Dead Sky Review
It’s dead to me.
Dead Sky made it through the Steam Greenlight process at the end of October, and this week the full version was put up for sale. I’m always on the lookout for the next great zombie survival game, but after a few short hours I knew that Dead Sky wasn’t it.
Dead Sky doesn’t really have a story. It starts off with friends, Cooper and Shane, as their car breaks down in the middle of a zombie infested city, and you have to protect the car while your friend tries to get it running again. From there, you’ll try to escape the city and find a place where you can survive the zombie apocalypse. There’s very little dialogue between the characters, and when they did speak, I just wanted them to stop. The voice acting is pretty bad, and if there was more of it, I probably wouldn’t have been able to listen to it. If it’s not going to be good, it’s probably for the best that the story doesn’t get in the way any more than it already does.
As an isometric shooter, Dead Sky follows the standard formula, as you move with the left stick, aim with the right stick, and shoot with the right trigger. After that though, Dead Sky isn’t just another typical stick shooter. The first big difference that you’ll notice is that it features an active reload system that rewards you with a damage bonus for a limited time if you’re successful, and punishes you with an extra wait time if you’re not. It is a little annoying that you have to manually reload every time, but it’s not hard, so you’ll have bonus damage quite often. Besides trying to stay alive, Dead Sky is also about defending objectives, and you’ll be able to purchase items such as barricades, land mines, and turrets to help you defend them. You can also purchase upgrades, which will decrease the damage you take, increase the damage you do, allow you to repair turrets, and more.
Turrets are your best bet, but they are expensive to buy, and you only pick up one part at a time, so you can’t just buy 10 of them and sit back and let them do all of the work. As you wait to collect enough parts to buy another upgrade or defensive item, you’ll find pick-ups that give you limited access to weapons like a Shotgun, Machine Gun, Rocket Launcher, Rail Gun, Helicopter Air Support, and more. They don’t last very long, and they will disappear if you don’t pick them up quickly, but they are the only way to get a new weapon. The rest of the time you’ll have unlimited ammo in your Pistol, but it’s not very powerful, so the weapon pick-ups are crucial if you want to survive.
Surviving a zombie outbreak wouldn’t be easy, and Dead Sky is one of the most unforgiving games that I’ve ever played. Health only regenerates after you complete an entire level, with no health packs or any other way to regain health, and the only checkpoints are also at the end of each level. If you die before you complete it, you’ll have to start all the way back at the beginning of the level. The game also throws a ton of zombies and other mutated creatures at you, and with no way to replenish your health, you should expect to die often and have to replay some of the levels a few times before you beat them. I don’t need games to be easy, but there’s a difference between being hard, and being so hard that it’s not fun anymore, and Dead Sky isn’t fun anymore.
I made it to the sixth mission in the single player campaign, where you have to protect another survivor as he tries to repair a train communication box, and even with two turrets, I was still overrun every time. I must have tried that level like 30 times, and I can’t do it again. Every time I get close to the three minute mark, a whole horde of powerful zombies come rushing in and just destroy my defenses and kill the NPC. It’s almost like it’s a bug that causes so many of them to arrive at the same time and they are just too powerful to take out by yourself. It’s one thing to have a really hard section, and another thing to make you replay the entire level if you die. If I beat a hard section, don’t punish me and make it do it again because I died in the next section. It wouldn’t be so bad to not have checkpoints if there was some way to regain health, even if you couldn’t do it all of the time.
This is the part of the review where I might say that things are easier when you have a few friends by your side, but Dead Sky makes that harder than it needs to be as well.
There are a handful of survival maps that support up to four player online co-op. Some of the maps require you to protect an objective, and some of them just ask you to stay alive for as long as you can. If one player dies, the game continues, and they will respawn at the start of the next round, but there is no way to heal each other before you die. There are some achievements for healing, but the game doesn’t give you any options to do it. You do get a little bit of health back at the start of each round, so maybe that’s what the achievements are referring to. There are no health packs, or any other healing options available, so that must be it. If not, I have no idea what the game wants you to do. It also doesn’t matter right now, because the game’s online system is severely broken.
We were able to play one game together, on our first try, but after that we were never able to join each other again. It would either fail to connect to the game, or ask us for a password, even though we hadn’t enabled one. For the sake of being thorough, we did set a password and it still wouldn’t work. It also wouldn’t find any other random public games either, so there is definitely something wrong with the online system right now. Once it’s fixed, it could be fun for a bit, but good luck convincing your friends to buy it.
There are so many zombie games out there these days, and most of them are better than Dead Sky, and not nearly as frustrating. The overall gameplay and mechanics are good, but the story, what little of it is there, isn’t very good, the co-op is broken, and the game is so unnecessarily hard that it’s not fun anymore. If you like challenging and unforgiving games, you might like Dead Sky, but I don’t think many of you will. Try it you want, but don’t complain to me when you don’t like it. I tried to warn you.