more people and ensure you have enough food to survive the day. You don’t want to come back from a mission only to die instantly as you starve to death.
Food, you say? Indeed. This ties into your base of operations; the place where you start every day (and every mission). The base is where you can equip weapons and special powers, and use food to either level up or eat. Once you’re on a mission, you are stuck with whatever items you have, so make sure your loadout is how you want it before setting off. There is also a crafting/building element to the game here. At your base, you are able to repair broken weapons that you have found via looting but you can also create weapons of immense power to take on your next mission.
Crafting expands beyond just weapons though, as you have the option to build more rooms, which offer bonuses and buffs to your group of survivors. Whilst the amount of rooms you can build are limited, there’s enough for a playthrough and you can experiment with other rooms when you inevitably die and start a new game.
Expanding on what was just touched on, let’s have a greater look at weapons, items and special powers. There are 29 weapons available in Deadly Days, ranging from pistols to machine guns to swords. All offer a different way of playing, so it’s best to try them all out and see which one works best for you. Weapons will have different speeds and damage amounts, so pick the best one for your current situation. Items, on the other hand, are objects that offer unique bonuses that can alter gameplay and make each run as different as the next. There are over 60 of these items to collect, from drones to toothpaste.
Finally, we have special powers. These are abilities that you can unlock as you play and can turn the tide, help you out of a tricky spot or just downright cause mayhem. There’s more than 30 of these powers to unlock, ranging from map-wide healing to an ability that freezes all zombies in place. Cool, right?
Of course, with a game called Deadly Days, you can expect some danger. The game offers a number of different zombie types, from your normal guys to your treasure zombies and beyond. Each zombie offers a unique take on the undead creature and will require you to change your strategy to take them down. There are also a handful of bosses that you will have to defeat as you progress through the game. As you can expect, these guys offer more of a challenge than any regular zombie so make sure you are prepared!
The game also features a day-and-night cycle, of sorts. During a mission, you’ll get a timer that counts down. Once this reaches 00:00, day will end and night will fall. This isn’t just about the sun and the moon though. At night, zombies become harder to kill, more aggressive and faster. This also brings in a level of strategy. Do you complete an objective, loot a house and leave, or do you stay for as long as you can and suffer the terrors of nightfall? It’s up to you.
Deadly Days also features a daily challenge, which differs every real-life day, bringing new buffs and debuffs to your game. You may find yourself facing more zombies, have less health or less firepower. You only have one go of this, so be careful! These challenges offer a great variety of advantages and disadvantages to the player and adds another level of complexity. It’s well worth a try each day.
Another aspect that Deadly Days brings to the table is its currency system, for want of a better word. There are 3 ‘currencies’ in the game that you will need to use to survive: One we have briefly touched on before – food. The other two are building blocks and currency. Food is gathered from missions and has two major uses: You can use it to level up your characters at your base. One food equals one level. Handy if you are trailing beyond or want a quick way of getting your health back. But be warned, if you run out of food, it’s game over! You’ll starve! The second is these building blocks. These can be used to repair and build new weapons. Finally, currency itself is the economic backbone of Deadly Days and is used to buy new weapons and abilities.
Diving into a mission to loot and kill zombies sounds cool, right? Well, it gets even cooler. Each mission will have a set of challenges, or objectives, that you can complete. These are by no means required, but give you something to aim for whilst out and about around town. Objectives include such things as ‘loot all available houses’, ‘destroy all apple trees’ or ‘loot all available cars’. They aren’t difficult by any means and will most likely be completed as you progress through the mission anyway, but it’s nice to have them available. And what’s more, they will be randomly generated, so each set of objectives will be different from the last.
We can’t finish this review without mentioning the art-style of the game, as well as the audio. The art will be familiar to lovers of games of old. The pixel-styled characters hark back to years past and the palette used is warm and welcoming. It’s got a real retro feel to it. There’s not much difference in the levels themselves, with an almost copy-and-paste feel to them with the same houses, the same streets, the same buildings, but the charm comes from beyond that. It comes from the art direction itself.
Music is also a fabulous aspect of Deadly Days. From the main menu music to the in-game tunes, I found the soundtrack to be brilliant. It’s never too noisy or in your face, but as the danger picks up, so does the music. You get a feeling of danger when out on missions, and a feeling of (relative) safety when in your base. It all comes together and the music only improves upon the games’ mechanics. Bravo!
All in all, Deadly Days won’t blow your socks off but it will scratch that rogue-lite itch. If you want something to keep you occupied for a good number of hours, love retro-styled graphics and have no issues with dying over-and-over again, then this is definitely a title for you. The port from PC to Xbox does not diminish the experience at all and works wonders with a controller.
Build up your community of survivors with Deadly Days on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One