Did you really think that just leaving the island would be the end of your problems?
Dead Island was not the polished, zombie slaying holiday in paradise that we were all led to believe it was. That’s not to say it wasn’t a huge amount of fun, it’s just that it wasn’t entirely what we expected. Still, the game managed to spawn enough fans that a sequel/spin off/side step was inevitable. Dead Island Riptide has stepped up into those slightly rotten shoes.
So, is Riptide a sequel, a spin off, or something else? Well, the game is not titled as Dead Island 2, so I think that we can rule out sequel. It is also fair to say that Riptide has not really advanced the game in any meaningful way – there are a few tweaks and new ideas thrown in, but the core game remains the same as before – so I would be inclined to label Riptide as a standalone, full game sized expansion. Does this reduce its value? To fans of the original, of course not. But to those who were perhaps not taken with the first game and were hoping that Riptide would offer more appeal, I don’t think the game is quite there yet.
After choosing your character, including being given the option to import characters from the original game if they are stored on the same account, the player is treated to a quick catch up followed by some quite dramatic goings on aboard a ship. It is this very first part of the game, before the player once again finds themselves on a tropical island infested with zombies, that represents the best that the game has to offer as far as drama is concerned. It really is quite enjoyable. But nothing lasts forever and before long the player will once again find themselves faced with a tropical open world and multiple fetch quests.
The quests are repetitive, there is no denying that. Players will find themselves traveling back and forth gathering stuff for most of the game. Some gamers find this annoying, but grinding is a well known mechanic in a lot of games, and for those who can embrace the rewards of improving their character, it can be entertaining. There is a story that runs through the game, but the reality is that Dead Island has never been about weaving a deep and meaningful tale. It is about beating up zombies.
As with the first game, the emphasis in combat is on melee. Once again there are a myriad of different items that the player can use as weapons for cracking over the head of the recently departed and returned, and these items can once again be upgraded/modified to create some really very cool zombie killing tools. Ranged weapons do play a part in the game, perhaps more so than in the first, but they remain secondary to the wonderful different ways you can crush a zombie skull, or remove their limbs.
There are five characters to choose from this time around, with each one offering the potential of a different play style. Each of the characters has a different specialty which can be employed by the player to greater effect when surviving the horrors of the island – for example, Xian is a blade expert, while the new character John Morgan is more comfortable in hand to hand combat. Playing these characters to their full potential will require careful management of the various skill trees as they level up.
The excellent crafting of the first game returns and has been expanded with more blueprints and more items. The idea is that through finding blueprints throughout the island, of which there are many, the player can craft their own more unique weapons using the items that they have found during their adventure. It was easily one of the best aspects of the original game, and having it return here with even more content certainly doesn’t hurt.
Besides the expanded crafting system and the obligatory new Zombie types that make an appearance in Riptide, the most apparent addition is the Hub Defence mode. Taken almost word for word from the Call of Duty Zombies mode, this mode will see the player, and their friends, defending a hub area from waves of Zombies through both attacking the Zombies outright and constructing defenses for the hub to slow them down.
Now, there are a few glitches in Dead Island Riptide, with the most noticeable being the frame rate issues. Whilst some may complain of a rushed or unfinished game, the glitches that I encountered don’t really detract from the enjoyment.
The biggest problem with Dead Island Riptide is the lack of innovation. The original game was solid, if not what the players were expecting, and exactly the same can be said for Riptide. It remains one of the better co-op experiences available. But that absence of any evolution in the gameplay will fail to win new fans, or just confirm the fears of those that were on the fence about the first game.
It really does depend on what you are looking for. If it is a revolution in gameplay, or a massive leap forward over the original Dead Island, then there will be disappointment. However, if you are one of the many gamers who really enjoyed the open world, co-op, Zombie-bashing experience that was Dead Island, then there are plenty of reasons to grab Dead Island Riptide. The changes may be small, but there is nothing here to upset a damn good co-op gaming experience.