‘Does a card game work as a video game’? With this question in mind, I started my review for Dead Exit, the new game from the British independent studio RadiationBurn. Set in an apocalyptic world overrun by zombies, you must administrate your base while stocking resources to attempt an escape from this damned city. With this ‘Walking Dead’ feeling all around the place, come with us to see everything this game has to offer.
- The game provides a good atmosphere with it level design, creating a believable decaying world in your surroundings. One small detail that is worth mentioning is the towel that covers the table where the game is played: it’s beautiful to see how it trembles with the wind or how it reflects the sunlight like it’s made of vinyl or some similar material. The music does a great job building up the tension during gameplay too.
- The core mechanic of the game is quite original. I can’t remember any game that plays like Dead Exit. It demands strategic thinking, a lot of planning and a good amount of luck as well. The gameplay area is divided in two main sets with three slots for cards for each player. These card-sets represent your base: the upper three are the outside area of your base while the lower represents the internal part of your base. There’s also an area where you stock your resources to make an escape, a trade area and a sacrifice area. One after another, players can do three actions in each turn. Actions include playing survivors, food, fuel, vehicle or plan cards in one of the areas. Each card has a different effect depending on what area they’re played. Actions also include sacrificing a Stop card (what can also be done during your opponent’s turn) or buying a card from the city deck. But remember that whenever you buy a card, a Dead will follow you to your base, occupying one slot. By the end of your turn, if a Dead is occupying the same slot as a Survivor, the Survivor dies becoming another Dead who will occupy one more slot from your base. And if all slots from inside your base are occupied by the end of your turn, you lose the game. To get rid of them, you must use other cards abilities to live to tell the tale until you’ve gathered enough supplies to escape or your opponents have their bases overrun by zombies.
- The game can be enjoyed solo or with friends (local or on-line). Playing solo, you have three game modes: City Escape, where you control one or more bases working together to gather all necessary supplies and escape the city, Survival, where you fight against riders that want to destroy your base while you gather resources in one week (7 turns) to escape the city, and War, where you try to get more sets of resources than your enemies before all cards from the deck are used. In multiplayer mode, up to 8 players battle each other or work together to survive local or online.
- Each game mode can be customized between 7 difficult levels and some small modifications, adding that extra challenge for those who feel prepared to face tougher adversaries controlled by the console. And in the most difficult levels they put a heck of a challenge!
- The game didn’t need it, but I miss some kind of backstory explaining what happened to the world, who is playing the game or why he or she is all alone (playing against mannequins). I think it would help the immersion, creating a bond between the player and the character.
- The mechanics of some cards are hard to understand at first. But since you get used to them, you’ll be able to see the best opportunities to use them.
- Graphics from the game, although well designed in relation to points already mentioned, are too simple. The gameplay area is empty, cards have few details and effects and there are little to none animations or effects during gameplay. Developers could have put some more work on this aspect.
- Same can be said about the sound: not withstanding the music does a good job building up the tension, there are few and very simple sound effects that you almost feel like playing a real card game instead of a video game.
With its solid gameplay, Dead Exit could easily be released as a physical card game instead of a video game. It’s a kind of game that will only hit a certain group of players who enjoy strategic gameplays, but can also be enjoyed by those not-so-hardcore players who want to try something fresh and unique. The game presents some small flaws that do not compromise its most important facet, the gameplay. If you’ve already tried other card games in your Xbox, chances are you’ll have a good time with this one. And the answer is ‘Yes, it does’!