LifeisXbox’s Dead Man’s Diary review | The subject of war is never easy. In Dead Man’s Diary, you play as a recently exiled member of a community who must make his way through war-torn streets, villages, and various complexes to find items to survive. It’s a fictitious post-apocalyptic world set 15 years after a Nuclear event. The reason for the exile is that food and supplies are running low, so the community kicks you out in order to secure a larger share. Developed and Published by TML-Studios, Dead Man’s Diary has a silly plot that most might find hard to get their teeth into.
Most Memorable Moment
The opening section was really good with lots of backstories and a decent opening cinematic. Once dropped off by a helicopter and left stranded in the woods, the whole atmosphere changed and I was engulfed in the scenery armed with only a flashlight. The moody atmosphere worked really well here as it really grabs your attention, and the slow walk towards the first section of the game was definitely a great build-up. It was very reminiscent of some of the great horror games I have played over the years which made me eager to carry on.
ℹ️ Reviewed on PC | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer.
What we Liked!
- The Atmosphere | Dead Man’s Diary starts off strong with a good setup to its story. When you first take control of the player, you are immediately drawn into its lush world, filled to the brim with forestry, lakes, debris, and more. Walking around in the dark is quite creepy and serves as a good starting point for any horror or survival horror fan.
- The Music | The music in Dead Man’s Diary is pretty good. It has an epic score that you would find in most movies. It doesn’t feel out of place either since the subject matter is something that you would find in the likes of a Michael Bay movie or something from Christopher Nolan. The game does a good job and using silence when it needs to also, especially in the intro levels where you are getting your bearings and are unsure what is lurking in the woods with you.
- Graphically impressive | Thanks to a lot of the assets used in this game, Dead Man’s Diary looks really high quality. We have 4K textures throughout the game with detailed particle effects and lighting. This really helps sell the atmosphere the team is going for. There are a lot of small details as well like burnt-out cars, shipping containers, oil drums and general debris that really help make the environments feel alive.
- The Controls | The controls can be rather clunky at times. On many occasions, the game will fail to bring up the UI system alerting you on what button to press resulting in some tinkering with the controls until it works. I say until it works because even though it does work, the control layout is very clunky, and the need for these UI prompts is very much needed. The usual controls are present such as clicking down the left stick to sprint, and the right thumbstick for a flashlight. But the rest seems a bit weird. Double pressing A on the controller jumps, the right bumper allows you to select what tool you want to use in conjunction with the left stick.
- The Sound Effects | The sound effects are okay and serve their purpose, but unfortunately, too many times do they become either annoying in an already annoying world, or highly overused. For example, early on in the game the protagonist will often look in certain directions and jump at a twig being broken in the woods. A spooky sound will play followed by cheesy dialogue. Within 5 minutes, the exact same thing will happen again. In just the opening section of the game, there were 8 occasions where this happened with the exact same spooky sound, followed by dialogue that made me cringe.
What we Disliked
- The Voice Acting | With what I can only describe as “clearly used Speechalo” an AI voice actor that is supposed to sound human, the voice acting in Dead Man’s Diary is poor. It doesn’t sound authentic at all and the voice actor (of no fault of his own) has some of the weirdest and dumbest dialogue ever. You are in the middle of a nuclear apocalypse and the main character goes from jumping at his own shadow to cracking jokes in the blink of an eye. The dialogue doesn’t match the current events that are unfolding before the player and it really disconnects you from the story, the atmosphere, and the game in general. It’s a really weird design choice. Being that the voice actor sounds like a robot as well, it really takes you out of the entire experience when playing.
- Asset Flipping | 90% of the game is made of assets available in Unreal Engine. The abandoned warehouse section at the start of the game is a premium asset that was given away for free during Epic’s “free for the month” campaign along with the shanty town village in the second act. I don’t normally have an issue with assets being used in games since they can offer to learn to inexperienced developers and also act as a solid foundation for expanding on your own ideas. With Dead Man’s Diary, the developers have essentially just dropped in the packs and left them as is. Sure they have added debris and shipping containers, oil drums, and boxes for you to loot. But the entire game feels like one massive romp through games you have played before. This is the problem with asset flipping. Anyone and everyone can do exactly what you have done, and to charge £20 for it leaves a really bad feeling inside.
- The Repetitive Structure | The game starts off with you having to find food and supplies and also find shelter where you can make a camp for the night. What begins is a harrowingly painful snatch and grab search in the middle of the night for fabric, water, food, wood, you name it. Once you have explored every nook and cranny (and you will have to) you can create your camp and craft medical supplies to fight off radiation poisoning. Once you have slept the game will progress the story through a sequence of scripted events which are really badly made (more on this below). The second act sees you traverse from your current location late in the afternoon in search of (you guessed it) more supplies that you seemingly ran out of in a single night. You make your way to a little village where you have to scavenge once more and build a camp for the night to progress the story. It’s the same throughout each act, go here, find this, build a camp, sleep. It’s incredibly boring and offers no real benefit other than progress.
- Scripted Events | The scripted events are the in-game cutscenes using Unreal Engine’s sequencer. Not much is used here in the way of creating the actual cutscenes apart from a few models and a rather large particle system for a nuclear explosion. In act two, we have a bear wander in from the forest and try to attack us. This happens just at the same time that it starts to rain causing nuclear fallout. We must then run for cover to avoid the bear and stay sheltered from the rain so as not to burn our skin.
- The Survival System | The survival system utterly fails in Dead Man’s Diary, which is funny because it’s a game about survival. A game where you need to manage your bodily needs should be considered engaging, stressful and above all else, the pinnacle of the game’s mechanics. Considering the amount of food and water the game forces you to take every few minutes, it makes little sense why the player can’t make room to carry a few more bottles of water instead of three bales of hay for your bed, which, by the way, you don’t actually use for the bed, so no idea why you need to find it. You also get access to a Geiger counter which detected radiation from food and water in the game. When detecting radiation, you will not be allowed to pick it up, but funnily enough, right next to it will be another bottle of canned food which will be perfectly fine.
- The Translation | The game is translated from German I believe and although it states English on the game page, the entire in-game camera system and some of the tutorials are still in German meaning I had no idea how to use the camera system or complete certain tutorials. In regards to the tutorials, I had to guess my way through one section because I simply couldn’t understand it. Also, take into consideration, that this game is NOT early access either and this is considered a full release. It’s bizarre to me how something like this went under the radar of the development team. It’s quite apparent that whoever translated for them did a poor job and they took what they were told at face value. Here is a laughable example of poor translation. In the options menu, you have Low, Medium, and High options. High is called “Up” as an option because whoever translated it thought they meant High in the literal sense.
- The Price | At the time of writing the game costs £19.59 on Steam. With the number of bugs, broken glitchy systems, poor translation, and repetitive boring segments of the game, I feel this is far too much to ask. Far too early on in the game do you see a majority of what it has to offer and there are 1000’s of other worthwhile titles to spend your money on. Don’t be fooled by the pretty screens and snazzy-looking trailer. It’s all the work of other individuals that worked tirelessly on creating these amazing assets which make this game look as good as it does.
How long to beat the story | 8 hours
How long to unlock all achievements | 8 hours
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Gaming is in my blood. Be it handheld games, Xbox, PC, Switch or Playstation, I am all over it.
I make my own games as part of my profession and love playing co op games with friends in my spare time. Avid dog lover and camper van enthusiast.