Tag Archives: Dead War

And ‘theXBLIG of 2014’ is…

Yes sir, it is that time of year again. That time when we unanimously say, ‘Out with the old and in with the new’, make a whole bunch of resolutions we’ll have forgotten about by February, and hope the new year brings us some sort of sign / luck / love / money / whatever. And if not, we’ll complain about it on Twitter.

For ‘theXBLIG’, the end of the year means an all-new ‘Best-of’ list, narrowing down all of the games released in 2014 into one handy leaderboard, voted on by the community. That’d be you guys and gals, the loveable readership of this fine site1. Just like last year, I’ve rounded up my personal choices for ‘Game of the Year’, listed them in no certain order, then asked you guys to vote on them to see which game would come out on top.

Interestingly enough, though plenty have been spelling doom for XBLIG for some time now, I actually labeled more games ‘leaderboard quality’ this year than last. Whether that trend will continue in 2015 is anyone’s guess, but it’s not a bad ending to an otherwise up-and-down year. Seems you’ve felt the same way, as some games saw massive interest in voting, while others struggled to net a handful of votes. Strange times, but, without further ado, here are the Top Ten…, excuse me, Top Nine (and one write-in), XBLIGs of 2014.


(Sort of but not quite) 10. Fright Light (5 Votes)

Fright Light is the ‘write-in’ vote winner, and I can’t be entirely sure that developer Chris Antoni didn’t just vote five times for his own game, but… so be it. Horror on the cheap, with visuals and production to match, Fright Light did its best Five Nights at Freddy’s impersonation, and didn’t do too bad at it.

9. Shipwreck (3 Votes)

Imagine a classic The Legend of Zelda game. Got that? Okay, now picture that series being handed off to an indie developer. Scared? You shouldn’t be, as Brushfire Games did an excellent job porting over the look, the feel, and the puzzle / dungeon design those games are known for. It’s an overlooked gem.

8. STRACO: Purge & Conquest (4 Votes)

The STRACO series (this game is parts two and three of a trilogy) may not impress you from the start, but its charm and playability wears on you the more you play it. A top-down shooter with heart, humor, and… Optimus Phillip, it’s well worth the look.

7. Dead.Kings (5 Votes)

Dead.Kings

Dead.Kings is a lot like the original BloodyCheckers, which may hurt its originality, but it’s more fun and player trolling per square inch of checkerboard than the now-boring real-life version of the game.

6. Amazing Princess Sarah (10 Votes)

If large breasts and throwing corpses around a stage sounds like an excellent retro-ish platformer to you, then Amazing Princess Sarah is the game for you. This kind of stuff sells itself.

5. Survival Games Season 1 (21 Votes)

Survival Games Season 1

Take the look of Minecraft, add in the survival mechanics and the merciless backstabbing of DayZ, and you’ve got the general idea behind this game. Each match can be a tense affair, a mad dash for limited supplies. Or you can play silly dress up and hide in your private corner of the world. Your choice, no judgement from me.

4. ApocZ (23 Votes)

An impressively-large, post-apocalyptic world full of zombies, the harsh reality of survival, …oh, and the real threat; other asshole humans shooting you in the back and taking all your carefully-scavenged equipment and weapons. Thanks a lot!

3. Shutshimi (37 Votes)

A fish with human arms (and giant muscles). A fish with a cigar-smoking problem. A fish with a ten-second attention span. What does that equal? Neon Deity Games’ ridiculously-fun shooter, which tosses new powerups and modifiers your way every ten seconds.

2. Dead War (49 Votes)

Part overhead shooter, part storyteller, part roguelike, Dead War mixes the good ole’ ‘zombie game’ with those aforementioned pieces to good effect. A nice change of pace from the usual zombified suspects that appear on XBLIG with alarming regularity.

1. Survivalist (139 Votes)

Survivalist

It’s tempting to dismiss XBLIG as a juvenile playground of avatar games, zombie shooters, and Minecraft wannabes, but Survivalist is one of those rare types, the type that sneaks up on you without anyone realizing it. Sure, there’s zombies, but they’re hardly the focus. The game presents you with a huge open world, the onus to survive, and dozens of characters that will remember your actions. One of the best XBLIGs I’ve ever played, Survivalist is a special game.


  1. Not a blog. 
Advertisements

REVIEW: Dead War

The protagonist of Bandana GamesDead War ($1.00) is hard to get a read on. She’s on Death Row for murder at the start of the story, saved (ironically) by the onset of a zombie apocalypse. As you venture forth, you learn more about her and her background, shaping the character in subtle ways. Some of those decisions on her personality can be made by you throughout the storyline, choosing when and who to help. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but then again, it’s not often that XBLIG presents semi-complex characters in its games (let alone a zombie title). This was an unexpected surprise.

