There was a good chunk of time where it looked like Dead Island 2 would never, ever come out. It was mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Beyond Good and Evil 2 and Half-Life Episode 3– games that were officially announced but then just disappeared off the face of the world. First announced nearly a decade ago in 2014, Dead Island 2 was in the works in some form or the other for even longer than that, and it changed developers multiple times, going from Yager Development to Sumo Digital to finally Dambuster Studios, while also being delayed time and time and time again throughout that period.
Now, however, Dambuster is finally (almost) done with development, and the long awaited zombie sequel is finally ready to launch. Not long from now, on April 21, Dead Island 2 will finally come out, ending years upon years of waiting- and while living up to all that anticipation is not an enviable task in the slightest, the action RPG certainly has the potential to deliver something rather special. 2023 has no shortage of titanic games coming out between now and the end of the year, and Dead Island 2 might not be as high profile of a release as some of those behemoths- but almost everything that Dambuster has shown off so far has looked promising, to the extent that it may even end up being one of the year’s better games.
One has to wonder, of course, just how much of Dead Island 2’s original vision has been retained over the years. The game started development in 2012, has switched developers several times, and presumably, has seen major resets behind the scenes as well. Given the fact that it’s now being made by people who had little or nothing to do with the original vision, and being made for an audience whose tastes and preferences have changed radically in the decade plus that has passed since it first entered development, one would assume that a great deal of the experience has undergone radical changes. At least, one would hope that that’s the case.
One aspect that has been retained is the setting- true to the original Dead Island 2 reveal trailer all those years ago, the game is still set in a quarantined Los Angeles that’s been overrun by the undead. That said, the setting isn’t being utilized in the way fans of the series might expect, in that Dead Island 2 isn’t going to be an open world game. Dambuster Studios has confirmed that LA will be divided into several zones, with players progressing from one to the other in a linear fashion. Each zone will vary in size – some will be expansive and offer plenty of side content, while some will be much more focused and smaller in size – and though players will have the option to go back to older zones, by and large, the game is very much eschewing an open world structure.
And frankly, that seems like the right way to go- in a market that’s oversaturated with open world games that feel like they’re large and expansive just for the sake of it, often to the point of being bloated and exhausting, it’s refreshing to see a game taking a much more measured and focused approach. More than a vast map that’s brimming with content that can keep us occupied for dozens upon dozens of hours, what we’re looking for from Dead Island 2 is its vibrant, whacky, zany tone, and to see how it recreates LA through that perspective. How well the game does that remains to be seen, but Dambuster is making all the right promises so far- like having unique zombie types in each area of the city, so if you’re in the zone known as Muscle Beach, you’ll be running into a lot of comically buff body building undead.
On the mechanics front, meanwhile, it seems like the game is putting quite a bit of emphasis on gleefully over-the-top violence. The Fury system is perfectly emblematic of that, through which players will be allowed to unleash superpowered and hyper-violet attacks, like being able to rip zombies apart limb from limb using nothing but your bare hands. Another promising aspect of gameplay that’s heavily emphasizing the gore is the FLESH system- or Fully Locational Evisceration System for Humanoids. Yes, it’s an acronym. And what exactly is it? In a nutshell, it’s a system that will procedurally rip zombies to shreds based on how you’re attacking them, spilling guts and splashing blood and crushing bones and ripping skin in a variety of gloriously disgusting and detailed ways. Sure, it might not be to your liking if you’re the squeamish sort, but if you enjoy gore in your zombie games, Dead Island 2’s FLESH system sounds fantastic.
A lot of that will depend on how Dead Island 2 handles its combat, which, as you’d expect, will offer a blend of melee and ranged options, with a variety of different weapons to use. Degradation mechanics will encourage players to keep experimenting with different weapon types, while a range of equippable mods and perks will also look to inject variety into the combat. On top of that, Dead Island 2 is also set to feature a skill system that, according to Dambuster, is set to be one of the game’s “most exciting” additions, thanks in particular to the level of flexibility and experimentation it will enable in loadouts and play styles.
And, of course, the game will feature multiple playable characters too- six in total, each coming with unique abilities and attributes. There’s Dani, who’s all about taking zombies head on and doling out attacks that deal heavy damage, and Jacob, who focuses more on quick movements and fast strikes that may not be as hard-hitting but allow for a pacier approach. Then there’s Amy, who specializes in one on one combat and ranged weapons, and Bruno, who’s preferred tactic is to backstab zombies rather than rushing headlong into skirmishes. From its weapons to its playable characters to its progression mechanics and more, it’s clear that Dead Island 2 is emphasizing player expression and variety in combat above all else.
Of course, it would be foolish to assume that Dead Island 2 is guaranteed to be as good as it looks so far like it will be. Heading in with lowered expectations is always a good idea, no matter what game you’re playing, but especially when that game has been in development hell for as long as Dead Island 2 was and been in production at multiple studios over the course of more than a decade, there’s a pretty good chance that things might not turn out the way you want them to (to say the least- we’ve had plenty of unfortunate examples of that in the past).
Clearly, Dead Island 2 has a lot to live up to, and even if it turns out to be a great game, there’s a decent chance that there will be many who’ll feel it doesn’t justify the long, long wait that has preceded its launch. But what we’ve seen of it so far has looked promising, and it sure seems like Dambuster has all the right pieces in place to deliver something that may actually end up being worth the long wait.
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