Dead Island Epidemic Closed Beta First Impressions


Dead Island Epidemic

By: Jason Siu


10 min read

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Dead Island Epidemic is Deep Silver’s take on the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre, and it certainly does a few things differently. Now that the MOBA genre is starting to get plenty of attention, expect developers to think outside the box and stray away from the traditional format that Dota 2, Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends have made popular. Much like Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm does quite a bit of things differently, Dead Island Epidemic has put its own spin on the traditional MOBA genre. The big question of course is, how well does it work and how well will Dead Island Epidemic fare in the growing sea of MOBA offerings?

To start, the Dead Island Epidemic closed beta offers three game mode categories: Prologue, Horde Mode and Scavenger. The Prologue is a simple single-player tutorial that introduces players to the game and its controls. While MOBAs as we know it are click-to-move games, Dead Island Epidemic uses the WADS keys format in order to control your character. It does however, stick to the isometric view as opposed to a third-person, behind-the-shoulder format found in Smite or the side-scrolling movement in Awesomenauts. At first, it might be a bit awkward for seasoned veterans to play Dead Island Epidemic using WADS to control their heroes, but it does give a bit more freedom and mouse control over where you want to aim your skills. It’s different, but not in a way that would deter you from playing the game.

Dead Island Epidemic will have you using WADS to control your character, rather than clicking and moving

Skills are bound to the Q, E, R and F keys while the numbers 1, 2 and 3 are set for item use. Players can also use the space bar to roll and dodge away from attacks, an interesting mechanic that opens up a whole new aspect to fights. Left clicking will perform your default primary attack while right clicking will execute your secondary attack. Further changing things up, Dead Island Epidemic heroes have a “rage bar” that fills up with normal attacks. The more segments you fill up on your rage bar, the more powerful your secondary attack will be. Much like using space bar to dodge, it opens up the potential for players to fill up their rage bar on AI zombies before taking on an enemy hero, giving them a strong attack ready to be executed.

Using the C key allows players to swap between their ranged and melee weapons. Yes, Dead Island Epidemic doesn’t constrain your character to a single role of being either melee or ranged – you get to choose. In addition, players can shop for different melee and ranged weapons, adding a customization aspect to the game that isn’t typically found in MOBAs. Instead of customizing your items while you level up in a single match, players can take certain weapons into the match with them before hand. There appears to be a Workbench feature in the game that allows crafting of items based on blueprints you presumably gather while playing the game. Currently in the beta, there were no blueprints to check out.

You can learn how to play Dead Island Epidemic in several different PvE modes

Now taking a look at the other game modes, all the Horde Mode variants are PvE, which means players can learn the ins and outs of Dead Island Epidemic with their friends in a casual, cooperative environment. Selecting Horde Mode opens up another menu with three options: Scout Mission, Horde Mode and Heroic Horde Mode. In Scout Mission, players search for a good looking spot for supply points and zombie killing grounds, while Horde Mode has players securing supply points to deliver supplies, while fighting waves of enraged zombies. Heroic Horde Mode is suggested for advanced players and sees the infection grow longer in the zombies, making them beyond dangerous. In other words, Heroic Horde Mode is simply a harder version of the standard Horde Mode.

Picking up and delivering supplies is introduced in the Prologue, and is essentially the foundation for the gameplay of Dead Island Epidemic. In Scavenger Mode, which is the game’s PvP mode, players have to gather supplies and deliver them to their truck quicker than the other teams. It introduces strategic gameplay where teams will have to manage who gathers supplies and who helps stop the other teams from gathering supplies. It certainly offers more variety than the typical lane camping, farming and pushing that Dota 2, HON and LoL have to offer.

So far Dead Island Epidemic’s hero skills are pretty vanilla, but there is a twist to them

Currently in the closed beta, heroes are on a rotation with three new ones available to us each day. The first day we checked out the closed beta, the following heroes were available: Isys, Bryce and The Fuse.

