Introduction & Core Mechanics
Developer Marvelous’ latest creation DEADCRAFT sees them move away from their typically anime branded style of games, and takes a chance at something different. This “something different” is an edgy, zombie survival action game. From a top down perspective you’ll find yourself farming crops, completing requests for allies, seeking revenge, and mindlessly slashing away at humans & zombies alike.
DEADCRAFT sits you through a brief narrated introduction to a world in which meteors destroyed life as we know it, while naturally spreading a zombie virus simultaneously. Promptly following the introduction, DEADCRAFT then grabs you by the head and slams you straight into the action, giving you limited backstory through choppy clips of our protagonist, Reid. From what we can make out he escapes from a facility, where he eventually finds himself making a home out of a less than desirable shack with many opportunities for improvement. From the jump you’re tasked with the standard tutorial, picking up supplies nearby, getting a weapon, and teaching attacks. Immediately, the controls are what first stood out to me. On Switch in particular you’ll immediately notice a sluggish delay that’s not quite game-breaking, but notably there. Because of this, when the fighting starts you have two options: 1) mindless button smashing or, 2) adjusting your timing to suit the delay. Both options work just fine, but the menus are where the issue becomes more prominent. Whether it’s inventory management, browsing shops, or checking the map, ditch the stick. The directional buttons seem to work well enough with little input lag, but using the stick is a fight in and of itself, especially on the map.
Combat is basic, yet I still find it enjoyable. Nobody will be getting confused with a lone attack button, but you’ll also find a lock on option, and two weapon slots allowing you to switch between weapons with moderate speed to spice things up. Slamming the attack button can lead you to activate some quick, yet satisfyingly gruesome finishing moves, but be careful not to hit the surrounding civilians in the middle of combat. It will quickly cause your wanted meter to rise and give you all kinds of grief. However, you will quickly notice there isn’t much room for the finesse of tactics or well-timed dodges in this combat system, there is only so much you can do.
One of the more notable combat features is that you do gain access to “zombie powers”. Being a half-zombie, Reid’s zombified arm doubles up as a shield and a wide-range attack weapon. These “zombie powers” aren’t always readily available, though. You must balance Reid’s human and zombie halves, with each side having its own advantages as well as drawbacks. The more zombie you happen to be, the higher your attack and health is, but when you find yourself to be more human, your health and attack will be lower while also receiving a large boost to your defensive stat. Managing the halves is as easy as eating or drinking, which you need to do anyway or it’s R.I.P Reid. Eating or drinking will either increase or decrease your zombie half. Using your zombie arm will, weirdly, increase your human-half so if you want to slap the arm around rapid-fire style you’ll need to maintain a heavy zombie diet.
Alongside your standard health bar, you also need to keep an eye on your thirst, energy, and hunger. Letting your thirst get too low results in Reid’s vision going blurry, while running out of energy causes every action to drain your health instead of energy. Starving yourself makes travel a nightmare, as Reid will only be able to manage a fragile limp through the streets of the slums. The bottom line is I hope you payed attention in health class, because you’ll need you map out hearty zombie diet or you’ll quickly find yourself in a bad way.
Plot: Zombies, Pals, Revenge
Throughout your time in the world of DEADCRAFT, there is an eclectic cast of characters that are all completely different from one another. Zombie Gramps provides tutorials and triggers new zombie powers, while Vernon provides you with quests to help people throughout the wasteland. He also acts as a method of upgrading the space in your home base later on. Alongside your allies there are, of course, villains. Necron serves as the Big Bad, having murdered your zombie hunting partner Gene, and leads the primary plot point of Reid searching for revenge. Obviously, a villain needs lackeys, and there are plenty of over the top, wacky characters dedicated to stopping Reid along the way on Necron’s orders.
Necron remains shrouded in black and looks like the textures have yet to load in which makes for a less than intimidating rival. Yet, the setup is interesting, and the world is crafted in a way that feels both rushed and intricately designed. Reid needs to get back into the Ark in order to exact his revenge. The Ark is the city contained within gigantic walls meant to keep scum and zombies outside, but since this is the apocalypse all is not what it seems. Necron lures zombie hunters inside The Ark with promises of work only to do something sinister to those who fall for the bait.
Character development is sudden which is a given downfall for a mission based plot. After spending weeks doing little requests for shop owners, Zombie Gramps, and Vernon, the most you get is some witty one-liners. Then, out of nowhere, a gigantic layer of the character’s personality or backstory will be dropped on you. DEADCRAFT does a good job, for the most part, of getting you to like its messed up cast as what does get revealed in regards to character backstory offers just enough depth, even if all logic is lost on these people.
