When Dead Island Riptide was first announced to the general public at E3 2012, less than a year after the release of the first Dead Island, there was some confusion as to the nature of the game itself. Hearing the name for the first time, most gamers assumed that the title was merely a DLC add on for Dead Island game.
It was after Deep Silver expressly announced Riptide as a separate disk based release that the players finally let go their perception of Dead Island Riptide as an expansion and took it as a sequel to the original Dead Island.
It turns out that the players’ initial impressions for the title were right all along.
While the game advances previous game’s narrative, Dead Island Riptide comes off more like an expansion to the original title than a full-fledged sequel.
The story of Riptide takes place right after the end of Dead Island with the five survivors of the last game, en route to freedom after escaping the fictional island of Banoi via helicopter. After an attempt at refueling on an aircraft carrier goes wrong, the survivors find themselves back on an island infested with the undead.
Stranded on this new island are the returning protagonists; Logan Carter, Purna, Sam B and Xian Mei as well as a new face in shape of a military vet; John Morgan.
While the game does a sufficient job of summarizing the events of the previous game via a recap at the very beginning, the inclusion of new character is a commendable addition as he provides are fresh perspective to the narrative that is beneficial for anyone who had skipped the original Dead Island and has jumped into Riptide without much context.
However, those who are not in the loop about the lore of Dead Island would not feel overwhelmed while playing Riptide as its story, much like its predecessor, is clearly an afterthought.
Though Riptide does a slightly better job of keeping focus on the main storyline, its execution is no better than what players encountered in Dead Island. The series continues its trend of narrative exposition through campy dialogues and reliance on stereotypes to create diversity.
Things follow a similar trend in the gamplay front as well.
Aside from a few scant changes, the developer; Techland has essentially given us the same game, now wrapped in a cover of a monsoon hit island of Palanoi.
Riptide still features the same action RPG, survival horror gameplay that was featured in the previous Dead Island. As before, the gameplay is a mix of systems found in Elder Scrolls and Borderlands games. Though the execution is not nearly as polished as that offered by the games that inspires the series’ game style.
As was the case in the previous game, the gamplay is firmly focused on a perpetual cycling through scavenging, killing and upgrading; rinse and repeat. Even where the game seems to offer a reprieve from the repetition, the side missions like companion and fetch quests also eventually boil down the same grind.
Riptide does offer a variety of zombie types to change up the gamplay routine, these include the series staple; Walkers, Thugs, Infected as well as Floaters, Grenadiers and Wrestlers which are new to the monsoon hit setting of the sequel.
However, even with the variety of enemies found in the game, the method of executing them remains more or less the same. Players will spend majority of the game finding, repairing and using hand held weapons to dispose oncoming zombies in melee combat.
As with the first game, the first person melee combat is literally a hit and a miss. While disposing zombies and hacking off their limbs with blades, clubs and shovels can prove very satisfying, the lack of depth estimation that comes with the first person view makes it difficult to access the reach of different weapons and leads missing the target in crucial situations.
On the RPG side, the game features a competent skill leveling system that is broken down into Fury, Combat and Survival skill trees. Riptide also offers a wide variety of weapons and items to scavenge and scour the entire island of Palanoi that can be also upgraded for cash and the players can increase their skill for each type of weapon depending on their frequency of use.
Riptide also allows the players to import their character from the first Dead Island, a la Mass Effect series, and start off with the characters’ skills and Xp at the level where they left them off the previous game.
Traveling via vehicles is also a fairly similar experience to the prior Dead Island. Every vehicle operates the came on land and can be used to simultaneously allow faster mode of travel as well as a way to mow down groups of zombies without taking hit on health and stamina.
However, one change that creeps onto Dead Island Riptide is the inclusion of boats as a method of transport. Used to navigate across the flooded lands of the monsoon hit island, boats can be used similarly to land based vehicles on the large bodies of water occupying the island of Palanoi.
