…Having foolishly wasted what little light I had left, I was lost; surrounded by a circle of desolate wooden shacks. Ominous music starts drifting through the background and I wonder how I am going to survive the night.
Towards the start of the game, BLTD constructs an intriguing survival atmosphere with its praise-worthy opening cinematics. I was left pondering the following questions: Who am I? What is on this island? Who is the child in the photograph? As the player progresses and ventures deeper into the island, darker questions are unraveled, amplifying the urge to find out the truth or better yet, escape.
The survival aspect of the game is definitely there, pitching man against nature. The player has to constantly scour the island for water and food in order to restore thirst and hunger. Another important mechanic in the game is light, as the world alternates between day and night. Illuminators, such as lighters are a must-have if you want to get around in the dark. When your lighter runs out of fuel, you will be forced to wander the night in the dark. A crafting system is built into the game where you can craft various tools and objects, such as torches, campfires, and bandages. The tools will aid you in your exploration of the island. There are also wildlife inhabiting the island, some are neutral, others are much more aggressive. The player will have to explore all the areas in the island, enter demolished buildings, and find scattered notes in order to piece together the truth.
Now for the cons. The optimization of the game engine is shallow at best, so be prepared to experience low framerates and choppy camera movements. Despite exceeding the recommended system requirements, the game ran at a very low fps. Setting all the graphics options to the minimum only yields a small, barely noticeable improvement. The camera appears to turn in large increments, making it difficult to orient. The controls for character movement and interactions are unwieldy and clumsy, greatly increasing the difficulty in scavenging and navigating. The character animations are clumsy and each action or command only utilizes the same one animation. The music is also quite lacking, as sound effects and soundtracks are constantly replayed and re-used. The environment appears to be quite lacking at times, as there are few independent objects in the game. During my play through of the game, I have only encountered a deer and a crocodile despite exploring much of the island. While the story was good in the cinematics, it is definitely not reflective of the gameplay. Instead of having a clear focus or objective, you will only find scattered notes with a tidbit of information.
As a game coming out of early access, BLTD does not feel like a finished game. The gameplay and story, which has some redeeming qualities, does not seem polished enough to constitute a finished game. Instead of a fun gaming experience, the player is left to wrestle with the unwieldy controls. New music and sounds should be added as it is blatantly obvious that there is only a single soundtrack of effect for each action.
I would give Better Late Than DEAD a 1.5 / 5, as its true potential is largely overshadowed by incomplete game mechanics.
Here is our gameplay video of Better Late Than DEAD captured during the review:
Better Late Than DEAD is available on Steam Early Access right now. The game releases this Thursday, March 3, 2016.