Isys is a defender- and disabler-type character and has the following skills:

  • Sentry Gun – Construct a sentry gun using scraps and your wits; you can upgrade it to improve its functions. It fires at your enemies dealing damage.
  • Cluster Grenade – Throw a grenade that explodes on impact, dealing area damage, slowing movement speed and shattering into clusters. The clusters deal damage on impact and slows movement speed.
  • Shock Mine – Drop a mine at your location that explodes when an enemy gets close, dealing damage and crippling enemies.
  • Rocket Launcher – Fire rockets with your launcher, dealing damage on impact and area damage to surrounding enemies.

Bryce is a hunter- and disabler-type character and has the following skills:

  • Assault – Dash forward, dealing damage to the main target. Trigger the assault again to strike with a sweeping attack that deals area damage.
  • Harpoon – Throw a harpoon that pierces walkers. Any special zombies or enemy players that are hit are dealt damage and the harpoon stops with that enemy. The primary target will be hooked and pulled back to you.
  • Deflect – Stand immovable and deflect incoming attacks, reducing damage dealt and becoming immune to debuffs. If attacked within melee range you counterattack.
  • Sharclone – Summon a great cyclone at target location. The cyclone is filled with sharks that deal damage, the winds pull enemies into the middle.

Lastly, The Fuse is a starter-type hero that focuses on area damage and ranged attacks with the following skills:

  • Grenade Launcher – Launch a grenade at a target location. The grenade deals damage to a primary target and area damage.
  • Rocket Man – Detonate an explosive and jump to a target location on the shock wave. The explosion damages enemies in an area at the origin position.
  • Riot Foam – Shoot homemade Riot Foam in a cone in front of you, dealing damage and drenching enemies in foam and flammable liquids. Enemies drenched in Riot Foam are slowed and if hit by your explosives they are ignited.
  • Dual Launchers – Pull out another launcher and bombard a target area over a period of time with multiple grenades. The grenades deal area damage.

The next day, we had a chance to check out Berg, Amber and Wanta.

Berg is a durable hero that acts as a healer and support type with the following skills:

  • Infectious Roar – Roar to heal yourself and allies in the area.
  • Taunt – Shout and taunt a main target forcing it to run towards and attack you. The shout pierces walkers causing them to be taunted as well. A taunted target will break free if enough damage is dealt to it.
  • Bulwark – Shield target ally or yourself with carapace armor. An armored character blocks incoming damage and gains immunity to debuffs. When damage is received spikes retaliate, dealing area damage.
  • Leap – Leap to targeted location and stomp heavily, dealing area damage and stunning enemies.

Amber is a burst damage, stealther hero with the following skills:

  • Conceal – Dispel all debuffs on yourself and turn invisible for a short duration. You cannot be hit by attacks during a short time frame after activating the skill. Using any skill or attack reveals you, ending the effect. A melee attack performed while Concealed deals bonus damage.
  • Spring Strike – Leap to the targeted area and strike your enemies with a wide attack. The attack deals damage to a main target and area damage.
  • Poison Sting – Eject a poison thorn at your enemies. The poison slows movement speed gradually down and when the effect ends it deals damage to the host and any surrounding enemies.
  • Preparation – Reset all your skill cooldowns; preparing for another kill.

Lastly is Wanta, another healer- and support-type hero with the following skills:

  • Twin Favor – Send one of two twin spirits at an enemy or ally, it bounces between enemies and other enemies or allies, yourself and other allies. It heals allies or damages enemies, with reduced effect each jump.
  • Curse – Curse and confuse nearby enemies causing them to mindlessly walk around. A confused enemy will regain its senses in time or after receiving enough damage.
  • Spirit Form – Enter your spirit form which renders you invulnerable to damage and able to pass through enemies or allies, dealing damage or healing them. You cannot attack or use abilities while in Spirit Form.
  • Soul Claim – Mark a dead ally, the ally will return to life. If you die with Soul Claim off cooldown you will return to life. Anyone who is returned to life comes back in a lesser Spirit Form with a set amount of health.

