This wasteland survival adventure introduces us to Reid, a grizzled half-zombie with a troubled past. While being half-undead has obvious setbacks, it has a few advantages too. Turns out fellow zombies are quite happy to follow Reid into battle â€“ useful for when it comes to standing up against the wastelandâ€™s thugs. These arenâ€™t any old zombies, however, but rather reanimated corpses Reid has planted in the ground and dug up, giving them new life. Heâ€™s quite the greened thumbed fellow, assuming his thumbs are still intact.
Before Reid can raise an undead army, in hope of storming a walled city ruled by oppression, he must learn how to survive the barren wasteland first. DEADCRAFTâ€™s opening hour plays out like a glorified tutorial, with Reid reclaiming an old shack before becoming acquainted with the inhabitants of a nearby settlement. Itâ€™s here he meets Vernon â€“ a well-connected chap keen to exploit Reidâ€™s talents â€“ and a kooky fellow called Zombie Gramps, who has become obsessed with studying the undead. These two characters dole out mainline quests, progressing the story at a surprisingly fast pace.
DEADCRAFT is cross-pollinated with a handful of genres. It has crunchy hack â€˜n slash combat with gory takedowns, crafting and resource management, plus typical RPG quests. There are a few elements from Harvest Moon/Rune Factory too â€“ which is perhaps why Marvelous signed on as publisher â€“ not just including a farming aspect, but also the general structure. Reid wakes up in the morning and tends to his plants and sprouting zombies, before heading out to gather resources and complete quests. When his energy bar is depleted, itâ€™s time to return home. Over time, youâ€™ll learn how to make the most of each day.
At its core, though, itâ€™s a survival game. Monitoring Reidâ€™s vitals is tricky at first, leading to an opening hour thatâ€™s a little unforgiving – in the sense that itâ€™s possible to die while learning the basics. Reid has five gauges in total: health, energy, hunger, thirst, and humanity. That last one involves his infliction â€“ his zombie side needs to be â€˜expelledâ€™ occasionally, in the form of a heavy-hitting melee attack that sees a giant whip arm thrash across the screen. Health and energy are topped up via sleep, while water and food can be home-sourced or found by scavenging. Also leading to some confusion initially, a trio of water types of varying purity are available, while more dubious foodstuff can diminish health.
Thatâ€™s to say, it takes time to master how to keep Reid alive. After a few upgrades â€“ which are spread across multiple skill trees â€“ a path to self-sufficiency is revealed, and knowing when to eat and hydrate also becomes second nature, pre-empting the warning tones. It also helps that DEADCRAFT is generous with its SP (Survival Points) and resources. The majority of quests can be completed quite quickly too, granting various rewards and usually enough SP to unlock a new skill.
Dead Rising fans will likely find solace here. Reid knocks up makeshift weapons at his crafting bench, and thereâ€™s a slight silly streak present. This is a game that doesnâ€™t take itself seriously at all, handling the corpse recycling process in particular with a comical tone.
While the map is small by action RPG standards, it does slowly grow larger â€“ the town gains new shops, while the wasteland alters on a day-to-day basis, mixing up the enemy roster. Around the halfway mark things become more combat-focused, putting survival skills on the backseat to make way for tinkering with body parts to assemble a mini-army. It isnâ€™t until around 4 hours in that the first large-scale battle commences, and after that, they become more predominant.
DEADCRAFT manages to balance out its blend of genre types surprisingly well, even if it seems skewed towards survival initially. The only major downside is that itâ€™s a little underwhelming visually, leading us to assume the Switch version was lead. Some NPCs are just as deadeye and grotesque as the zombies themselves, while the top-down camera angle often obscures smaller details. There is some appeal to the slightly rugged presentation, oddly enough, making it reminiscent of offbeat Xbox 360/PS3/Wii era gems; the kind that later achieved cult status.
While a lack of pizzaz makes it hard to recommend to those wanting next-gen bells and whistles, DEADCRAFTâ€™s daily routine of grafting and crafting is easy to get into, rewarding your time and effort in numerous ways. The fact that it was announced and released within the same month just goes to show that surprises can sprout out of nowhere.
DEADCRAFT is published by Marvelous. Out now on PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PC and Switch.