Action, Crafting, & Farming
In case you aren’t familiar with Marvelous Games, in the past their games have either been anime based in design, or have generally been small town, arcade-ish farming simulators. While DEADCRAFT seems to have similar design aspects as their many previous farming sim games, it proves to be much more of a top-down action game than it is a farming sim. At its most basic, farming consists of pressing one button to do all actions in the single 3×3 grid it gives you access to in the beginning which of course can be expanded later on.
To DEADCRAFT’s advantage, the farming doesn’t get in the way of the action, because there are no tools clogging up your inventory. This ends up being a blessing with how many materials you end up getting throughout the game due to how little inventory space you have access to. For example, the hoe is always available while the watering can is quickly replaced with consumable items. You can plant tomatoes, pumpkins, and Frankies. Frankies are the zombie allies that you can make from planting corpses. That’s right, you can grow your own zombies to fight alongside you in battle. One thing is for sure, from their past experiences Marvelous Games has the farming mechanics down to a science. They even going as far as granting the ability to cultivate hybrid vegetables. While it adds depth mechanically, I never found it to be really necessary. The time spent developing this depth in farming could have easily been put to better use by enhancing the game’s narrative depth.
Crafting, on the other hand, you will be doing constantly. To learn new skills, you will need SP (Skill Points), which rack up faster than you may realize. You gain skill points from basically everything you do from tilling soil, harvesting plants, completing requests, to slaughtering enemies. This is ideal seeing as progression will mainly come from unlocking new items to craft.
There is a refreshing variety of things you can make. Crafting is split into two categories, “Craft” and “Zombiecraft”. The menus are divided nicely enough that it doesn’t become a slog finding what you want. You can craft plenty of different weapon types that make sourcing bodies for growing zombies easier, or you’re offered the option to slice them up for dismembered parts. Of course, you can always just blast everything away into a red mist with a shotgun if that better suits you. Even your precious Frankies can be mercilessly tossed into a guillotine and bound together to make weapons, turrets, and traps.
Side Quests, Missions, & Scavenging
Each mission or side-quest boils down to either “kill these specific enemies”, “speak to these people”, or “craft this thing and bring it to me”. Luckily, materials for crafting are found in plenty and you’re never more than a brisk jog away from all the wood and stone you could ever need. The annoyance comes more from the back and forth of it all. As the game teaches you each little mechanic through missions, and very slowly advances the plot, you will be constantly running between Reid’s base and the Slums (the first town you come across). Eventually, you will gain access to a “ZPS”, which is DEADCRAFT’s version of fast-travel. It is a one use item you’ll need to keep crafting if you want to continue to zip between locations quickly via zombies pulling you underground.
Missions do offer decent rewards, however if they didn’t I’m not so sure that they always would feel worth doing. On top of that, they’re never particularly hard. Perhaps the best part of missions in DEADCRAFT is that whatever it is you need to kill, collect, or locate, will always be marked on your map. There are no instances of running around looking for one specific item never quite remembering where you had previously seen it.
In regards to side quests, they can start to become over-bearing. You can only ever accept one at a time, and accepting a new one will reset the active mission with different side quests being day or night specific. Plus, there is a mission board that offers quick “kill this” or “gather that” quests. In the end it all becomes a bit much.
What’s the Verdict?
This certainly isn’t a game that will appeal to everyone, but it is a game filled with quirky comedy, and a satisfying farming and crafting system. Arguably the best part of DEADCRAFT is its constant onslaught of cursing that’s bound to get a laugh.
The downfalls aren’t game breaking though, and what it does well is satisfying and leads to a good time in the end. I find myself frequently getting into a “just one more thing” groove when playing that has me constantly picking it back up. There’s plenty to do, and you’re given free rein to spend the apocalypse however you want. DEADCRAFT is by no means a AAA title, and it knows that.
If you’re a fan of zombies, farming, and unnecessary carnage, or all of the above, then DEADCRAFT is an awkward yet entertaining experience. More importantly an experience at a reasonable price you just might want to check out.
- Entertaining Characters
- Simple Gameplay
- Fun Mechanics
- Zombie Farming
- Interesting Lore
- Input Delay
- Repetitive Missions
- Lots of Fetch Quests
- Plenty of waiting around