Evil Dead: The Game
Available on: Xbox, PC, PlayStation, and Switch
It seems that isometric games are becoming a mainstay. I was afraid they would die after the massive failure of Evolve and Predator: Hunting Grounds. But with games like Friday the 13th: The Game and Dead by Daylight, they have proven that the games can be fun and keep bringing people back. Maybe it works best in the horror genre instead of the action arena. Evil Dead: The Game obviously falls in the latter. You are either a team of survivors working to take down the Deadites (demonic monsters) from the Evil Dead universe or a Deadite baddie. Everything about Evil Dead: The Game feels like you are playing through the movies, or at least an alternate timeline.
As soon as we loaded up it felt like we were in one of the movies. You can play with up to five people. Four of you play as humans from the various Evil Dead iterations and you are working to stop the Deadites from taking over the world. You will have to work as a team if you want to stand a chance. The survivors are grouped into classes that allow you to balance your team, or if you want to focus on one type of thing you can lean into it. One of the funniest things is getting a whole group of Ashs together. There are four of them, all serving different roles, and all coinciding with the movies and show because each movie sees Ash playing a different sort of roll. Beyond the multiple renditions of Ash, there are a number of characters from the Evil Dead Universe with different strengths and weaknesses. The various Ash options may seem somewhat limiting to some and to one friend even felt a little too much like fan service. I recommend being mindful of how you construct your team, and I would advise trying to balance the group as much as possible. Once you figure out your playstyle and those of your teammates you can specialize if you’d like.
One of you, on the other hand, will be choosing from three different types of Deadites. Each of them has their pluses and minuses and again are all related to the movies and show. They are each horrific in their different ways and feature unique elite monsters and, of course, a boss monster. The funniest ones, in my opinion, are the Necromancers, the skeletons from the Army of Darkness movie from 1992. You get to have a flutist that buffs your other characters and is a call back to a hilarious scene from Army of Darkness. Evil Ash is the boss, and he can rip a team up. The others are more body horror and the boss for the Warlords, Henrietta, is horrific. She can leave a massive fart cloud that damages anyone in the area. However, the worst attack she does is forcing you to drink her demon breast milk. It’s another call back from a gross out scene from the show, Ash vs The Evil Dead. Finally, the Puppeteers are mostly body horror and use electricity and phasing. They are easy to kill but do the most damage. The boss for the puppeteers is Eligos and its attacks are devastating. You can easily take down a team in the final moments of the match. Each faction feels unique and fun in their own way. You will have to play each of them to get a feeling for what you like best and how to best play each for your playstyle.
The first match we played was a little disorienting because the tutorial is not the best and some of the stuff for both the survivors and Deadites are not explained. Be aware that the first couple of matches are going to be a learning experience. Just remember to pick up every single pink juice jar and call out when you find a chest (they all have the pink juice). That juice is the only way for survivors to level up during the match. Allowing them to add additional health, damage, or bonuses to their active and passive abilities. Same goes for the Deadite player, pay attention to when you gain a threat level and upgrade yourself as well. This will allow you to unlock your boss character and upgrade your minions. In the first game the survivors won but that was mostly due to the fact that the person playing the Deadites didn’t really understand what was going on.
Even with that it was one of the most hilarious games we played. Cassey screamed out loud a few times during the match. The Deadite player can place traps all over the world if they pick up enough energy. This allows them to trap crates with mini-Ashs or Ash’s evil hand. When the crate is opened the trap is activated and either of them launch themselves at your face. The first one that got opened was by my wife who did not expect that at all. I almost had a heart attack when she screamed. What is an interesting twist to this game is the amount of loot strewn across the map. Most of these types of games limit you to a few things and makes the evil character really overpowered but in Evil Dead: The Game you can find upgraded weapons and defensive items that allow you to fight back more effectively. If you are really lucky and find legendary items, it really tips the scales in your favor for defeating the Deadites. In the first game, we ended up getting a legendary chainsaw arm attachment and a legendary sword. It made short work of many of the Deadites that were thrown at us. However, there are matches that can be the exact opposite where you can’t find anything and it makes some of the matches feel really uneven.
As we got through more games it became much more balanced. Out of the many hours we have played it’s almost exactly a 50/50 break down of wins for both sides. The matches all start out with the survivors, generally, spawning near each other and they must begin finding the pages of a map that will lead you to legendary items that will allow you to defeat the Deadites once and for all. The early stages of these matches are mostly the survivors looting like mad trying to find good gear and searching out chests to help upgrade their character. On the other hand, the Deadite is picking up energy and laying traps and mostly trying to figure out where the heck the survivors are. The demonic presence doesn’t have the ability to see where the other players are unlike in Friday the 13th: The Game where you can hear footsteps. The only time you really get a heads up on where they are is if they get into a car. It’s really fun as the demon to possess the cars and try to run survivors down. Or even better is scaring the survivors so bad that you can possess them. This doesn’t last forever and you need to save up a lot of energy or you’ll lose control and not be able to do any real damage. It’s always fun to turn the guns and axes against their fellow survivors. It creates chaos amongst the team.
