Review: Dead Island: Riptide
Dead Island: Riptide is Techland's sequel to their 2011 title Dead Island, with the story of the five survivors continuing as they arrive on another island in the Banoi archipelago, only to discover that it has been overrun by zombies. Is this a worthy sequel, or just more of the same?
- Worth The Time?Not if you played the first game. Otherwise, both titles are similar.
- Things LovedSlaying zombies by the dozen can be fun, the combat and RPG gameplay elements come together very nicely at times to create an entertaining experience, there's an impressive variety of weaponry and combinations, the skill tree is well implemented and really adds diversity to the game, importing your Dead Island character to keep levels and skills is great.
- Things HatedIt's almost identical to the first game with only few improvements, it becomes a chore to play if you've experienced the original and grows tired before its time, some cases of terrible quest design, exploring the world is bland, the game tries to artificially extend its length too often, the story is boring and the characters are all unlikable, the AI is rubbish, glaring technical flaws.
- RecommendationTo put it bluntly, it feels ludicrous to pay full price for Dead Island: Riptide, as it's so similar to the original that it may have been an expansion pack. Sure it has some small improvements, a few content additions and it's less buggy, but it does nothing to truly better its predecessor, and if you've played the original then this will be an absolute drag, unless more of the same is exactly what you want. There are much better buys for this price.
- Name: Dead Island: Riptide
- Genre: First Person Action RPG
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: 2-4 (online co-op)
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Techland
- Publisher: Deep Silver
- Price: R459 (PC), R599 (PS3, 360)
- Reviewed On: PC
Dead Island: Riptide is Techland’s sequel to their 2011 title Dead Island, which was actually a pretty decent but technically faulted game. In fact many would have called the original a good game with a concept that had plenty of room for expansion and improvement, that is the idea of an open world zombie-slaying game set on a pretty island. Naturally, the direction for a sequel, or spin-off or whatever you’d like to call Riptide, would be to improve on everything that was wrong with the first, and from there either expand or reinvent. However, the direction of Dead Island: Riptide unfortunately seemed to be to deliver more of the same, faults and all included, add a few new things here and there and make some improvements, then wrap it up in slightly different packaging and charge full price for it. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works, at least not if you actually want to make a great game, and it opens up a whole new range of problems. I’ve already given the game away, but let’s take an in-depth look at Riptide.
The game picks up right where Dead Island left off, with the four immune survivors Carter, Mei, Sam B and Purna landing on an aircraft carrier after escaping from the island. There they are taken into custody, and introduced to another immune survivor as well as a bunch of military heads. The story isn’t exactly going to win any awards, so to cut it short, after a series of events the survivors find themselves wrecked on another island in the Banoi archipelago, and discover that similarly to their last holiday island, it has been overrun by zombies. Look, there’s not a whole lot to discuss with Riptide’s story, because honestly there’s nothing to care about really. It’s boring, nearly all the characters are unlikable and the dialogue meanders between cringe-inducing and just plain bad. This is one of the very few games where I was constantly tempted to skip the cutscenes and forgo areas of the plot so I could get back to playing, because there is literally nothing enticing to experience. I felt total apathy to everything in this story, and that word is used generously. This plays out like a below average and stock standard zombie affair, and that would be fine, as a quality narrative isn’t always required, if the gameplay made up for it or if the game didn’t take itself so painfully, and laughably, seriously.
As far as the gameplay is concerned, nothing much has changed since the last outing. You’ll explore the island, which is divided into areas, laying waste to hundreds of zombies and carrying out extremely dull missions. If it’s not a fetch quest, or a multi-layered fetch quest, then you’re probably not playing Dead Island: Riptide, or you’re letting your mind invent your own story with its own missions. I will give credit to the gameplay and RPG elements though, because they do come together to have a disturbingly addictive quality, although that isn’t quite as potent if you’ve experienced it before in the first game. I also praise the fact that you can import your Dead Island character to retain your level and skills. And I do still admire the impressive arsenal of weaponry and the various combinations you can have, and I especially liked the skill tree which is well implemented, paced efficiently, as in you level up at a nice rate, and really adds variety to the game as you unlock more abilities and moves. For those who just want to bash zombie brains, this game provides that in heaps and heaps, and it can be fun.
Indeed, slaying zombies by the dozen can be fun. Really fun in fact, although there’s only so much you can do of it, especially with Riptide being fifteen more hours of what you’ve already experienced. Here’s the truth of the matter. The original game had the good fortune of being first and fresh, which meant players were far more open to what it had to offer and a lot more forgiving towards its problems. But this is the second outing, and Techland had around two years to make a genuine improvement to the formula, yet they just haven’t done that at all. This is nearly identical to the first game. That means that if you’ve had your fill with the original, this will struggle to entertain you for all that long, and will start to feel like a chore. Riptide relies absolutely on the fact that you loved the first game, so much that you’d be willing to do it all over again, and pay full price for it. You’re getting quite the short end of the stick in that deal. Look, more of the same definitely isn’t always a bad thing, but when the first game struggled to entertain for its entire duration and had issues, and two years later the “sequel” barely makes an effort to improve yet has the stones to charge full price, you’ve got to put your foot down.
