The similarities of Rune Factory 5 were not lost on me when writing this Deadcraft review. Being a studio Marvelous endeavor, many of the shared qualities between these titles were no accident. Deadcraft has the benefit of having no sequel baggage and strives for a flavor that is not seen often.
Like the Rune Factory games, Deadcraft is an action RPG with a big emphasis on a farming sim module to supplement the hack and slash gameplay. If you ever felt that Harvest Moon needed to be like The Road Warrior but with zombies, this is for you. Compounded with a bit of old west flair, Deadcraft manages to make a statement very early on.
While it is apparent that the developers were not able to secure AAA financing for Deadcraft; the ingenuity of the game design shines through and makes for a very addictive and stimulating game-loop. How did they do it? Find out in this Deadcraft review!
Developer: Marvelous Inc.
Publisher: XSEED Games, Marvelous USA
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S (reviewed)
Release Date: May 19, 2022
Price: $24.99 USD
Reid has a problem: he is a half-infected zombie man and straddles between two worlds; the living and undead. He also is on a quest for revenge and completely botched his vengeance as the story began and has to survive his way through the wasteland while learning how to cope with his newfound semi-unlife.
Being a half-man, half-zombie hybrid turns out to be full of perks and very few downsides. Reid still gets hungry and thirsty like every man, but now he can cannibalize undead flesh and blood to sustain himself. He can even use remains as fertilizer to grow hybrid zombie fruits and veggies.
Eating undead food and drinking zombie blood does come at a cost. Excessive consumption of infected food raises Reid’s zombie level and going too high makes him more zombie than man, as well as boosting his attack power. Lowering his infection demands eating and drinking normal food and water, or unleashing one of his zombie special attacks that consumes some infection.
Managing Reid’s survival stats is only one module to the Deadcraft experience. On top of managing his resources to stay alive, Reid must also scavenge for materials to expand his ever developing farm. Making progress is very smooth and quick, especially when compounding the days work with easy-to-do bulletin board requests.
From making storage sheds to iron-maiden filtration systems for purifying sludge into water, there is no shortage to the various kinds of facilities Reid will be able to build or upgrade. The only issue with the game design is how the developers stifle the player from making too much progress by tying story progress to Reid’s skill-tree.
Deadcraft is the kind of game that allows players to set their own goals and to explore possibilities. It can be disappointing knowing that you’ve hit an arbitrary wall because you have to meet certain story requirements before you can craft a more advanced zombie-turret or a devastating new electric guitar.
The other module to Deadcraft is crafting which comes in two varieties: traditional crafting for making basic day-to-day things and zombie crafting for wastelanders who are acquainted with the dead. Functionally, it isn’t any different than regular crafting, but the imaginative and humorous presentation helps sell it.
Brief animations of Reid doing his farming are usually him doing the most ridiculous actions to get his crafting accomplished. Whether he is burying bodies in the soil like a serial killer or putting a corpse on a buzz saw, the gruesome imagery is played for laughs and punctuated with a dismembered zombie hand giving an approving thumbs-up.
Aesthetically, Deadcraft definitely looks like a indie Unreal Engine 4 game made for Nintendo Switch hardware. The art direction in Deadcraft helps elevate the visuals and infuses it with a delightfully rebellious 90s punk-manga flavor that you don’t see often anymore.
There is liberal use of dot-tone textures to further emphasize the manga influences, with lots of deep black shading to bring out harsh edges. If you squint your eyes, it kind of looks like a No More Heroes game.
To further emphasize the punk-theming of Deadcraft, the music borrows heavily from punk music. The various sound cues and leitmotifs are often done with a very heavy and crunchy sounding electric guitar. At times, it makes it sound like the game is growling at the player, daring them to play.
The voice acting is used only for major scenes and sounds like the kind of performances heard in mid generation games on the PlayStation 2. This is not a negative against Deadcraft and completely fits the style and splatter sensibilities of the game’s tone.
Regretfully, the only aspect of the Deadcraft‘s gameplay not meeting its ambiance, is in its difficulty. It is very easy to become filthy and disgustingly rich and buy up all of the town’s stock for the week due to how plentiful certain resources are.
Sludge is one of the most common resources in the game. it can be found everywhere and players can get tons of it for free at their own base. Merchants in the towns have no limit of funds and players can effectively sell this muddy water to them endlessly and then buy up the entire shop’s worth of resources from trading in muck.
Sludge is only one of the easily found and plentiful resources that players can easily dump into merchant shops. Compounded with easy fetch quests for side missions, there is no way players can ever struggle. The atmosphere of Deadcraft really needed more punishing or harsher game difficulty to best capture the feeling of the post apocalypse.
Being able to accrue massive quantities of resources also makes many of the battles with hordes of undead or wastelander thugs a breeze since Reid will be able to craft an unbeatable zombie army. As if an army of weaponized undead isn’t enough, the ridiculous amount of options that Deadcraft offers means a craftable item for almost any situation.
Barriers, several different mine varieties and even guns or explosives are on the table. This isn’t even counting the special zombie attacks that sweep huge swaths across the screen; all of which can be buffed to make Reid an undead God of death.
Even though it leans a bit too easy on the difficulty, Deadcraft is an utter joy to play and keeps on giving thanks to the stimulating farming and harvesting gameplay. On Xbox Series S, the game ran as good as it could; locked at 60 frames per second no matter how many enemies were on screen. Load times were quick and after over 30 hours, not a single crash or bug occurred.
Deadcraft is a game for those who feel Rune Factory is too saccharine with its pastel visuals and girly character designs and needed a lot more punk nihilism. It may not have the dazzling veneer of a AAA production, but Deadcraft will suck gamers in with its creativity and style.
Our Deadcraft review was done on Xbox Series S using a copy provided by XSEED Games. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Deadcraft is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.