Dead State: Reanimated Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Independent
Developer:DoubleBear Productions
Release Date:2014-12-04
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Isometric
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Combat and Scavenging

Your base of operations is located in the middle of Texas, roughly halfway between Abilene and Austin.  Every day you're allowed to take a party of four (always including your main character) on trips to nearby sites to scavenge for supplies.  These supplies include necessities like food and fuel, and also "parts" (a generic term for items used in constructing upgrades) and luxury items (which improve the morale of your people).  At the start of the game you can only travel on foot, so you can't get very far, but eventually you gain access to horses and a car, which allows you to venture farther.

The scavenging maps are small, usually with just a few shops or houses in them.  Most maps also contain zombies, which you have to kill or avoid.  Your scavengers can only carry so much weight, so you have to be choosy about what you grab, or you might have to return to locations multiple times.  The game conveniently labels containers for you, so you don't have to click on everything that looks like it might be lootable.

Enemies in the game don't move, so it's easy to avoid them if you want.  However, they often block you from reaching containers, and they often drop loot themselves, so it's usually best to kill everything on every map.  When you're exploring a map, the game proceeds in real time, but when you initiate combat or an enemy spots you, the game switches to turn-based mode.

Each character involved in a battle has an initiative rating, which determines when they move during the current round.  This order is shown at the top of the screen, so you can see what's coming.  Characters get a certain number of action points on their turn, which they can spend however they want.  Moving a square costs 1 point, attacking with a weapon usually costs around 5 points, healing an ally costs 3 points, and so forth.  Characters aren't allowed to wait or defend.

If a character loses all of his health during a battle, then one of two things happens.  A zombie simply dies, but a living character is knocked unconscious and starts bleeding.  If you manage to heal such a character before he dies, then he can get back up and start fighting again.  However, if an unconscious (or otherwise severely damaged) character gets bitten by a zombie, then he becomes infected and turns into a zombie when he dies.  That's the only way the infection spreads.  A simple scratch or bite isn't enough.  And even the infection isn't a death sentence.  If an infected character takes antibiotics every day, then he stays normal.

An interesting thing about combat is that all fights cause noise, and so you have to pay attention to what you're doing because the easiest way for a zombie to detect you is to hear you.  If you stick to melee weapons then you're mostly fine, but if you start shooting guns, or if you bash open a locked door, or if you set off a burglar alarm, then zombies might come hunting for you.  Worse, if you make enough noise, then there's like a 50-50 chance that the game will create more zombies on the map and send them after you.  This can cause later battles against humans to be sort of a kick.  You might start out with about ten people shooting it out, only to have a dozen zombies sneak in behind you and try to spread the infection.

Sort of oddly, zombies are pretty much a pushover.  A couple characters with baseball bats can almost always kill a zombie in one round of combat, even if they don't have much in the way of a Melee skill.  And since zombies don't have any sort of group awareness, you can almost always draw them to you one or two at a time and kill them without taking any damage in return.  So zombie battles end up being easy but tedious, and that's a problem because zombies make up about 90% of the enemies in the game (or at least that was the case in my game).  A lot of the scavenging maps are filled with zombies, and those maps are just slow, boring slogs to get through.

Fortunately, the other 10% of the battles pit you against a variety of humans, including looters, bikers, survivalists, and soldiers.  These battles are much tougher, and they require you to have good armor and weapons -- which is a trick, since dead humans are your best source for such items.  The human battles are exciting in a way that zombie battles aren't, and the game probably would have been better if there had been more of them -- or if there had been tiers of zombies, with perhaps some fast and aggressive ones to go along with the slow and shambling ones.

Along with supplies, you also find equipment while you're scavenging.  This equipment is fairly realistic.  There aren't any "legendary" items with super bonuses, and there aren't any set items or anything like that.  You have to make do with weapons like baseball bats (my favorite), kitchen knives, and 9mm pistols, and armor like football pads, construction boots, and bike helmets.  As the game progresses, you eventually find better gear, but bullets are always in short supply (and they're expensive to craft), and so you have to pick and choose when you bring out your big guns.