While operating the boat is no different than operating other vehicles in the game, one added issue that arrives due to their addition is when player happens to die while traveling on the boat. When such an instance happens, the location of the boat remains the same, while the player is respawned somewhere on land. This creates a situation where the player has to trudge through the slowing water to get to the boat which can result in getting mauled by surrounding zombies en route.
One change that positively impacts the gameplay relates to how enemies scale in difficult according to the level of the player. This means that while play co-op, low ranking players will find the zombies similar to their level while high ranking players will find the same zombies as leveled up according to their level, while occupying the same area.
This makes the game fun for all players while playing the co-op feature of the game, as each player can enjoy playing with teammates while facing a challenge that is neither too easy nor too over their head.
Techland has also made slight changes to the map system, which now indicates whether the objective is higher or lower than the player by adding small, upward or downward facing, arrows. While a small change, this greatly improves the navigating prowess of the map as it is better able to express the vertical aspect of the terrain during exploration activities.
On the presentation front Dead Island Riptide offers the identical level sameness in relation to the original Dead Island, as is the case with its gameplay.
Though the surroundings have been changed from a tourist resort to a lived-in, monsoon hit Island, the graphical prowess of the game is the same as that of its 1.5 year old predecessor.
Riptide is rife with technical issues like constant texture pop-ins, frame-rate dips, hit detection issues and persistent screen tearing as well as low level of detail in the environment when viewed up close, which comes up often seeing as this is a first person game.
Compounding this lack of detail in environments is the lack of good particle effects, which considering the focus of the new game is water, seems like a very poor choice.
Furthermore the addition of change in weather of the island actually hinders the immersiveness as the change comes in very abruptly as a once sunny environment can turn into torrential rain in a blink of an eye, creating a change in environment that comes off as jerky and unnatural.
Game’s NPCs also share the similar uncanny and jittery quality as was the case in its prequel, and each character displays the same blank stare and bad lip syncing animation during conversations.
Though the game features competent sound effects in relation to weapons and zombie cries, it also features the same lack of polish in its sound design as is evident in its graphics.
While the choice of campy dialogue and stereotypical accents might be a conscious design choice, the occasional disappearance of sound effects however, is a definite issue of quality control.
It seems that Techland has not lifted a finger to correct some of the presentation issues that plagued the original Dead Island game and has perhaps consciously chosen not to address these concerns so as to deliver a quick sequel.
With a 12-15 hour long story mode, with option of going through several side missions and replaying the game in 2 to 4 player co-op, offers a lot of gamplay value, however the factor that determines this value is whether the player enjoys what the game has to offer.
If good story, polished presentation and precise controls are your thing then Riptide is definitely not the game for you, however if you are one of the many that enjoyed the first game and/or enjoy the prospect of open world survival exploration while constantly beating on hoards of zombies with melee weapons, then will provide hours upon hours of gameplay fun for you.
While the melee combat is imprecise, the staple open-world action RPG gameplay that Dead Island offers is still here. The game mechanic of scavenging for money and items, as well as a fairly deep skill leveling system make Riptide’s gameplay its strongest suit.
Bland and lacking detail, the open world environments of Riptide are marred by weak graphical showing, especially during interaction with water, the element specifically given prominence in this sequel.
As is the case with graphics, the sound design is nothing noteworthy to begin with, but occasional voice skipping further diminishes its value. Though the competent sound effects accompanying weapon use and attacking zombies makes the game’s sound quality a notch above its graphics.
Rife with Bugs and glitches that affect the spectrum of gameplay and presentation, the occurrence of technical issues is enough to cause major annoyance but not enough to make the game unplayable.
Along with its lengthy campaign, Riptide presents the players with myriad of weapons and items to collect and upgrade and the 2-4 player co-op feature adds a new life to the game, making it more fun and longer replayability.
To put it simply, Dead Island Riptide is more of the same. So if the first Dead Island was to your liking then Riptide will be a fun ride for you, however if the original game was not your cup of tea then this sequel offers nothing that could change your mind.