Described as an open-world sand box game, Better Late Than DEAD throws you straight into an unusual scenario and tells you to survive. Going solo or with a friend you must fight for your life against bears, wolves and even your own bodily functions all while trying to uncover the mysterious storyline that makes you question are you really alone?
The main plot of the game sees our character thrown from a boat in a make shift coffin only to arrive on an abandoned tropical paradise. Clutching nothing but a picture of a baby and with no memory of his past the only thing driving him on is his will to survive and escape from the island. That’s all you get before being thrown straight into the game. You have no tutorial, no indication of what you need to do or where you have to go and instead have to just work everything out for yourself. But then that’s pretty normal for these types of games. That’s not to say there’s no story, as you progress you uncover more of a plot through notes left lying around and you soon find out that something more sinister might be lying in wait. The game also utilises a permadeath rule, die and you restart the game from scratch and to make matters worse (or better depending on how want to look at it) you don’t always start off in the same place.
To survive you need to gather up resources and defend yourself against the wild animals wandering throughout the island. In terms of survival skills you are given a rather small backpack to store your resources, all of which are procedurally generated each time you restart. Along with the backpack you also have access to a crafting menu. As to what you can craft the list is rather short but you’re not made aware of the items and instead have to locate instructions from notes scattered around the landscape. To help with locating interactable items a Tomb Raider-esque search feature has been implemented. Using perception, which for some reason uses up your stamina, briefly switches your view to black and white while all usable items are emphasised with bright colours.
As for hunting, it’s currently pretty poor. There’s little choice in weaponry but no matter which you choose there’s always a one strike lunge. After every swipe there’s the need to readjust your camera angle because of the awkward camera controls. This means that in actual combat if you miss a strike you have to back away from the animal, swing your camera around to reposition yourself and line yourself up for a second lunge. All of this leaves you in a difficult to counter scenario and vulnerable to being mauled by wild bears.
Onto the visuals which are, for the most part, impressive. Of course there’s still a lot of optimisation adjustments to be made in this department. Days are nice and light and really give that Caribbean feel, nights are dark (perhaps a bit too dark) which switches the atmosphere to a much more sinister tone. A neat little feature is that there’s varying weather conditions. Well there’s rain and lightning that can randomly occur at any moment. In fact this caused my first in-game death as I slowly froze to death in the rain unable to find shelter.
So what about the future? According to the developer within the next three months they are looking to regularly update the game with new key features. These include implementing more crafting recipes (including new weapons), further island details, trap and sleep systems, enhanced story and sharks. Beyond that there are also going to be improvements to the multiplayer mode, optimization and general bug fixes. The thing that stands out most about they’re ongoing development is that they’re really listening to the community’s feedback. In fact there are already plans to increase the inventory space as so many players are requesting an expansion.
Better Late Than DEAD has quite a lot of issues as it currently stands, but then this is an early access game. With an engaging developer and dedicated community backing up the development of the game things are certain to get better. However as good as this game could be there is still a nagging sensation that we’ve seen this all before. The game is too similar to other games in this ever-growing survival genre. At the moment it feels like it’s just lacking a certain something that’ll make it more unique and make it stand out from the pack.
This preview is based off an early access code of Better Late Than DEAD provided by Excalibur.
This preview was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.