While for the most part, the heroes and their skills are pretty vanilla in the world of MOBAs, they do have its own Dead Island flair to them. But it’s worth mentioning that each skill can be upgraded for an additional effect. For example, Amber’s Spring Strike can gain the Rupture Augmentation, which causes the main target of the strike to bleed for 75-percent damage for five seconds.

4v4v4 battles is certainly new to the MOBA genre, and is admittedly a lot of fun

But how does it all go together? Well, Dead Island Epidemic certainly offers interesting mechanics to the MOBA genre, most notably the ability to control your character using your keyboard, rather than clicking and moving. Filling up your rage bar and strategically timing your attacks to deliver a fatal blow is a welcomed addition, especially since in many MOBAs, you might rely on the character’s four skills to secure a kill. What we do love most about Dead Island Epidemic however, is the fact that each character can switch between Melee and Ranged with a push of a button.

In addition, those new to the genre will appreciate the PvE Horde Modes that allows them to learn each hero, their skills and the general gameplay without having to worry about backlash by causing the team to lose. We all know how “toxic” the MOBA community’s reputation is, and Horde Mode gives new players a chance to hone their skills while learning from teammates on how the general gameplay works.

You won’t buy items within a match, but rather you equip them on your hero before hand

As for the PvP Scavenger Mode, Dead Island Epidemic really changes the formula up with three teams of four players each. Essentially, teams will work together to capture points on the map in order to get supplies. With that goal in mind, getting kills and limiting your deaths is important, but it’s not as important as helping your team achieve victory by collecting supplies. Scavenger Mode also has its fair share of PvE zombies to deal with, which allows you to level up your hero as you make your way back and forth from supply points. The first team to deliver 800 supplies back to their truck wins, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Teams have to secure supply points throughout the map, defending and delivering supplies at the same time. Players can carry up to 100 supplies at a time, but their movement speed is cut once they have more than 50 supplies on their hero. In addition, all heroes carrying over 50 supplies will appear on the mini-map to everybody else. It’s a fine balance between defending, delivering and killing other players, since once you die, you drop all the supplies you were holding. That means players can actually steal another player’s supplies for their own team. There are also random PvE mobs that spawn, and once killed, drops a good amount of supplies that you can deliver to boost your team towards victory. That mechanic can turn into a huge boost for teams struggling to hold down a supply point.

To make things even more complex in Scavenger Mode, you’ll run into plenty of zombies that you’ll have to fend off while going from supply point to supply point, or even when you’re just defending your supply point. Unlike traditional MOBA games, you won’t have creep of your own to defend against the zombie attacks, so heroes are taking the damage while defending from mobs.

Ultimately, Dead Island Epidemic brings a fresh take on the MOBA genre and is very promising. The gameplay could use some polish, as sometimes stun durations and mobs overwhelming you results in a quick and frustrating death. The lack of movement speed buffs (at least currently in the closed beta) also slows down gameplay significantly if you end up dying and having to return to your team’s spawn point. There aren’t items to purchase while in a match, nor is there gold to worry about or last hits on the zombies. It’s more about having fun and working together as a team, than it is about who can become the most powerful hero to carry their team to victory.

We’ll be covering more of Dead Island Epidemic as the closed beta carries on, so check back often for more coverage including videos and live stream content.

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With over 20 years of online publishing experience, Jason Siu is currently the Content Director at VerticalScope and used to spend most of his time writing about cars. His work can be seen on websites such as AutoGuide, EV Pulse, FlatSixes, Tire Authority, and more. As the former co-founder of and West Coast Editor of Modified Magazine, he has also authored two books for CarTech Books. In his spare time, he founded FullCleared to indulge in his passion for writing about games. Although Jason is a variety gamer, he generally prefers RPGs.

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