To scare the survivors you can isolate them, force them to run in the dark, or use an ability that launches your demonic presence through them. If you succeed, it throws a jump scare onto their screen. It reminds me of those seemingly innocuous videos with some demon jumping at the screen at the last second. It causes the players to jump in real life and the in-game character almost always becomes terrified and ripe for possession. Of course, those are not your only weapons. You can open portals that allow your two types of Deadites in. You have elites and regular soldier type Deadites. The smaller ones are generally good for slowing down the team and more of them are summoned through the portals. Elites do massive damage and have special abilities. All of these can be possessed by you and generally you can use them more effectively but be vigilant because you will need energy to keep control of them. Biggest goal as the demonic presence is to find the team early. If you can constantly harry them, they will have to use more healing and protection equipment. This will help tilt the end game in your favor because once you get to the last few areas you are at your strongest but most vulnerable. You will be exercised from the area if the players succeed in their tasks and it can really set you back if you don’t have enough energy to immediately start harrying them again.
The survivors aren’t helpless. They also have abilities and their working together as a team limits how strong the Deadites are in the end game. You have to balance extensive looting with getting through the early stage quickly to stop the demonic presence from leveling up. Be extra vigilant for crates, they always have something good in them and more importantly make sure to keep an eye on your fear. You can fight the fear off if you are close to other members of the team or by standing in a lighted area. The fire pits seem to offer the best recovery from being scared, must be that primal calming nature of a good fire. Each character also has heavy attacks, light attacks, and executions. Pay attention to the enemies, when they are damaged enough you can activate an execution and if they die during this it stops their death ability. The Puppeteers shoot out a ball of electricity upon death and it damages everyone in the area. It can be devastating if people aren’t paying attention. The executions also allow you to breathe. During an execution you are unable to be injured by others. It can allow you to get a glance at your health, fear, and possibly where enemies are on the battlefield. At least that is how I use it. The fightst can get hectic, and you can get distracted and miss that your health is low or that you are terrified. There is so much more to each match but going into all of it will ruin your first experiences, so I am going to move on.
One of the things that really concerns me about the longevity of Evil Dead: The Game is the leveling up process. You not only level up during matches but afterwards you can use your gained XP to unlock permanent boosts or abilities. If someone jumps in much later in the life of the game, they are likely going to stand little chance against others who have unlocked many more power ups for their characters. This also opens the door to microtransactions and that would end up making Evil Dead: The Game pay to win. Pay to win has been a problem with a ton of games, as of late, and I would hate to see Evil Dead follow the same route. Even if they don’t go that route, it can still leave a bad taste in a new player's mouth if they just get dominated by a higher-level player(s) who have sunk many hours into the game. That would definitely turn me off from playing, it was one of the biggest reasons I bailed on Star Wars: Battlefront II. So far it hasn’t been a problem but that is because we play with our group of friends, so no one is significantly ahead or behind. Jumping into a game with randoms might mean that you are either overpowered or underpowered through no fault of your own.
Another aspect is that there are missions you can complete, and they unlock extra characters. The missions are pretty generic but do teach you about the strategy of dealing with each demonic faction. I was surprised when I died during the first mission but, again, that was before I really knew what was going on. That said it is a proving ground for you so that you don’t get outright slaughtered when you jump into an online match. Each of the missions you will be running around collecting items and moving on to the next stage with little feeling dynamic or different. It’s a bit of a letdown since I was hoping for the missions to be more of a story but it might have been hard to have a cohesive story when nearly all the characters you play are dead.
The graphics are good and capture the atmosphere really well. In some areas it can get a little muddy but that will mostly happen in the woods during a rainstorm. Otherwise, everything feels pretty distinct and clear. The controls are also competent and don’t feel sluggish or unresponsive. Each attack has weight to it and feels nice when a hit or dodge is successful. Where Evil Dead: The Game shines however is the audio design. The music is suspenseful and adds to the tension and the creepy creaks, howls, and otherworldly voices really get to you. Whenever there is a Deadite nearby you can hear its inhuman gurgles, groans, and calls. Or in the worst case when you hear Henrietta somewhere near by shouting something awful. It really ratchets the spookiness up and I felt similar to the way I did early on in Friday The 13th: The Game. When the music changed you were immediately tense and had your head on a swivel. The team really did a good job of capturing an awful adventure through the woods with demons pursuing you.
My group and I have, so far, had a blast playing Evil Dead: The game and hope they continue to grow it. Additional maps are a must in the future or it’s going to get stale quickly. My biggest question is, how long will this stay fresh? Without pretty consistent updates/DLC I can see it fading fast but I really hope they stay on top of it and keep putting out new content. Secondly, how do they plan on balancing the game so that new people don’t feel helpless? They are going to have to implement some balancing or people will immediately jump ship. However, I love the world and the environment so far and would really like Evil Dead: The Game to remain in our gaming group rotation. The fun will likely be limited if you are playing with random players since you can’t build a complete team, and some may be very overpowered. The price tag is a little steep and may turn some people off as well and I can totally understand that. It might not be worth forty dollars to everyone and honestly, I think the real value of Evil Dead: The Game should have been set at thirty and it would have drawn a lot more people in and would be a fair price for the amount of content that is currently in the game. I still suggest it to anyone that is looking for something fun to enjoy with friends that has comedy and horror so effortlessly intertwined. Plus, being a fart monster destroying your friends is priceless.