Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Deadcraft isn’t shy about what it is, and brings the player into an action-rpg world filled with, well, crafting using the dead. As the title implies, the hook of this game is that the player can both craft using zombie parts as materials as well as crafting zombies themselves. That is not to say that the player can only craft using rotted corpses – no, there is a full slate of regular crafting available here too.
A vibrant world of the dead
Deadcraft throws the player into a world inhabited by zombies, gangs, crackpot mad scientists and various people just trying to scrape by. Unlike the trends on TV, however, this is not a world of drab dark colors – no, things here are bright and almost flamboyant. Character dialogue is often a bit over the top, but this is well supported by the color palette and art style of the game. Of all the things that are dead in this post-apocalyptic world, fashion and color theory are certainly alive and well.
Never a dull moment
From the outset, Deadcraft throws the player into combat against the dead and living alike. Movement and targeting are surprisingly intuitive, with either freeform slash/shoot-where-you-face or an easy to use lock-on-target system. The camera in Deadcraft is always centered on the player, but the in-game map function allows the player to anticipate where enemies are so that the limited on-screen visual range isn’t much of a drawback.
In all things, balance
Playing into the crafting with dead things schtick, the player character in Deadcraft is half-zombie, born to an infected mother before she could turn. This unique nature gives an opportunity for the player to choose their playstyle by influencing which aspect – zombie or human – is dominant at a given moment. Eat corrupted foods or specially-made zombie power drinks and your corrupted side will be visibly dominant. Townsfolk get scared, your attacks get more powerful…and like a dumb zombie you forget how to defend yourself.
Eat and drink untainted items, or use your zombie powers too much and you’ll tend towards human in appearance and action. Townsfolk are more easy to talk to, you are far better at dodging attacks, but your raw power will take a hit. Finding a happy medium – or learning how to bounce between states on demand – is key to success, and a fun challenge.
Make what you need
Deadcraft has an extensive, two-sided crafting system. Initially, the player can craft various normal, human-survival items. From purified water to farming vegetables, cooking meat or building storage sheds, your standard survival-game crafting staples are all here. Weapons too can be crafted if you have the right knowledge and ingredients, from knives to guns to roadsign-bats.
Through the story the player quickly learns how to craft for their zombie side too, however, and this is where Deadcraft sets itself apart. From hybrid vegetables to zombie power-drinks and even making your own zombie minions from corpses, Deadcraft embraces the gore. By the time you’ve finished crafting and seen a disembodied zombie hand give you a thumbs-up for your efforts, you’ll know whether or not Deadcraft’s style of humor suits you.
The Bad…or at least the Not-As-Good
Welcome to my nest of menus
Deadcraft has launched on a number of platforms simultaneously, and that means control and menu layouts that work on all systems. As a primarily PC gamer, this means that the console-style menu and control system was fairly obvious from the outset. As is the case with many games that release first or simultaneously on console, menus in particular seem overly nested, and there aren’t many hotkeys introduced that would shortcut directly to menus you want to see.
This is often an indication of a UI designed to support the lower available button count on controllers. PC-centric UI design in contrast will often use the extensive keyboard options to make shortcuts directly to key submenus, saving time and clicks every time the player wants to access the information.
Do you feel parched?
Deadcraft’s setting is post-apocalyptic, and so the early game focuses on resources. Beyond just scrabbling for the items you need to craft the things you want, the player will spend time trying to find and consume food and water. Early on, even finding food and water clean enough that it doesn’t inflict health damage when you consume it can be difficult. At the same time, Deadcraft links the amount of health and energy (used to power every swing of your sword) recovered at night to your level of hunger and thirst. If you’re parched and hungry you’re not going to sleep well, so it might be worth taking the health damage now and eating some cook-the-rot-away rat with a side of dirty sludge-water in the hopes of recovering more than it cost you to consume.
My impression of this mechanic is mixed, however. While the mechanic drives home the struggle to survive in a blasted wasteland, I found that it severely limited my early game progress. I probably spent more time in the early stages trying to figure out a steady source of food and water than trying to progress the main plotline.
Deadcraft is a visually beautiful (if at times cartoonishly gorey) game that plays quite smoothly. Effective in-game tutorials support the game’s signature dual-natured crafting and combat systems. Quick action and a well-constructed UI keep the player engaged with minimal overhead. Nested menu systems and a lack of hotkeys make it apparent this game was built with consoles in mind, but are easy enough to navigate that this is a design choice that shouldn’t cost much goodwill from PC-only players. A focus on getting adequate food and water slows down the early game, but also emphasizes the harsh environment the game is set in very effectively.
Overall, Deadcraft is a well-constructed action IsoRPG, and fans of the genre would do well to grab it on the platform of their choice.Score: 9 / 10