Dead Island: Epidemic Hands-On Beta Preview – This is not the Dead Island you think it is…

Since I started watching Twitch on our Xbox One, I have found myself watching more competitive gaming. In today’s gaming competitions, MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas) seem to really be popular on the PC side of things. Honestly, I never got into them – so when I was approached with the chance to preview Dead Island: Epidemic from Deep Silver, I said sure – why not try something new? I was a fan of the previous Dead Island games and the world it was set in; however, would a different genre work with the franchise? I was about to find out, one zombie horde at a time.

The premise is based around one of the survivors from the first game. He has escaped the horrors on the original island, and has landed on the island of Amaia. He is then greeted by other survivors on the new island as they struggle against more zombies, scavenging for supplies and finding other survivors.

Before I could dive into the gameplay I had to choose a character that would fit my fighting style. There seems to be something for everyone, from fast and nimble characters, to walking-tank-like brutes. There also seems to be different variations on the same character, showing armored versions and mutated versions, each with different special abilities. I really enjoyed the variety in choice, and the developers plan to add more characters in the future.

After choosing a character, I was ready and eager to get into combat. Right now there are only three modes of play. The first is a Prologue, which introduces you to all the game’s mechanics gradually. This I welcomed since I had never played a game like this before, but I found some of it very familiar to dungeon crawlers I had experienced. There is also “Scavenger” mode, in which you need to gather enough supplies and hit the supply goal before the other team does. You are also capturing points around the map also to claim territory for extra points. You also need to deal with zombies and mutated zombie bosses. Finally, there is Horde Mode, where there are no other teams – just waves of zombies as you hunt for supplies.

You won’t just be fighting zombies. They game developers didn’t want to make it that easy for you so they have thrown in bosses as well which severely beat me down a few times. I’m glad I had my teammates who could revive me. Team work here is a must here to survive.

Controls seemed very tight as I moved about on the levels which are presented in an isometric view like most MOBAs. You come standard with a light and heavy attack for both your melee and ranged attacks. You also have a rage meter that will fill when using your light attacks. After it’s filled you can unleash a powerful attack with the heavy attack button. Also at your disposal you also have a set of special skills ranging from healing buffs, powerful ranged attacks, and other moves which can aid you greatly. Depending on the skill after using it there will be a timer countdown clock attached to it showing when you can use it again. These skills can be upgraded too as you level up and gain skill points. You also have items that you can equip before the match that can also help you along like healing aids, grenades to disperse large groups of zombies, and even items to steal supplies from opposing players.

At the end of the match, when the dust finally settled, I was rewarded with extra goodies in the form of consumable items, money to spend in the shop, and blueprints and raw materials to repair and upgrade weapons. All of these could be put to good use on the main menu, where you have access to your inventory, a Shop, and Workbench. Everything is laid out nicely and is easy to use. Even a first timer like myself quickly understood how everything worked, and being familiar with the Dead Island series, I felt that it definitely represented it well in its mechanics.

The overall look did remind me of Dead Island with its ruined and bloody vacation spot look. It wasn’t as serious looking, and had a more of a cartoonish look to the maps and characters, which is not a bad thing. The isometric view worked well, nothing ever got hidden from view on me and it followed the action well. I had a couple small graphic glitches, but it is still in beta so there are bound to be some bugs to be ironed out. I look forward to see what other maps and characters come in the future.

When navigating around the menus and such you will be greeted with atmospheric audio tracks which were rather pleasant. On the battlefield there was a nice thumping beat to go along with the action and accompanied the bashing-in of zombie heads well!

Will Dead Island: Epidemic fit into today’s MOBAs which are already out there? I enjoyed my preview and feel it can carve a strong place for itself among the competitive gaming community. I look forward to seeing how it evolves!