Deadstone
Gameplay 8
Graphics 7
Sound 9

There aren’t that many titles on PC in the top down shooter genre and even fewer that offers as much as Deadstone. It’s got a meaty campaign mode that can be enjoyed in a serious or light-hearted fashion as well as a very addictive survival mode. Throw in the co-op mode, which is unfortunately local only, and you have the recipe for a great game.

Graphics: The visual style of the game is a little dated and lacking in variety, but overall it’s quite polished.

Sound: Nice voice acting during the cut-scenes and the music fits the atmosphere of the game well.

Gameplay: Plenty of content and an addictive experience throughout despite the repetition

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Deadstone

Developer: Timeslip Softworks | Publisher: Timeslip Softworks |Release Date: 2014 | Genre: Indie / Action / Shooter | Website: Official Website | Format: Digital Download

Working as a private security operative for a bunch of eggheads on the Icarus space station wasn’t the first career choice for Blake, your character in Deadstone. However, things got a little heated back on Earth and the space station orbiting Mars seemed like a good way to leave his less than squeaky clean past behind. Unfortunately, nine times out of ten the result of dodgy research in space is a zombie outbreak, which is why Blake finds himself crash landing near the Martian colony of Deadstone with some undead snapping at his heals. As one of the few people in the area with the skills to beat back the shambling hordes, the job of saving the colony becomes Blake’s by default.

Although it’s a pretty well-worn story it is written well enough and manages to entertain despite the usual clichés. It also gives you more than enough excuse to blast some zombies, which is all that matters. There are actually two storylines in this game, the default sombre tale of a bacterial outbreak that threatens the Martian colonies and then a fourth wall breaking comedic take on the whole affair. It’s worth replaying the whole game in the latter mode just for the laughs alone. Conveniently enough, if you don’t care about the plot and just want to kill things, you can opt to play without a story altogether.

Deadstone takes the form of a top down shooter where you can take on the hordes of undead on your own or with a co-op partner. Don’t get your hopes up though as the co-op mode is limited to local players only and not online. The basic idea of the campaign mode is that you have to protect the colonists from the undead by not allowing any of the zombies to get past you. Depending on the difficulty setting you selected there are a number of colonists that can be munched before you lose the game.

You have quite a bit of ground to cover, which is where having a partner to help you out comes in handy. If you are stuck on your own though you can still make life a little easier for yourself by setting up defenses. Placing mines and gun turrets between missions gives the game a tower defense element and also gives you a little breathing room. You’ll still have to repair and reload the turrets, as they are not invincible, so if you are not fast enough they can be overrun and destroyed.

Killing zombies earns you experience points which translates into skill points when Blake levels up. The skill points can then be used to upgrade his speed, constitution, accuracy or mechanics. These skills determine how fast Blake can move, how many and what types of weapons he can carry and how many turrets you can set up, which means you’ll have to choose carefully. Every second level-up you can also choose from one of 59 different perks. The perks on offer depend on your level and which skills you have upgraded, but most of them come in very handy during combat. Whether it is magnetically attracting power-ups to your character or regaining health from killing enemies, choosing the right perks can make a big difference to how easy or hard the game becomes.

You’ll also earn cash during the missions as the colonists are quite grateful towards you for not allowing them to become zombie food. The more of them you keep alive the better your bonus, so it pays to always aim for a perfect patrol. Apart from repairing your turrets you also need cash to buy ammunition and new weapons, which means there are often little left for researching upgrades. With sixteen different, upgradable weapons, set across four classes, there is definitely not a shortage of things to buy. That’s not even counting the explosives, medical packs, armour and other things that also cost money. I always found myself short on cash and there were a couple of missions where I barely scraped through with enough bullets left. Since you cannot replay old missions to farm money and experience you’ll have to make the most of what you have in this game.

Apart from the normal “Patrol” mission where you have to stop the zombies from getting past you and snacking on the colonists, there are also two other mission types. In “Colonist Rescue” you have to fend off the undead for a certain amount of time while protecting a colonist that is visible onscreen and helping you out. You can even give them one of your own guns to improve their odds a little. The “Arena” mode on the other hand gives you a time limit and hordes of zombies that will pour in until the clock runs out, so the focus is purely on survival. All of these modes can take place during night when visibility is reduced and during dust storms, which not only limits what you can see, but also features lightning that knocks out your mini-map for a few seconds.

Deadstone is a lot of fun, but as with most games in this genre can become a little repetitive after a while. The game only features six zombie types and no “boss” encounters to liven things up. Gunning down dogs strapped with dynamite can be pretty tense, as is dealing with enemies that can teleport, but I was hoping to see some creatures that would elevate the game above the usual zombie shooters. Since the entire game is set on Mars the background visuals are not very varied either. The game is technically very sound though and we didn’t encounter any bugs, glitches or crashes during our time playing and completing the campaign mode.

The controls work well, although if you want to play in co-op one of the players will have to use a controller. It could just be because we played a lot of Crimson Land lately, which shares a similar theme, but the movement speed of Blake felt very slow. This was quickly solved by pushing a few skill points into his speed and making use of the sprint button, but impatient players might not be happy with his initial speed. The ability to shoot at structures, which causes the bullets to ricochet off and hit zombies is a nice feature and being able to save the layout of your mines and turrets is also a great touch.

The audio is quite good and I particularly liked the voice acting for Blake during the (sadly static) cut-scenes. The conversations that take place between Blake and other inhabitants of Deadstone before each mission are unfortunately text only. The music is quite moody and fits the dark storyline, for the original campaign at least, while the “goofy” story mode features suitably upbeat audio. It’s quite impressive that the developer not only changed all the conversations, but also the audio for the secondary story mode.

It’s easy to dismiss Deadstone as just another top down shooter, but it is honestly one of the better ones that we have played this year. It packs a lot of content for a very small price and is quite addictive to boot. The survival mode with its online leaderboards can already cause minutes to change into hours if you become hooked. Each time you get killed in survival mode the money you earned is added to the total for your next attempt, which provides plenty of motivation to keep coming back and improving your score. The two campaign story modes also provide plenty of entertainment and, depending on what perks and upgrades you choose, can offer a different experience with each playthrough. You can even play on the “Iron Man” setting if you fancy yourself a hard-core player, and the game has a ton of achievements to aim for.

If you enjoy action packed shooters and don’t mind the slightly dated visual style of the game you are in for a treat. Deadstone combines all the best elements of the genre to provide an addictive experience that is best enjoyed with a friend. It might become a little repetitive at times, but there is always that next perk or weapon upgrade to look forward to even if the story doesn’t grab your attention.

System Requirements

  • OS: XP/Vista/7/8
  • Processor: Core 2 Duo (2.0ghz or higher)
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 512 MB Dedicated Card
  • DirectX: Version 9.0
  • Hard Drive: 370 MB available space
  • OS: XP/Vista/7/8
  • Processor: Core 2 Duo (2.0ghz or higher)
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 512 MB Dedicated Card
  • DirectX: Version 9.0
  • Hard Drive: 370 MB available space

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