Our Dead Days of Summer extravaganza continues! Dead Island: Riptide was unveiled, in title only, back in June. Two months later and we still know nothing about it other than the very distinct possibility that it will take place on an island that may or may not have a few zombies inhabiting it. Other than that, who knows? Going by what little we know (i.e. a title), I’ve compiled a list of things I’d like to see from the sequel before its potential official unveiling at Gamescom later this month. Check them out after the break!
Despite its numerous flaws, I really enjoyed Dead Island. It might not have carried anywhere near the emotional impact its chilling debut trailer did when it was originally re-revealed last February. It was still a great cooperative zombie game with light RPG elements like leveling up, loot, character skills, and side quests. Unfortunately, it was also brimming with bugs, its story and characters were unforgettable, and many of its greatest features weren’t as fleshed out as many of us might’ve hoped. With Riptide, Techland has the chance to remedy the situation and make this the best goddamned zombie game of all time.
There’s some significant competition out there right now, with Resident Evil 6 reintroducing zombies in October and Dead Space 3 mixing zombie-like Necromorphs and light RPG features like side quests and weapon crafting next February. Riptide is going to need to really stun those who were scorned by Dead Island last year, while finding a way to bring in the newcomers. This won’t be easy, but it isn’t impossible.
For starters, we need to keep everything the first game did well. That means the wide open world needs to return, complete with loot, side quests, and weapon crafting/upgrading. I loved getting in fisticuffs with a zombie against the backdrop of a scenic island resort, but I hope Riptide introduces some more variety into the mix. Running around outside while being chased by a horde of ghouls is good fun, but some of the most memorable, and terrifying, parts of Dead Island took place indoors. When you’re in a claustrophobic hallway, it’s more difficult to run and you always have the feeling there are all sorts of monstrosities waiting for you behind every corner.
I was a little disappointed with Dead Island when, after numerous teases of a coming storm, it finally arrived and it wasn’t much stronger than a mild summer rain. I suggest implementing some sort of weather system that randomly generates storms of varying intensity, because there’s nothing quite as creepy as the silhouette of a wall of zombies partially hidden by the rain and lightning. There’s also something about storms that is just scary. They’re big and isolating, and that’s a good feeling to induce in a post-apocalyptic survival horror game. It’d also be great if we could fight the zombies at night. Darkness is just as scary as a thunderstorm–just imagine when you combine the two?
While we’re injecting more variety into the world we explore, let’s throw in some dungeons to mix things up. I’m not saying we come across a cave that we need to clear of monsters so we can find the hidden treasure, but, well, I guess I sort of am. Just replace the cave with an empty warehouse, apartment building, grocery store, etc., the monsters with the shambling undead, and the treasure with a unique weapon, and voilà! Let’s stop kidding ourselves. This is an RPG, so why not embrace that? Let’s give the players better loot. Hell, I’d be all right with giving us set items that grant a bonus as you equip more items in the set. Why not?
Oh, and for the love of all things red and squishy, no more sewers levels. Never has a video game found a way to make trudging through waist-high sewage entertaining, and when you add how insanely easy it was to get lost in there, the sewers quickly became the last place in the world I ever wanted to visit.
In Dead Island, you could choose between four fairly generic characters separated by their “unique” backgrounds and various specialities. You had the knives expert, the guy who’s fond of bludgeoning things, the other guy who likes to throw things, and the entirely useless guns expert. Let’s go ahead and drop that so we can replace it with Mass Effect-inspired customization where the player choose their name, gender, speciality, appearance (though we don’t need to go quite as in depth as Mass Effect, seeing as this is a first person game) and their background. This way I immediately have a connection with the character I control, because that’s very important for a horror game. I never cared if my girl got maimed in Dead Island because A) I hadn’t taken the time to really get to know her, and B) I knew I’d just respawn a few feet away with my wallet a few dollars lighter.
This, too, is a problem.
I don’t like being severely punished when I die in a video game, especially when it’s as easy to perish as it was in Dead Island, but I also want to care when I do die, otherwise, what’s the point? There needs to be a balance here where the player is always cautious not to die, but when they inevitably do, it isn’t frustrating getting back to where they were before a bullet took them out or a zombie bit their face off. Honestly, I like Skyrim’s approach, because it puts the situation entirely in the hands of the player. You have auto-saves, primarily used as backups should a malicious bug try and ruin your day, then you have your manual saves. This, I think, could work for Riptide.
