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I approached the “Dead Island: Epidemic” closed beta with some apprehension. What the hell is this thing? How could they do this to “Dead Island”? Wait, THIS IS A MOBA?! WHY?!

I did my due diligence and gave it an hour of my time. Then another hour. Then another. After that, things got a little hazy and I woke up in a sea of screenshots, crafting supplies and comically fantastic weapons.

Let’s get down to brass tacks here. This game is fantastic. It is a refreshing change of pace from the more serious MOBAs like “League of Legends” and “DOTA”.

Seasoned MOBA players will be right at home in “Dead Island: Epidemic”. Each character has three basic skills assigned to the Q, E and R keys and an ultimate assigned to the F key. Developer Stunlock Studios (best MOBA studio name NA) does throw a movement curveball at players by having them use the WASD to move around; the mouse is only used for basic, hack-and-slash-style attacks. The controls are quick and easy to master.

One of the first things I noticed about the game was the map design. The maps stay true to “Dead Island” with a mix of inside and outside areas that all have that cartoony Jimmy-Buffet’s-Island-Adventure feel to them.

The indoor part of one map
The indoor part of one map

The point of the game’s flagship mode, Scavenger, is to be the first team to reach a designated number of supplies (the bigger the map, the more you’ll need). Supplies are gained by killing NPC minions, tougher NPC bosses, capturing the flags located throughout the map, or killing opposing players. Supplies must be dropped off at a protected drop point. If a player gathers too many supplies, he or she becomes over-encumbered. This reveals the player on the mini-map of his or her enemies and greatly reduces the character’s movement speed. An important part of your team’s strategy will be protecting this player (or never letting a teammate become over-encumbered).

Unlike other MOBAs, the game features three four-person teams, which creates some unique gameplay dynamics. The strategy for fighting two teams is a lot different than fighting one-on-one. This feature gets really interesting when the massive bosses spawn. These monsters are tough and give a boatload of supplies, which makes it very important for all 12 players to converge and fight both the monster and each other for his wonderful treasure.

Hoarder problems.
Hoarder problems.

The progression and customization options for the game are a little overwhelming.

There is a currency for buying characters, and each character gains experience and progresses up to a maximum level of 15. There are four main characters: Amber, Berg, Bryce, and Isys. Each of these characters has three forms: Armored, Mutated and Survivor. These forms act as separate characters; each with its own progression, skills and unique look. “Dead Island: Epidemic” also allows you to play Wanta. She is a pretty cool healer chick and only has one form.

The character screen
The character screen

There is a different currency for buying weapons and items. Weapons also progress and level up based on their use in games. You also use the Workbench to create weapons and items using materials and schematics earned from completing games. The weapons each give different skill bonuses and have their own unique properties. They are also pretty hilarious.


“Dead Island: Extinction” also includes the Horde mode, which is just a basic four-person team vs waves of zombies mode. This is a great way to learn the controls, how the different boss zombies like to kill you and how to interact with the different maps.

Like any game in closed beta, the game does have some kinks to be worked out. I had a really weird bug that meant my character could only look down. I left and reconnected, but that didn’t help. When I was finally killed, the character could look everywhere again. That was the only actual bug I found in six hours of play.

The game also doesn’t let you cancel a skill by pressing its button again. For instance, if I press Q but don’t want to use Q, I can’t press Q again to make the little skill graphic go away. I either have to escape to the menu or press T, which my feeble monkey brain won’t ever be able to remember.

As you might expect, the queue times can get a little long. The game doesn’t have a huge member base yet and a 12-person queue is pretty rough, but I can usually get into a game within five minutes or so. The game is a MOBA, so balance issues are a factor. I personally think Mutated Isys needs the bat immediately. These are things that will work themselves out in time however.

The real-money store is not available in the closed beta, but I have a feeling that the pay-to-win factor will be relatively strong in “Dead Island: Epidemic”. I hope I’m wrong.

These are pretty small problems in the grand scheme of things. The game rocks. I recommend applying for the closed beta immediately. I got my invite within 24 hours of applying, and each invite comes with a million buddy passes. It is going to open up any day now, and it uses Steam, which is always nice. I look forward to watching “Dead Island: Epidemic” blossom into a legitimate MOBA option.

Originally Posted to Gamer Headlines