Evil Dead launched very recently, gracing shelves and digital storefronts worldwide. That is, unless you’re an XBox player due to unforeseen, inexplicable issues that caused the game to be surprisingly unavailable as planned.
Today’s piece will analyze the game, as well as compare its pros and cons to many of its contemporaries. Let’s begin talking about what the game shows that’s promising.
Combat is loose and simple on both sides, moreso for the Survivors since they’re more directly involved with fighting than the Kandarian Demon typically is. The combat is similar to a Dark Souls game, with Survivors even getting I-frames on their dodge roll similarly to From Software’s many selections. It isn’t anywhere near as complex or challenging as From Software games, but for the context of the game, it doesn’t need to be. It’s solid all around.
Aesthetics and theme
For Survivors, when they hit a Deadite or Skeleton hard enough or frequently enough, they’ll knock their assailant off balance and be given the opportunity to take advantage with either a Special Attack or a Finisher, the former if the opponent wouldn’t be finished off, and the latter for if the maneuver would. In either scenario, the character initiating this move gets a nice cinematic which is tailor made to whatever weapon is being used. For example, Ash Williams might put his opponent in a chokehold before holding a running chainsaw to their neck to finish them off. Scotty might tackle them to the ground and relentless beat their face in. Annie Knowby might pull them by the hip into her sword, impale them with it, then kick them off and to the ground.
For the Kandarian Demon side, they have the opportunity to set traps to scare the Survivors when triggered. They can possess a car if anyone is driving it and use it to run them over. They can possess a tree and make the tree flail at them with its branches. Finally, ‘minion units’ which are dependent on which Kandarian Demon the player has selected are truly gruesome and awesome to look at; Boss Team Games pulled no punches in that regard.
Overall, the game looks and feels amazing to play. The map design is very eerie yet action packed, and player interaction in all senses is enhanced as a result.
Evil Dead, like Dead by Daylight, is an asymmetrical 1v4 game. The “1” is the Kandarian Demon, whose goal is to eliminate the Survivors or stop them from forging and using the Necronomicon to banish demons from the world of the living. This is similar to DbD’s Killer role, whose role is also to eliminate Survivors. For the Survivors, their duty is to locate three pieces of a map scattered around the world, then use the map to locate the Necronomicon and Kandarian Dagger. From there, they need to retrieve those two items, use the Kandarian Dagger to defeat the Great Ones, then use the Necronomicon to banish demons from the world of the living. This is similar to DbD’s Survivor role, where they must repair five generators across the map, then open and get out through the Exit Gates.
In DbD, balancing has always been a major problem. The Survivor side has consistently been significantly advantaged, as the Killer side isn’t given enough variety in characters nor useful enough perks or add ons to compete with progressively higher skilled Survivors.
In Evil Dead, however, things seem very well balanced. The Kandarian Demon is definitely given the tools they need to succeed. They’re given a bountiful stock of Deadites/Skeletons to summon, they have an enormous area where they can place traps to hinder the Survivors, and each Demon gets a ‘Boss’ they can summon and possess to try and overpower the Survivors. However, the Demon begins the game with very little. They have the advantage of knowing where the Kandarian Dagger and Necronomicon are right off the bat, but they begin fairly weak until they start collecting Infernal Energy and setting traps to increase their Threat Level; doing either or both will work on them acquiring skill points they can use to become steadily more threatening as the game goes on.
For Survivors, the role is noticeably harder than the extremely easy role in DbD. Like the Kandarian Demon, they begin the game with nothing for weapons and even less in useful information on where they should be going. However, like the Kandarian Demon, a bit of beforehand prep work can go a long way, as the Survivors can search buildings for powerful weapons, Pink Fs for use in gaining skill points, and Shemp’s Colas and Shield Amulets they can stash away for use at an important time.
As such, there is a high skill gap on both ends where careful decision making is paramount. This is different from DbD, where the only real skill gap comes from playing as the Killer. This is also rewarded within the game’s balance- the smarter, more skilled play from one side as opposed to the other will rightfully end up crowning a winner at the end of the game.
In Hood: Outlaws and Legends, progression is simple. By playing as a character, you gain experience points and eventually level them up. In Dead by Daylight, you earn Bloodpoints based on how well you did in a particular match. The difference for DbD is that you are not forced to then use those Bloodpoints to level up the character, or even the role that you just played. As a result, you could play as a character you’ve maxed out, then use the points to level up someone else.
Evil Dead manages to mesh both approaches together as one and does it very well. By playing as a character, you’ll earn experience points for that character based on how well you do. After the game, you’ll be given Spirit Points which can be used on anyone on either role. Each character can be leveled up to level 25, and Spirit Points are used on an upgrade pool for each character.