I’ve been criticising Riptide’s reason for existence, or lack thereof, for quite some time now. But what is actually wrong with the game itself? Well, that’s a laundry list. Where to start? First, I’ve already mentioned that the game carries the same issues as the original really. It has a number of technical faults, such as glaring glitches, noticeable frame rate drops if things get too busy, there’s clipping issues and terrible AI, where your allies literally will stand around in fights and not shoot zombies pounding away at your fences despite being in front of them. It’s not exactly broken or even close to being as bad as you can get, but you’d hope that in the time since the first game that they’d actually fix things like these. But one of Riptide’s biggest offenders is the awful quest design. To put it simply, the game does absolutely everything it can to artificially extend its length. I started to feel the game was overstaying its welcome. You’ll frequently do the same thing multiple times, face annoying travel difficulty, and every main objective is halted by a fetch quest or time-consuming distraction.
To elaborate, often missions won’t give you exact mission markers, but rather give you a sizable area to work with and inform you that your objective is somewhere in there. And that’s alright. But there were many occasions where despite knowing where the game wanted me, I wasted so much time trying to find out how to get there, because there was perhaps one obscure path buried somewhere among the army of zombies and constrict level design. Other examples include main quests where you have to run far off to fetch some item, only to realise with dismay that you need to manually carry the thing back four hundred meters. By that I mean literally hold the large thing in your hands and trudge back at a snails pace, having to put it down each time you encounter zombies so that you can fight them off. On that note, this game is overstuffed with fetch quests. Most main missions are layered with fetch quests blocking progression of the plot. And it’s easy to realise that, with the exception of some of the boss fights, which are pretty cool, and later segments of the game, there are practically zero quests that provide you with any kind of intrigue, narrative interest, entertainment or memorability. Most of my enjoyment came from simply killing zombies, with none of it due to the campaign or side missions.
And that really is one of the core issues of Dead Island: Riptide. Almost nothing, other than killing zombies, is actually fun. And even that has an expiry date. I’m not going to lie. There was a lengthy spell, once I had achieved a certain level, where I was seriously enjoying myself booting zombies to the ground, delivering savage uppercuts, dismembering, throwing knives at heads and using my electrified claws to slice up my foes. But a few hours and hundreds of dead zombies later, I started to become bored with it. And that comes attached with the idea that if you played the original and had your fill, this will get to you. Even exploring the world is hardly interesting, because there’s not much to see, and environments suffer a great deal from repetition, just like the gameplay. The world itself is bland, and travelling by boat or car really doesn’t add value to it like it would in a more expansive and robust world with more to see and do. At least the setting in the original game was compelling and gave it a personality with its tropical island featuring town and prison areas, but here it’s lifeless and repetitive.
The shame is in the fact that it doesn’t seem like Riptide really wanted to do a whole lot more than settle for more of the same. And I can’t stress it enough that it’s really unacceptable to pay full price for it when it hasn’t even bothered to fix what was wrong with the first game. The game did try to add a few new things such as more enemy types, boat travel and a new base defense type level which pops up now and again in the main quest, but none of these make the desired impact. The base defense mission is fun at first when you set up fences and gun turrets around the perimeter and attempt to add some tactics to your game, but it all dissolves once the zombies get in and it becomes more brain bashing, except this time you need to get zombies off your useless allies and either watch them stand idly by doing nothing or fail to kill grunts. Although, in all honesty these are vastly superior to the fetch quests. There’s also the online co-op to talk about, although that’s a subjective element as the value you’ll get from that depends on you and your social circle. Personally, all I found was that it made the armies of zombies disappear more quickly, but it didn’t make the experience a whole lot better.
To wrap this up as concisely as possible, let me say this. Riptide is not a great game. It’s not even a good one. And if you factor in the original then this title is downright unacceptable at its price, because the skeptic in me says that this is just trying to further capitalise off the original’s success, taking more from us but not giving back. However, if you’re new to the series and this seems appealing to you, then the chances are that you will enjoy it or its predecessor. Of course if you are desperately after more of the same and you’re happy with that, then Riptide will appeal to you just fine. It lasts a long time, and it really is fun to play for those wanting something with its own style in the world of zombie slayers. The fairest result would be to say that this is drop dead average. If I exclude brief spells of enjoyment, moments of frustration and periods of boredom, then the most common feeling I had when playing this game was indifference, neither loving nor hating it. That to me meant it just wasn’t worth my time.
Dead Island: Riptide is simply more of the same, and is so similar to the original that it may have been an expansion pack. It does nothing to truly improve on its predecessor, and will only really please those who are eager for more Dead Island, or those who are completely new to the series and enjoy a decent zombie basher. Otherwise, this is just a very dull affair, and it’s mostly average. It can be fun, but on the whole it’s unimaginative, flawed and grows tired before its time. It’s also terribly overpriced.