I wrote about A Way To Be Dead back in January saying gamers should keep their eye on the upcoming indie title. The game is out now on Steam’s early access for those wanting to test out the asymmetrical multiplayer. However don’t expect to play in a full lobby, that is of course unless you buy the game for all your friends.
A Way to Be Dead pits four survivors looking to escape a rundown hospital against one menacing Dr. Riley determined to slaughter them. Survivors are tasked with searching bodies throughout the map to find fresh body parts. They then need to place these parts into one of several graves on the map. After placing 10, players can locate a key to unlock the exit and escape. All the while Dr. Riley stalks them like prey, just waiting to carve them in two. While survivors cannot fight back, they can use a flashlight against Dr. Riley. This stuns the menace in place for a bit and blinds their screen. Dr. Riley can gain a short term invincibility from the stun by completing a skill check after it happens.
Dead By Daylight Similarities & Differences
The premise feels familiar for fans of Dead by Daylight, but there are some differences that are important to note. Scattered across the map, players will find A.I. controlled zombies that can harm both survivors and Dr. Riley. While dying in DBD means game over for you, in A Way to Be Dead players can choose to turn into a zombie and impact the match in many ways. As a zombie, players can either hunt down their former comrades, attack Dr. Riley to help the survivors, or locate a nurse on the map to be turned back into a human. I find it important to share though, I never could find the nurse in any of my matches. I’m not sure if this means another player is the nurse you look for or if the nurse is just really hard to locate.
Dr. Riley also has some tricks up his lab coat. The map features crawl spaces and obstacles Dr. Riley cannot access. However, Dr. Riley can transform into a mutant by eating hearts found on the map. In doing so, Riley changes forms, gaining speed and the ability to use these spaces to hunt down the survivors. As with DBD, both survivors and Dr. Riley gain skill points from completed matches to customize the player’s experience.
Let’s get this out of the way now, the game has its fair share of bugs. Indie developer Crania Games knows this and tries to make it known from the jump. This is also why the game is in early access and not in full release. So don’t say you were not warned before you dive in. Now, let’s get to the goods.
The Devs Are Listening
The game released for early access on July 23rd. Since then, Crania released two updates including a major redesign all based on player feedback. This is a great sign for those looking to make their voice heard on the game’s development. I’ve seen developers put games in early access, but never appear to address the player’s issues. I’m not sure on the team’s size, but with only two other games under its belt, I cannot fathom it to be large. Crania encourages players to leave feedback in the developer’s discord group and you can see them talking with gamers on there as well.
The Price is Nice
Those looking to test out the game won’t need to dive deep into their wallet to do so. The game is currently $7 and, if the early access notes are to be believed, it will remain that price for the duration of early access. Even if it’s only for a night of fun with friends, that’s a reasonable price. For those unfamiliar with Steam’s early access, players who buy the early access version of the game get to continue playing the title even upon full release.
It Nails the Fun Factor
The game lacks the polish of Dead by Daylight, but the fun factor is there. Trying to accomplish the tasks needed to escape while avoiding Dr. Riley feels rewarding. I hopped on not planning to play long for my first session and ended up playing for roughly three hours. I especially loved trying to fool the killer with the play dead skill. When I played Dr. Riley, it felt great being the impending doom lurking around every corner of the map. The sound effects and feedback need to be worked on, but the game has a solid foundation to build on.
Bugs are a Plenty
I mentioned the bugs to get those out of the way, but we still need to address the bad and bugs are a part of that. One such bug prevented me from winning one of my earliest matches. As previously mentioned, you need to place 10 body parts in graves to make the key attainable. Yet on my first game, there was no way to get the tenth body part. All the bodies had been searched and only nine parts had been found. It then became a waiting game for Dr. Riley to ultimately kill us.
The game does feature one way to get around this. When only one survivor remains, the escape gates open. In this run, a bot was the only one left alive and did indeed get away. It felt nice that we didn’t technically lose, but it did leave a sour taste in my mouth since I was the last death. I didn’t play at release and, based on some of the reviews on Steam, I’m glad I didn’t. It appears the game was littered with even more bugs than it currently has. Many of those issues and concerns appear to be fixed or addressed though. It definitely needs more polish before it can really hit with a wide audience. Oh, speaking of bots…
The Player Base has Flatlined
Good luck finding a full lobby or a half-filled lobby at that. As of this writing, Steam Charts shows zero people playing the game with a 24 hour peak of four. For a multiplayer game needing five for a full lobby, that’s not good. Crania Games knows this and suggests players use the discord to coordinate finding a group of people to play with. However, not everyone will do this. Thankfully, Crania Games implemented bots in the game which you can use to round out your party. This also can be a useful tool to learn the game mechanics before trying to pair up. Just make sure you up the bot’s A.I. Your best bet is to get a group of friends together and buy the game to play. You will have much better luck and enjoyment that way.
A Way To Be Dead shows promise, especially from a small indie team. The game adds just enough differences to make you feel it’s a unique experience over Dead By Daylight. With enough player feedback and changes, Crania Games could have a quiet gem on its hands. However, the barren wasteland that is its player base will ultimately be the nail in the coffin if it doesn’t improve soon. A free-to-play weekend could be the spark it needs as well as partnering with some well known streamers of the genre. Yet, the bugs and lack of sound effects shows it’s not ready for that move just yet.
A Way to Be Dead is currently available on Steam’s Early Access for $6.99