Aka the “actual” Dead Island 2, as time would eventually tell.
Technically not, but actually yes, since it’s developed by Techland and in terms of story it’s a direct sequel, following up immediatly (after a brief recap) where we left off that unremarkable (to be kind) narrative, which means the group of survivors gets aid by an american Navy ship but it’s immediatly captured by one of the side villains from the previous game, Serpo (guess Betraldo didn’t have the same ring to it), intenting of using their immune blood to concoct a cure and a weaponized bio weapon, or something. Doesn’t matter much, as you shipwreck into a nearby island in the archipelago, where the zombie epidemic has also spread after the incident in Banoi, and learn that they plan to nuke the entire island in order to contain the zombie plague.
Yeah, the story it’s about as crappy and easy to completely not give a shit about, with the obvious twists seen coming miles and miles away, but i’d argue it’s actually, objectively worse since there is barely a plot in Riptide, like, at all, aside from the beginning and ending, where a side character in the first game becomes the main antagonist… barely, so you can say this game does recycle too much from the first, even in this regard.
Even worse, because Serpo still feels like a sidekick to a main villain/antagonist that doesn’t exist, and they even pull the “last second extra twist villain” at the end to further take away the focus on Serpo, it’s not like we ever get the time or a proper reason to ever think that Serpo isn’t the real villain, we always knew he was, and the revelations at the end he spits out don’t amount to much.
So in a way it’s fitting he doesn’t get a satisfying finale, but that goes for the narrative as a whole, all made even worse by a cliffhanger ending. One of those asshole cliffhanger endings that doesn’t tell you shit, because your boat just washes up on a nearby island inhabited by persons, it docks by itself and then you see the hatch hinge being open from within stairboard, then cuts to “the end”, not hinting at you surviving nor succombing to the mutagen.
Can’t wait for this to completely be ignored in Dead Island 2. I would honestly not blame anyone for completely ignoring this awful cliffhanger ending for the newer game.
Or the entire storyline, since in this regard Riptide just feels not very thought out in detail, just a very loose narrative composed of an ensemble of continous setbacks more than an actual plot, all stretched over and over with a slapped on finale that emanates a powerful feeling of “let’s just get things over with as soon as possible”.
This time, alongside the previous 4 survivors, you also get the choice of playing as a ex-soldier proficient in acrobatics and hand-to-hand combat, so of course i choose him for this playthrough (like i said before, i previously played the PS3 version years ago), since it’s… well, Dead Island.
I do like the new character and its combination of new melee and (limited) acrobatic abilities, combined with the slightly rebalanced old ones you’ll have to unlock in the skill tree, but for better or worse it’s more Dead Island in terms of gameplay, so no need to go over how it’s basically “melee zombie Borderlands”… again.
So “more Dead Island” that Riptide it’s often seen more as a stand alone expansion pack more than a proper sequel, since it came out 2 years after the original and does feel like an overgrown DLC expansion that eventually became big enough to warrant being its own game, despite not fixing any of the many issues the original game had, nor having any new substantial addition to the formula.
Heck, it’s no wonder the game was more subject of discussion due to its “Zombie Bait” edition that included a quadri-amputated female torso (sporting a bikini) bust statue, which was indeed incredibly distasteful for many obvious reasons. Not judging you if you owned/wanted the thing and got it, i’m not so stupid to summarily profile anyone as “sick” for that, but dang the bad taste was indeed off the roof with this thing, it’s “more than questionable” nature is irrefutable.
Take that from someone who owns a Blu-Ray uncensored copy of Island Of Death.
But still, obviously it’s NOT identical, and there is some new stuff, including the expected array of new weapons, like harpoons, chainsaws, throwing knives added to the familiar arsenal of oars, hacksaws, hammer, there are some new zombie types, and now you have some mini-bosses in form of named variants of special zombies, like a named Butcher type zombie that has no weakness unlike its regular counterpart, but nothing special but it’s something.
in terms of progression, the only difference is that now you level up proficiency for the 4 weapon types (cutting, impact, hand to hand, guns) by using them, which.. doesn’t actually change how you play the game, it’s just the old “moving forniture” rearrangement of features trick, as every important feature or mechanic of the first game plays out exactly as before.
In terms of level design, aside from the use of boats to travel as most of the new island is a laguna, there is more emphasis on verticality, more use of stairs and buildings with more than a ground level to access, and overall navigation benefits from it, as you have key places showing a “focal referral structure” icon, and now you can better navigate your ass around with the ability to climb specific and strategically placed vines and rock formations.
You can definitely see some sparks of what Techland eventually accomplished in Dying Light, to say the least.
