It’s hard to think of a title in recent memory that has shown so much promise in the opening minutes before fizzling out to become such a standard affair. Such was my experience with Dead Island Riptide, however, which assured me in the opening cinematics that it was not going to repeat the mistakes of its predecessor. The opening segment of play, set aboard a military sea vessel off the coast of Banoi, demonstrates the unforgiving spread of the outbreak that took over Banoi in the events of the original Dead Island title and convinces players that the story unravelling will be of epic proportions.
What a shame it is that the prologue of this title could be so deceiving..
Once the excitement of the opening scenes dies down, players find themselves stranded on the island of Palanai. This is where the hellish experience of Riptide truly begins. Not hellish as in “OMG THE ZOMBIES THEY’RE POUNDING ME,” either, but hellish due to the deja-vu feeling induced by the issues evident in this game that also hindered its predecessor. It’s hard to even know where to begin in describing the frustrations found in playing through this game.
I suppose the story would be the ideal place to start. While the opening scenes will have players almost drooling, just waiting to find out what will happen, it’s a steep, downhill ride from there. The story quickly degrades into a “He’s the bad guy,” “No, she’s the bad guy,” squabble-fest. Pair this with objective-based play that becomes almost purely-focused on fetch quests and horde survival, and you have a scenario which will force players into watching Days of Our Lives out of boredom.
If an unconvincing plot wasn’t enough in the original title and in this one, then the inevitable third title (as hinted to by the ending in this title) will surely put the nails in the coffin of the Dead Island franchise.
For what it’s worth, the gameplay holds up reasonably well. Combat mechanics are as fluent as one could hope, and movement and game physics allow players ease of movement through the game’s paradise-like environments. In fact, I would say there’s very few issues with the mechanics of play. That said, players are still likely to prefer smashing their face on their keyboard, simply for the fact it offers more variety than collecting items on elongated fetch quests and slaying hundreds of zombies one by one for no apparent reason.
The visuals, like the solid game engine, are deserving of praise. Environments generally look great, with some landscapes looking downright amazing. Idyllic views of Palanai are commonplace, and players will soon find themselves longing to be part of this serene island, despite the health risks it offers in contrast to their homes. Simply put, Riptide looks nice, with beautiful depictions of apocalypse-ravaged islands.
Unfortunately, there’s little else I can describe as enjoyable in this title. In fact, those who can look past the frustrating story and the yawn-inducing missions will find a slew of entirely new problems. I’ll spare detail on a number of issues, but a simple outline of problems evident in this title should be enough to justify my frustrations with it.
The GUI is anything but intuitive. New quests don’t always come into focus. Dialogue is horribly unconvincing and does not sync up with characters’ mouth movements even remotely. Building and upgrading items is ridiculously expensive — to the point of being worthless — and item prices are all over the shop (excuse the horrible pun). Infected enemies come at you wave after wave after wave, even if the area was clear of enemies just seconds before you entered combat.
If these elements of play were added deliberately in order to challenge the player, then I seriously hope they’ll be reconsidered by game designers for any planned sequels, for they serve as nothing more but a mere annoyance to the player. A persistent annoyance at that.
Finally, there’s one huge, gaping hole in the game that was evident out of the box, and that is the lack of a working co-op gamemode (on PC). Co-op is one of the few ways this game can be enjoyable (as was the case with the original Dead Island), and yet, I found myself having to download software to run a virtual network and have my friends do the same if I wanted to play the game with them.
This is an unnecessary amount of effort for something that was supposed to be included with the game’s release, and one that had negative effects on the playing experience for all of us, too.
In 2013, this sort of mistake is not in any way justifiable or excusable. The inability to readily access multiplayer in a co-op game makes me wonder how thorough the testing processes were before Riptide’s release. This goes for many of the aforementioned issues, too.