Dead Island: Epidemic Closed Beta hands-on preview

Written by James Redmond

With Dead Island: Epidemic, another franchise threw its hat into the multiplayer online battle arena and let the public watch as the non-disclosure agreement lifted on its Closed Beta earlier this month.

Courtesy of Austin Griffith, I was able to get into the closed beta and spend some time with Dead Island: Epidemic, cutely abbreviated DI:E, and loved my zombie-filled island getaway.

The competitive multiplayer formula in Dead Island: Epidemic is addicting.

Dead Island: Epidemic makes player versus player exciting, challenging and superbly inviting. Because a team wins not by destroying an enemy base, but through gathering supplies Dead Island: Epidemic made winning about working with your team, not against another.


Developed by Stunlock Studios, who also made Bloodline Champions, Dead Island: Epidemic aims to separate itself from other MOBAs with hands-on control and asymmetrical competition. Players have direct WASD keyboard control of their hero in multiplayer matches with three teams of four players racing be the first to gather enough supplies to grab the win.

Dead Island: Epidemic’s direct control feature made it easy for me to jump right into the game without any pain. From there, a well-made tutorial showed me the basic controls and features and let me loose into the game.

I mucked around in Dead Island: Epidemic’s player versus environment  horde mode at first and found a pleasant challenge and great player community as I learned the ropes. Horde mode scaled up in difficulty pretty quickly, ending with a unforgivingly difficult boss.

big boss

With a few games under my belt I headed over to scavenger mode, the player versus player mode. As a past DOTA 2 and Heroes of Newerth player I expected any MOBA to have a harsh learning curve and set-in-stone player roles, Dead Island: Epidemic bucked that trend and completely surprised me.

Juggling the main objective of gathering supplies while dealing with the threat of other players makes each round fast paced and fun as different challenges and opportunities present themselves. Dead Island: Epidemic kept me racing to keep up with my team, watching for powerful neutral enemies all the while looking for a chance to get a jump on any player from an enemy team.

Between running to capture points for supplies and running them back to the team base, Dead Island: Epidemic dropped in boss monsters and events that offered huge rewards for the team that bests them. Things got crazy when three teams all fought a boss, hordes of zombies and each other simultaneously. I really felt immersed in the game with everything changing in a second when some enemies died and new ones arrived.

Bosses and other large creatures had me on the edge of my seat forging temporary alliances with other players, while always knowing that if I made it too easy, every enemy player would forget the boss for a chance to take me out and grab all the rewards for themselves.


Dead Island: Epidemic also moved some of the typical MOBA complexity to a more accessible realm by putting weapon and item equipment out of the action and into the “crib” or main menu. The game took a few steps to stand out in character and inventory development as well.

Players in Dead Island: Epidemic can level both their characters and items. With my approximately 5 hours in the game I got one character to level 7 and maxed out both my melee and ranged weapons at level 3. I was able to unlock a few different options for “tier 1” (the lowest quality weapons) in my time and I got one blueprint for a “tier 2” weapon. While the game has crafting, the components and blueprints alike are awarded randomly for competing matches, any components can be with money also earned by playing.

In only 5 hours, I did not find a lot of depth to the crafting system, but I liked the end results. Combining different weapon types and effects with character abilities allowed for certain bonuses, for instance weapon type A does more damage to players and zombies under the influence of ability result B. I loved the opportunity for synergy, which totally scratched my theorycrafting itch.

On top of providing more opportunities for character/abilities/equipment synergies, the XP and leveling features in Dead Island: Epidemic meant that even if I lost a match, I still got items and resources. The resource payoff reward kept me happy even after a hard loss.

Dead Island: Epidemic is still in Closed Beta, however, you can sign up for it, and learn more about the game, over at its website and I would really recommend checking it out.

About the author

James Redmond


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