Dead State: Reanimated Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Independent
Developer:DoubleBear Productions
Release Date:2014-12-04
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Isometric
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay

Dead State has over 100 locations for you to visit, but once you gain access to horses or a car, you can zip out to 2-3 a day, no problem, and most people finish scouring the map somewhere around Day 60.  So what does Double Bear do?  They start the ending sequence on Day 86, which means you have to spend a month in the game just twiddling your thumbs.  Fortunately there are locations where you can go fishing or otherwise harvest food, so your people shouldn't starve, but it's boring and dumb to make everybody wait around for so long -- especially since this is a heavily patched version of the game, and Double Bear should have known better.

Worse, almost all of the story elements lag behind your scavenging rate.  Your allies tell you about places to visit -- well after you've already been there -- or they ask you to find something special for them -- long after you've already picked it up.  These timing issues are irritating.  It should have been easy for Double Bear to check if the conversations needed to trigger at all, or to move them up if you're exploring too quickly.  Really, instead of using the number of days passed as the trigger for events, Double Bear should have used skill points earned or something similar to determine when things happen, so the campaign tunes itself to the player, rather than assuming that the player is incredibly slow.

Graphics and Sound

Dead State is a budget title, so it doesn't contain anything fancy with its graphics or sound.  The game is played using an isometric view where the camera is zoomed out far enough so you can see an entire store or neighborhood.  That means there isn't a lot of detail to objects, but it's still clear what everything is and what you can do.  Meanwhile, there isn't any voice acting in the game, but there are some effective music tracks and sound effects.  So the graphics and sound aren't fancy, but they're perfectly functional.

Bugs and Sloppiness

Sort of surprisingly, despite Dead State having received multiple patches, it still has lots of little problems.  You often see overlapping text, or text running off the edge of a window, so you don't know what it says.  Characters can have injuries, and armor can have bonuses, but nothing in the game tells you what they mean (like what a sprained arm does to you); you have to look them up in the manual.  There are still numerous typos in the dialogue, and one character named Ken Nash is for some reason shown as Nash Nash.  The easiest way to select a character is to click on their portrait, but doing so causes the camera to move to them and often zoom in or rotate, which is annoying. This is all little stuff that's easy to deal with, but it should have been fixed in the first patch, rather than not fixed at all.

A little more troublesome is that the game doesn't handle multi-level maps very well.  You can't control which level is being shown, and since foreground objects don't turn transparent, you often can't see what's going on.  Stairs are also awkward.  Your characters have to "jump" from one end to the other, and enemies aren't allowed to use them at all.  There are also line-of-sight issues.  At one point a ranged guard on a balcony should have been able to see me and shoot me, but he never moved.  At another point a zombie in front of an upstairs apartment did see me, but even though he had no way to attack me, the game switched to combat mode, and I had to explore most of the map in turns, which wasn't fun.  Luckily, most of the maps either only have one level or a minimal second level, so these problems don't happen very often.

Otherwise, I spent somewhere around 100 hours playing Dead State, and it only crashed on me once, which is great.  It's also quick to load and save, which is a nice change of pace after playing Fallout 4 and Pillars of Eternity lately.

Conclusion

Dead State surprised me.  I knew going in that it was a budget title, and so I wasn't expecting anything really fancy.  But also I knew that it had received multiple patches, including its special Reanimated patch, and so I was expecting it to be fairly well polished.  Instead, Dead State feels more like a game that's just been released, and needs that one patch to raise it from being mediocre to good.

Still, I enjoyed my time with Dead State more than I didn't.  It has enough elements that work to make up for the ones that don't.  So if you enjoy turn-based RPGs or zombie apocalypse games in general, then it's certainly something to check out, although you might want to wait for a sale first.