A Look Back at Dead Island 2 and its Rocky Development

To commemorate Dead Island 2's long-awaited launch, we take a look back at its tumultuous journey to this point.

Posted By | On 25th, Apr. 2023

A Look Back at Dead Island 2 and its Rocky Development

Sadly, there have been and continue to be plenty of examples in the games industry of projects being in development hell, and until not that long ago, Dead Island 2 fell in that group. First announced nearly a decade ago, the game has gone through its fair share of behind the scenes issues (to say the very least), from multiple delays to changing developers and more. At long last, the game is now finally out, but even so, its history continues to intrigue us. As such, now that Dead Island 2 has finally managed to release, here, we’re going to take a look back at its long and troubled development cycle.

The troubles with Dead Island 2, in fact, started right at the beginning. The original Dead Island and its standalone follow up Dead Island: Riptide were both developed by Techland, and while the initial plan was for the developer to work on Dead Island 2 as well, things didn’t quite pan out that way. Wanting to work on its own IP, Techland parted ways with Deep Silver and would go on to work on Dying Light. Deep Silver, meanwhile, started the search for the studio that would fill the Techland-shaped hole in Dead Island 2’s development process.

The first of multiple studios that would attempt to lead the project over the course of the next several years was German studio Yager. The developer pitched its own vision of what a new Dead Island game would be, and clearly, it was one that Deep Silver liked- well, for a while, at any rate. At Sony’s E3 2014 press conference, Dead Island 2 was formally unveiled by Yager and Deep Silver, while a gameplay showing followed not long afterward at Gamescom- and at the time, it seemed like things were proceeding smoothly.

That didn’t last long. Less than a year later, Deep Silver announced that it had ended its partnership with Yager, and that the studio would no longer be developing Dead Island 2, with the developer and the publisher seemingly unable to agree on their creative vision of the game.

And so, Deep Silver started the search for a developer for the project a second time, and several months later, in March 2016, it was announced that British studio Sumo Digital had taken the wheel. And for a long time, officially, that continued to be the case- though skepticism surrounding the game’s development continued to grow by the day. The fact that the game had changed developers had already sown seeds of doubt in many people’s minds, but what made things seem even more dire for Dead Island 2 was how little we saw of it.

In fact, we saw absolutely nothing of it at all. By the time Sumo Digital was announced as the game’s developer, it had already been close to a couple of years since its last showing, but that silence would go on to be dragged on for several more years. In the absence of any showings, trailers, or any material updates whatsoever, many started the question whether the game was even in any tangible form of development- and over the period of several years, Deep Silver would go on to claim again and again and again that yesDead Island 2 was still in development, and it was making progress. For all of those statements though, we never once saw the game, and many people’s belief that development hadn’t exactly become less tumultuous since shifting over to Sumo Digital continued to grow stronger.

Dead Island 2_0004

It was no surprise, then, when Deep Silver announced in August 2019 that Dead Island 2 was changing hands once again and would now be developed by Dambuster Studios, known for Homefront: The Revolution- which, incidentally, was yet another project that had a troubled development cycle and had to go through a number of developer changes. By this point, it had been over five years since Dead Island 2 was announced, and with showings and updates on the game still scant, optimism about its release or what state it was in behind the scenes was at an all time low.

Thankfully, Dambuster did indeed turn out to be the studio that would finally bring Dead Island 2 to the finish line. The action RPG was officially re-revealed in August last year at Gamescom, with Dambuster Studios and Deep Silver announcing a February 2023 launch, and though it would, of course, go on to see another slight delay to April, the next few months saw the game getting plenty of updates and showings, solidifying belief that this time, it was indeed actually going to release.

Interestingly enough, even now, with Dead Island 2 having been officially released, there are still plenty of questions about its long and bumpy development history that haven’t yet been answered. For instance, how much of the game’s original vision was retained? We can presume that Deep Silver liked the initial idea that Yager had in mind for the title, otherwise the studio’s pitch wouldn’t have been accepted, while even back when the game was first announced in 2014, it did share elements with the game that would go on to launch nine years later- like its more vibrant visual style than the original Dead Island, or using LA as a setting.

Dead Island 2_0006

But other than those fundamentals, how much of the game’s original vision did Dambuster Studios retain? Did the developer pick up bits and pieces of the project from when it was under development at Yager and Sumo Digital and stitch them together to create something cohesive, or did it do away with most of what of the work that had been done before to just start from the beginning, barring the aforementioned fundamentals? Or was it, perhaps, a little bit of both? Dead Island 2 was in the works at Dambuster for four years, which is a pretty long time, of course- but is it long enough to finish a major project that essentially started from scratch?

Either way, the game is finally out now- though what the future holds for the franchise remains to be seen. Deep Silver was clearly adamant on getting Dead Island 2 out, so this is clearly an IP the publisher believes in, though what kind of a future it will have from this point forward may very well depend on how the new release does. Critical reception for Dead Island 2 hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, though many might argue that it was unrealistic to expect that from it anyway, so if its undeniably enjoyable zombie-slaying action can find a sizeable and engaged audience that wants more of the same, we may very well end up seeing a Dead Island 3 at some point in the future, and hopefully, its development will go much smoother than its predecessor. Until such time that happens though – if it does happen – we can at least take some satisfaction in the fact that Dead Island 2 did manage to make it to the finish line, and though it hasn’t reinvented the wheel by any means, it does at least deliver the brand of zombie slashing action that many had hoped it would for years.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.


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