Thursday, June 23, 2022.
by Peggy Doyle

DEADCRAFT Box art I am a huge fan of supernatural games and I have a love for anything zombie related. TV shows, movies, games – anything with zombies normally catches my eye when I see a trailer. DEADCRAFT is no exception to that, and I was hooked when I saw the tagline, “Farm the dead to stay alive”. Ummm, what? I’m growing zombies? Will it give me post apocalyptic Mad Max vibes meets Harvest Moon game play? I also have a massive love for any game that involves farming activities, so I knew I had to find out more.

I’m not really sure of the exact plot details but what I’ve managed to gather goes something like this; Meteors crash to earth, destroying a lot of the planet as well as bringing a virus that reanimates the dead. Oh, and also, you’re a half zombie. Maybe I’m oversimplifying with those statements, but that’s the start of it. DEADCRAFT's twist on the zombie genre is that you are half human/half zombie. This means you have both human and zombie qualities and skills that you have to balance. There are pockets of surviving humans scattered around the world (of course they all start their own factions versus working together) and you will work with or against them depending on what choices you want to make. Choose your enemies and allies wisely.

You play as Reid, a half zombie who has just escaped from a scientist hoping to use you and your half zombie abilities to help take over the new world. Not only do you want revenge on the scientist for what they’ve done to you, but also because he killed your best friend. Oh, and he was also experimenting on children. Just an all-around bad guy.

DEADCRAFT tasks you with accomplishing 3 things throughout the game: craft, cultivate and combat, the 3 C's if you will. I’m not entirely sure of how to classify this game from Marvelous Europe, and the trailers didn’t fully prepare me for what I experienced when I started my play though. It’s part survival game, part isometric action RPG and part zombie killer, and you’re also part zombie. Yes, it’s as complicated as it sounds. You’re basically in a limbo between the human and zombie worlds and you choose how you balance them to ensure your survival. You must venture out into the wasteland scavenging scrap, materials, food and water. You will craft items and cultivate crops (both plant and zombie).

Being a half zombie has pros and cons. You can summon some supernatural-like abilities when in combat for example. Transforming one of your arms into a shield or using it to swat away a massive number of enemies, but you also have to keep a certain part of your self human in order to not be attacked by the other surviving humans in the wasteland. Striking a balance isn’t easy as there are multiple health and stamina concepts at play. You have one gauge that shows how much of a human/zombie you are, and then you also have hunger and thirst bars. Each item you consume will not only replenish/diminish the hunger or thirst bar, but also affects the zombie/human balance as well. Contaminated food and water give you more zombie qualities while fresh food and water give you more human qualities. Until you learn the ability to grow food and make ‘agua cola’ you are constantly eating and drinking nutrition of varying contamination.

Being weighted more to the human side means you have more stamina and defence against the undead, while being more zombie means you have access to your special abilities but also less stamina overall. You also have an overall energy bar that only replenishes by resting at your home. This resting area is often quite a distance from where you are doing your quests. The amount that your energy bar replenishes when resting depends on how full your hunger and thirst gauges are as well. It was a lot to juggle at first.

Starting out, I didn’t find the tutorial particularly helpful in explaining how things worked and spent a lot of time trying to figure things out myself. It’s not overly complicated but does require a bit more attention than I am used to in games. While I understand that these all serve a purpose, they felt sort of tacked on and I had to often waste a lot of resources just to have full gauges so I could have max stats after resting to start the next day.

The crafting is a massive part of the game, as to be expected with CRAFT in the title, and thankfully it’s not overly complicated. The skill/craft tree has a lot of stages and detail but slow to open. You have to do quests for NPCs around the encampments and they reward you with items and skill points. Sadly, these were mostly fight and fetch quests. The fetch quests were sometimes tough too. There were many times I abandoned them simply because I couldn’t find or scavenge what I was looking for. Then I came to the realization that often you had to do a particular quest for a different person to get the items you needed for another etc.

This takes me to one of my biggest problems with the game. Why can I only do side quests one at a time? Sure, I can scroll through them but if I choose to activate one, I have to abandon the one I’m currently working on. If you abandon a quest you also have to start from the beginning of it when you start it again. They don’t partially save. After a few hours I became bored quickly with the repetitive nature of the quests. Although I enjoy a game with crafting, the cycle of the same types of quests just took the joy away from what sounded like an amazing concept on paper.

Crafting was very satisfying though, as you could make weapons, ammo, food, drink, as well as traps. Weapons have a wide range from the standard knives, bats and guns to chainsaws and even electric guitars. You could also upgrade and learn to farm different items, including your own zombie allies by planting severed zombie parts. Plant the parts, water with zombie blood and watch them spring to life to help you or be harvested for more parts. There was something utterly satisfying about being in combat and deploying a reanimated ally to help in your fighting. One of them even wore a little purple flower on his head so you knew he was a friendly.

As much as I enjoy farming sims, this isn’t a Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing cute farming sim, and I didn’t find the farming as satisfying as those. Growing varieties of food and crafting them into other types were the way to get buffs to your attack, defense etc. There was some humour with these dishes too, things like having the ability to make ramen, but also zombie ramen with entirely different abilities. You could also craft a machine similar to something like a Bloody Mary machine that you use to extract zombie blood. This zombie blood was used for a variety of things in farming and crafting. You could also create better equipment to make life and farming easier too.

There isn’t a lot of combat in DEADCRAFT, and while it’s not terrible, it’s pretty basic. The roster of who you fight, both human and zombie is pretty limited, and you fight using the basic melee, roll or block combos. Even the boss battles left me wanting more variety.

NPCs didn’t have much in the way of verbal dialogue, often a paraphrased first line from what you see typed on the screen, and the rest was there to read and toggle through. I found the dialogue awkwardly written, although I can’t exactly put my finger on why. It felt overly exaggerated and old timey at the same time. If you pay attention to the NPCs there are some pretty disturbing, awkward and amusing back stories to be heard as well. The unusual humour was there, the writing was clever, I just wish it were a bit more in the forefront. Reid had excellent voice acting from Xander Mobus which was great.

There is much more content to DEADCRAFT than its budget price would indicate, but a lot of content doesn’t always mean enjoyable content sadly. I loved the idea of the half zombie hero concept. I love crafting and survival games, but the lack of variety in the missions was a pretty big deterrent for me to continue on long term. That, along with the odd combat style and top-down gameplay didn’t make this a game I loved, and after about 10 hours I really was kind of bored with it. I wanted to love it more, it just wasn’t for me. If you like fetch quests and crafting, maybe you’ll love this. If you’re looking for something with a compelling story and a real survival action RPG, this probably isn’t what you want. Thankfully, there is a free demo that you can check it out for yourself and make up your own mind.

*DEADCRAFT was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X*

Overall: 7.2 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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