The more notable new thing is the “base defense missions”, where you have to defend yourself and your squad from waves of zombies storming the current base of operations.
It sounds like a tower defense thing but it ain’t, there no structure or object to defend during these sections, aside from the allied characters, there are no automatic weapons to lay out, but there are “tower defense-like” elements, like the ability to put up barricades of barbed wire at the various entry points, set up machineguns nests, but this is used when the game story missions have you and your group move out to or defend the new refuges while doing something that attracts the zombies.
This also entails more backtracking as you’re forced to salvage stuff for the defense like military grade machines from a crashed helicopter, but it doesn’t really makes the game worse or better, it’s a Dead Island game, the first one had plenty of that anyway, but i need to make it clear these “base defense” sections aren’t side hustles, as they come often into the storyline missions, so i hope you like them because you’re gonna have to do them a good amount of times.
I understand it’s also a decision made to make this feel not completely identical to the first game, they had to do something different, that kind of dealio, but it’s more of a gimmick, as they don’t properly escalate things in later missions, and in the final act they almost didn’t even bother, like, you hole up in a cinema, but the last “horde defense mission” of the whole game doesn’t even take place there, but on the roof of building that hosts the cinema itself. What a shame.
By now you might think that this should be a better game than the first Dead Island, it’s technically a little better too, but honestly it just kinda makes you wish you were playing the first game, flawed game for flawed game.
Sure, the new traversal options are nice, but from the starting location being more annoying to navigate since it’s basically a big lagoon and water slows your speed on foot (forcing you to rely on the boats that are found just in some specific locations), it feels bigger than it needs,
Sure, having both cars and boats helps, but again, this isn’t quite a plus or an advantage over the original since there’s plenty of need for boats to traverse where most of the game takes place, you don’t access anything that ain’t swamp or jungle-like until a lot later in Riptide, or that doesn’t feel as an extension of either of the two. And boy, since you can’t run in water, i wish there was a lot less bog to wade through, even if it “justifies” the boats existing to begin with.
A seemingly small but welcome is that now the game will let you take on quests anyway BUT will tell you need to unlock/reach a certain place before being able to complete and follow it through said quest, so you can’t be accidentally jerked around or forced to try and complete a quest anyway even if there’s no marker for it on the map (or the mini map). Nice that they fixed it.
Though, the balancing issues and the plethora of graphical glitches are basically untouched from the first game, even in his Definitive Edition form. I didn’t encounter many progress-related bugs in this one, but it’s not uncommon to get stuck searching an item in an area that didn’t spawn, so thankfully after some deaths the game just respawn you into the area you’re expected to reach as it did in the original game (even in its non-Definitive Edition release).
There’s less emphasis on shooting people with guns this time, even less so, even for sidequests, but to compensate for that there’s plenty of random survivors standing in elevated places that you have to save by killing all zombies swarming to them, which is admittely better in terms of immersion and enviromental logic, as most of the continous quests are supplied by people in your survivor group, not a random bikini broad that doesn’t escape from a clearly infested zombie area.
While there is a notable reuse of assets (get ready to see once again six character models for men reused over and over even on story important NPCs), there’s also a notable number of new locales and generic assets, for example the lagoons and the ruined stone houses, there’s simply a bit more care than i remembered to get new assets and new locales, even if they feel similar they’re not reporpused old shit from the first game.
Techland it’s not a big budget developer, but at least even in Riptide it didn’t pull shit like Risen 3, where they lifted as in an entire building and just flipped it inside out like a pair of men’s underwear, hoping no one would notice it’s still the same asset from the previous game.
Honestly i think the hotel-resort was just a more fun and “iconic” in the first game, just goes to show how much the first hours of a game are important, don’t listen to the shit Ubisoft peddles.
But still, even in the first game there was a bit more locale variety on offer already in the resort, Riptide after a while meshes together in a overly sprawling bayou with occasional dry areas, caves, and shit. On the flipside the pace at which you move through the locations isn’t really that different, so you spent roughly the first half of the game in the first big location, then move to a port city, then a military base .. oh wait, you get a military camp, but it’s a small part of the city, as is the port area, so ultimately the game’s map evens out with the first in terms of extension.
On one hand, it’s not too shocking Deep Silver didn’t include a separate disc for Riptide in its Dead Island Definitive Collection (it’s a digital code to redeem via serial code in a vouche alongside Retro Revenge), so you might wanna hunt down the 360 or PS3 original release for that purpose.
While the original it’s still more memorable and enjoyable, Dead Island Riptide does stratch the itch if you simply want more Dead Island, since it’s a overgrown expansion/extension to/of that game with some minor additions and improvements but the exact same jank quality overall.