Overall, I loved the weapons, loot, and weapon upgrading/modifying. The handful of exceptions being the startling number of pointless unique weapons that just plain sucked, the weapon degrading (this needs to go), and the guns. I never used guns because they were horribly unwieldly little things that got me killed more often than they helped. They were effective against humans, but I really hope human on human action is going to be kept to a minimum in the sequel.
The health system was a little off, and the idea of energy drinks and power bars healing you has always been more than a little wacky. I recommend we go ahead and kick all that to the curb and replace it with a variation of Left 4 Dead’s health system. Let each player carry a few health packs, which they can use on their allies or themselves, and get rid of everything else. It unclutters the inventory and simplifies it for newcomers, all while making more sense. It will also mean players won’t have to waste their time scavenging tables and wet bars in a desperate attempt to find a soda and a Snickers.
The idea I’m most excited about, and one I’ve seen other fans of the series ask for on this bundle of tubes we call the Internet, is an overhaul of the safehouses. Instead of sprinkling a few over the world in set locations, why can’t we find our own defensible buildings that we clear out and spend the resources we find on our adventures on upgrading them? I want to have a home base that I chose, one that I’ve invested in to fortify its defenses so the survivors I find can hold out there. The lighthouse, church, and lifeguard tower in Dead Island were nothing more than pit stops for me, places I ran to to unload my goods and spiffy up my arsenal before I returned to the glorious art of asskickery.
Finding my own home, one that I have to barricade, maintain, and return to every so often to make sure my friends are still alive sounds a hell of a lot more interesting than running through a church, clearing all the suitcases of their assorted fruits and cash along the way, before I head over to the next safehouse and start over again.
Speaking of which, let’s get rid of the money entirely, because seriously, who needs money during an apocalypse? Also, I want to be able to interact with my environment more than just looting suitcases. Please.
Remember Dead Island’s debut trailer? Of course you do. Some grab wine and watch The Notebook in search of a good cry, but gamers only need to open a Mountain Dew and put the Dead Island trailer on repeat. It set the bar astronomically high, so perhaps the game could’ve never lived up to those lofty expectations, but it would’ve helped to introduce some tough decisions into the story. If The Walking Dead–and I’m talking about Telltale’s games here–has taught us anything, it’s that difficult decisions can take your story to a whole new level.
Those are my biggest ideas, so from here on it’s total anarchy.
Strategic Dismemberment: take another page out of Dead Space’s bloody book and at the same time expand on a feature that was already (loosely) implemented in the original game. I want more options when it comes to slicing and dicing my enemies, particularly when it comes to damage below the waste. I want to cut a zombie’s legs off, break their legs, or bisect them and watch in terror as they proceed to try and drag their body toward me in an effort to munch on my tasty ankles.
Parkour: I don’t necessarily need to be as quick or agile as Faith from Mirror’s Edge, but I wouldn’t mind being able to vault over obstacles, climb up walls, and slide under objects while running. Just tie these into the stamina system to make sure they don’t make things too easy.
Unique weapons abilities: Each weapon functioned in much the same way. Guns shoot and melee weapons are for swinging wildly. Introducing animations that are unique to the weapon being used (you can push a zombie away with a jab from a sledgehammer or bring it down on their skull while yelling something about you being Thor and how they should eat your Mjolnir, for example), and/or unique execution moves would be nice additions.
Totally different skill trees: In Dead Island, each character had a decent selection of skills unique to them, but there was also quite a bit of overlap. I say we make them all completely unique, transforming each class into a radically different way to play the game. This would make Riptide more replayable while giving each player on the team a feeling of being invaluable because of the skills they possess that no one else does.
Giving the player more control of the world they explore (with the safehouses) and the person they explore it with (through the character customization) would make Riptide more relatable. Expanding on that by giving the player some control over the direction the story takes, and adding a little emotional impact by forcing them to make tough decisions would drive that concept even further. After that, all you need to do is you have an amazing QA team there to rid Riptide of most of its bugs, and you’ll have a title that could easily stand up to all five of Resident Evil 6’s campaigns.
Here’s the rest of our Dead Days of Summer extravaganza, in case you missed them:
Day 1: Vote For The Best & Worst Games Of 2012 (So Far!)
Day 3: Win A Metro: Last Light Gas Mask!
Day 4: The 8 Best Horror Themed DLC
Day 5: The Creepiest Video Game Easter Eggs
Day 6: In Search Of The Best Resident Evil
Day 7: Here Are Your Picks For The Best & Worst Horror Games Of 2012 (So Far)