In Hood, a critique can be made that maxing out the entire roster is too easy, too quick and leaves the player with nothing left to do after doing so. In DbD, a similar remark could be made that progression takes way too long given how enormous the game is. As a result, Evil Dead’s middle ground approach fitfully seems to work quite well.
The Fear Mechanic
In Dead by Daylight, there is next to no reason to stick together for the Survivor team. Survivors are better off taking a ‘divide and conquer’ approach, limiting the Killer’s ability to pressure them greatly. There is no drawback to this strategy whatsoever.
Boss Team Games must have recognized this, because there exists the Fear mechanic to deter this style of play. If a player is far away from their team, their Fear meter will quickly rise. When it reaches its max, their character will loudly yell, giving their position away to the Kandarian Demon. The Kandarian Demon powered up can potentially overwhelm a team of four people, so it stands to reason that one person by themselves is totally screwed if this happens. This gives the Kandarian Demon player room to potentially pressure the whole team or swiftly eliminate a lone wolf. However, Survivors can manage this Fear meter by sticking together or, if need be, entering and remaining in a building for awhile. They could also use Matchsticks to light fires to quickly regress their Fear meter. As such, this mechanic adds room for skillful play on both sides and does so in a way that’s quite balanced.
Evil Dead is somewhat flawed. Let’s talk about it’s cons.
Lack of lock on
Third person combat games have been a touch tricky, but games such as Red Dead Redemption, Hood: Outlaws and Legends and From Software games are able to make it work flawlessly by including a lock-on system. By hitting a single button, a small white dot will appear on the closest enemy, and the camera will focus on this one enemy. This makes combat significantly less clunky.
Unfortunately, such a system does not exist in Evil Dead, necessitating a large increase to one’s sensitivity setting from the default which is a patchwork solution at best. This can lead to awkward moments, such as trying to turn around to fight a Deadite running after you, only to swing your weapon about 90 degrees too far to the left or right and be left wide open to a counterattack. Missing an attack because the player messed up or the opponent made a good maneuver to dodge is one thing, but missing an attack because of the way the game plays is annoying. The solution is simple; include a lock on system. Hopefully this gets addressed in a future patch.
Lack of duplicate characters
In Hood: Outlaws and Legends, duplicate characters are completely okay. You could have a team of four of the same character with the same exact cosmetic, indistinguishable from one another, and the game will go on. Same idea in Dead by Daylight.
In Evil Dead, however, duplicate characters are forbidden. If you and your friend both wanted to play as Lord Arthur, you’re gonna have to take turns from game to game, because doing so in one game is something Evil Dead does not allow for.
The argument that this is done for immersion is totally trashed when one realizes that there are four different Ash Williams characters, one for the first Evil Dead movie, one for the second, one for the Army of Darkness movie, then one for the TV show. In fact, there’s even an achievement unlocked by playing in a lobby where you and the other three are collectively playing as each of these Ash variations. If we can allow that type of duplicate character, why can’t the shackles be undone for everyone else? It especially makes playing with random people online frustrating, as both of you may want to play one character, only one of you can, and there is no way of communicating this to the other person.
The solo queue experience
In Hood: Outlaws and Legends, playing on solo queue is nearly impossible to do successfully unless everyone on both sides is doing so. Communication mid-game is an extreme advantage so great that it can make or break the game by itself.
In Dead by Daylight, there is a large advantage to being able to communicate mid-game with your teammates. It isn’t so great that it has the same impact as Hood, but the advantage is significant nonetheless.
In Evil Dead, it is practically impossible to defeat the Kandarian Demon if you can’t communicate with your teammates. You have no idea what their strategy will be. Are they trying to take it slow, looting buildings to gear up? Or are they bulldozing through the map pieces, trying to give the Kandarian Demon as little time as possible to get their traps set up? Both strategies have significant pros and cons that are difficult, if not impossible to properly navigate without communication. After all, the Survivor side’s crown advantage over the Kandarian Demon is supposed to be numbers, which lead to a greater ability to traverse the map and get their objectives done more quickly. That doesn’t work when you can’t properly coordinate how best to go about achieving those objectives.
Evil Dead is unfortunately likely to eventually go the way of Hood: Outlaws and Legends. Stronger overall gameplay may delay its demise for a good degree of time, but it won’t sustain itself long enough to be a true, significant challenger to Dead by Daylight in the asymmetrical horror niche. The biggest reason for this is the massive advantage DbD has always had, over Evil Dead, every challenger before Evil Dead, and likely every challenger which will come up after Evil Dead: IPs. In DbD, there are many big licensed names such as Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Jill Valentine, and ironically enough, Ash Williams himself. Evil Dead probably will not involve third party crossovers, and definitely wouldn’t do so to a remotely comparable extent. Having said that, Evil Dead is cheaper than the average game, definitely has more going for it than Hood, and thus should probably still last a good long while, definitely enough to be worth buying. As a result, I’m going to give it a grade of an A-.