It could be said that those same ‘lowered expectations’ might apply to the genre itself. Zombies are old hat; mindless fodder led to the slaughter against whatever vast array of weaponry you find and whatever trumped-up reasons you’re given to do so. Thankfully, Dead War trounces some of your preconceived notions about what the game may or may not offer. It is a zombie shooter, but like Survivalist, any comparisons to other games like it on XBLIG end after that.

The game plays from an overhead perspective and controls like a twin-stick shooter, presented across seven fairly-large and varied levels / chapters. These environments take you from the prison you call home to an abandoned hospital, to darkened subway tunnels and a university full of stranded survivors, as well as a few more places in-between. Given its undead denizens and arcade-ish control scheme, you’d expect it to play more action-oriented. To my delight, Dead War focuses more on exploration, driven by bits of story and real objectives, rather than just waves and waves of zombies1.

And though it borrows a bit from RPGs and squad-based shooters2 in the process, I kept coming back to the sense that Dead War felt more like a roguelike in places. You need patience and a steady hand. Little things like a simple map are a luxury you need to earn / find. Rooms and corridors are deliberately kept hidden from view until you open the door / turn the corner, essentially leaving you blind— and on-guard— for most of the game. This cleverly forces you to explore your surroundings carefully, and interact with other characters to advance and fill in the story gaps (and your map).

Even gathering extra ammunition (corpses only yield so much) requires some tact, with boxes locked behind amusing, reflex-heavy minigames. Need money for supplies or a better gun? Civilian entrepreneurs would love to sell them to you, but you’ll have to gamble. You can bet and win money at various kiosks in the world, allowing you to try your hand at Blackjack, play the Slots, or damn the odds and lay down money on horse races3 (see below).

Granted, it’s hardly realistic, but it all makes for a nice change of pace from the standard zombie killing that other titles serve up on repeat. And while nothing here is graphically-intensive, the game works with what it has, making effective use of lighting and claustrophobic rooms to create tension when needed. Dead War‘s locales also contain plenty of optional storyline should you desire it, stored on computers and TV broadcasts scattered around the world, including a few humorous anecdotes about other games and media (there’s riffs on Resident Evil, The Walking Dead, Metal Gear, even Destiny4).

Side activities considered, it’s tempting to dismiss the game as ‘easy’, when really it can be quite difficult at times. The game strikes a nice balance between you being well-armed for any situation and encouraging you to conserve ammo5. Either way, you’ll want to play smart. In another nod to roguelikes, should you die or fail an objective at any point in the chapter, you’ll have to start the level from scratch. This could potentially wipe out the last half-hour or so of your progress. It’s maddening (Chapter 4 can be an annoying ‘escort’ mission), but it’s also fair. Nothing comes easy. Try to rush through this apocalypse, and Dead War will make you pay for it.

Dead War - Screen

Part of the charm is in that challenge, of course, and it’s that challenge (as well as its well-done ancillary bits and minigames / side missions) that allows the game to rise above its crowded genre. All told, you’ll probably need 5+ hours to see it all the way through. And you totally should. It takes a good amount of convincing— and quality game design— to get me excited about another zombie game. Dead War manages that and then some.


  1. Although you do get plenty of those, rest assured. Aside from the standard ‘vanilla’ type, you get the ‘green’ acid spitters and ‘red’ exploding zombies, which can put an end to you (and your squadmates) really quick. Tread lightly, and carry a big shotgun. 
  2. There’s only one chapter that uses ‘squad control’ to any great extent, and it’s actually more of a hassle than fun. The commands are spotty, and the AI loves to throw itself at danger (and refuse to retreat), so really, you’re better off just lone-wolfing it. 
  3. ‘Big Thanks’ to Bandana Games for naming a horse after the site! I didn’t expect that either, so I’m honored. 
  4. Admittedly, it’s become an addiction. Even though it’s not what I’d consider a ‘great’ game, I can’t stop playing the damn thing. 
  5. On a ‘Normal’ playthrough, anyway. I can’t speak for things on ‘Hard’ mode, because… well, I’m not cut out for real trouble. 

‘Dead War’ Features Zombies, Guns, Tactics

Two out of those three features guarantees a certain amount of success on XBLIG, so adding some actual ‘thinking’ to the mix is a welcome bonus! Above is a playthrough from the first chapter of Dead War, developer Bandana Games’ upcoming squad shooter.

Due to be executed that day, a death row inmate instead finds herself in the middle of a zombie… incident. How convenient! The good news is (well, aside from being ‘not dead’), you’ll get to mow down plenty of undead as you search for answers and try to curb the outbreak. You’ll do this on your own during some stretches, while at other times, you can recruit others— and their firepower— to help you.

Thankfully, the game looks to break up some of the ‘shooter monotony’ by giving you plenty of objectives (both optional and story-based) to tackle. Between that and the potential for some tactical firefights, Dead War just might convince the world it needs another game about zombies.

.

Dead War is simply ‘coming soon’ to Xbox Live Indie Games. You can follow the developer on Twitter here, or keep an eye on the development blog here.