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The Dead Linger

By Fr33Lanc3r.00709-01-2014
MrJenssen (editor)
StuntmanLT (editor)
The Dead Linger

The Defence

Sandswept Studios
Sandswept Studios
Indie, Role Playing, Simulator
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 8600
AMD Radeon HD 2850
2 GB
4 GB

Ahh, the Zombie Apocalypse. How many games are we up to at this point? It’s got to be somewhere in the thousands by now. We’ve had mods taking on a life of their own, cheap first person cash grabs and strategy games. It generally feels like the theme has been going on for far too long. Shambling forward, moaning like the undead denizens that make up its primary appeal. Into this world comes The Dead Linger, an indie game that managed to do quite well on Kickstarter last year and is looking to bring the survival horror back to the Zombie craze.

The first thing you’ll notice about The Dead Linger is that you cannot pause the game, even when playing alone. You can hit escape to delve into the options menu and change the somewhat weird default key bindings, or fiddle around with the graphics and audio settings, but the game world is still running in the background while you’re stuck looking at a grey options screen with no indication of what’s happening around you. So, expect a zombie to start chewing on you while you’re busy, and heaven help you if you need to move away from the computer for more than about 30 seconds. Hopefully it’s just a side effect of the fact that the singleplayer and multiplayer are identical at this point, and Sandswept Studios will be able to differentiate the two somewhat at a later date. As you can imagine, The Dead Linger is still far from complete.

Santa's got a gift for you!

Santa's got a gift for you!

As with most survival sandbox games, you’re dropped into the world in a fairly random location with only the clothes you’re wearing. You must quickly find a way to scavenge yourself some weapons, food, more defensive clothing and a backpack to carry it all in. All of these things can be found in the various abandoned buildings that dot the landscape. A collection of which you hopefully spawned close to, because if you didn’t, you can expect a long hike to the nearest farm or suburb. Food, clothing, and basic melee weapons can be found in most houses, and if you’re really lucky you might find some firearms and ammunition in a nearby office block or convenience store. Beyond that, you’re on your own. There’s no tutorial to guide your path and ensure that you know what you’re doing, everything you do will be a learning experience: eat a rotten vegetable by accident and you’ll know to pay more attention to the item labels next time. Get hit by zombies too many times and you’ll die of infection, teaching you to get smarter about the way you approach combat.

Combat is threadbare at this point. You have a choice of several weapons in either melee or ranged varieties, each with unknown range, damage and durability properties, as well as some additional buffs depending on the weapon. Certain larger weapons will slow your movement slightly, some are scoped for long range zombie killing, etc. Reloading firearms is a process, as the game makes you go through the process of pressing reload in the inventory screen to load all empty magazines, before pressing reload in the game proper to actually load your weapon. This is most likely done in order to simulate actual firearm usage. Ammunition is scarce enough, and varied enough, that you’re encouraged to save it for moments when you desperately need it. Most melee weapons can dispatch any zombies that you aren’t able to avoid - like any that happen to be in rooms you would like to loot - and groups are generally easy to sprint away from at this point in development. The latest update added both hunting and bows into the game. The bow is obviously a stealthy ranged weapon and is really easy and fast to change the arrows, without the need to manage it in your inventory beforehand.

Different areas with a greater variety of buildings are planned, but at this point it is entirely possible to be in the wilderness, and see no sign of previous human habitation for the next 30 to 45 minutes of gameplay. That’s perfectly fine when you’ve finished clearing one area out for useful goods and weapons on your way to the next, but when you’ve just spawned into the world and have been getting hungrier and hungrier by the minute, it really becomes a pain. There are several other bugs and issues, but nitpicking an Alpha build that harshly would be wrong. The developers have been as prompt as possible when it comes to fixing bugs that affect most players, and there's no reason to think that they won't continue the same way for the rest of development.

At the mercy of the spawn location.

At the mercy of the spawn location.

Multiplayer is functionally the same as the single player: you’re dropped into a huge world filled with zombies, praying that you’re not dropped far away from human settlements. At least you might encounter other people, who may or may not be any help at all. All I will say about my experience is that I’m probably not going to be playing multiplayer with people who aren’t in the same room as I am anytime soon. I’m not sure whether I should have been relieved or upset that the ability to damage other players isn’t currently a part of the game. There were a couple of servers that were certainly hostile to outsiders, and there were quite a few times that the server hosts decided that they should be on complete control of the players, and as the only player to find firearms I would have liked to take them down a peg or two.

The Dead Linger is a game that’s showing a lot of promise. There are issues with performance and bugs, and the world could be filled with more things to see and do, but given the overall stage of development that the game is at now, those can easily be forgiven. All up, it looks like The Dead Linger will grow up to become a solid game - especially given Sandswept Studios’ plan for the finished project. All that remains is to sit back and enjoy the ride.

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