Dead In Vinland – developed by CCCP and published by Dear Villagers is the second game in the ‘Dead in’ series, and follows 2015’s Dead in Bermuda. Though not a direct sequel, both are pitched as ‘Survival management games’ with ‘RPG and adventure elements’.
Having never played Dead in Bermuda myself, I went into this not quite knowing what to expect…
There are a number of different difficulty modes available to choose from before beginning your adventure, and while ‘Nice vacation’ definitely called out to me (it’s been a tough year, what can I say?), I decided to buckle up and opt for ‘Survival’ mode instead – which I’m told is ‘The way the game is intended to be played’.
The set up is refreshingly straightforward: A family of vikings have been exiled from their hometown and find themselves shipwrecked on a strange new island. The objective? Survive! We’re treated to a stylish animated opening sequence, complete with dramatic narration from one of the lead protagonists, Eirik, before gameplay officially commences.
Each day is divided into three segments, Morning, Afternoon and Evening; during which you can assign different family members to carry out different tasks, such as exploring a new area of the island or harvesting supplies. You’ll want to pay attention to each characters individual strengths and weaknesses to get the job done as efficiently as possible – but as this is at its core a turn based game, there’s no real time limit so you never feel rushed.
The ‘Choose your own adventure’ style gameplay is apparent right from the start, with different Dialogue and Interaction choices yielding different results and directly affecting the wellbeing and relationships of the characters involved.
There’s a lot you need to keep track of in Dead in Vinland. Even playing through with the tutorial to guide me I still found myself overwhelmed with the sheer amount of menus to wade through. It’s absolutely crucial to keep your survivors happy and pay close attention to their stats; something I clearly neglected to do in my first play through of the game, when I found myself faced with a Game Over screen on Day 3 after one of the vikings got too depressed and killed herself…
Thankfully, the auto-save feature meant I didn’t lose all of my progress and only had to pick up from the start of that morning, but it was certainly a big wake up call!
It quickly becomes apparent that our Viking family of 4 are not the only ones occupying this island, and while some of the folk you meet along the way will be more than happy to join your party, others are not quite so friendly. You’ll be forced to defend yourself against a variety of different foes…
Battles allow for up to three of your characters to partake in and are a fairly typical turn based affair. Each party member has a different set of attack and defence moves based on their class; my personal favourite being the unassuming Christian guy (Brother Angelico) who attacks opponents with a vicious swing of his Bible! It truly gives a new meaning to the term ‘Bible Bash’ and I feel like the developers missed a trick by not naming it as such.
‘you’ll be forced to defend yourselves against a variety of different foes!’
While I appreciate that the random encounters aren’t designed to be the main focus of the game, I couldn’t help but feel like the battle system could do with a little more polish. While the music ramps up slightly whenever you’re faced with one, it still never really feels like there’s much at stake. The animation feels lazy, they quickly become repetitive, and most of the time I found myself willing them to be over with as fast as possible. Frankly, if I were to judge this game solely on its battle mechanics, it might not fare so well…
Thankfully that isn’t the case here, and once you get over the initial learning curve, you’ll find Dead in Vinland has a lot to offer. I really enjoyed exploring new areas and discovering the secrets of the island, and thanks to some excellent writing, the banter between the characters is at times both funny and poignant. Random event triggers keep things from feeling stale on multiple playthroughs, as do the puzzle-solving segments.
This is by no means a casual game, but the seemingly endless amount of customisation options will surely be great news for anyone who’s a keen fan of strategy and micro management. And make no mistake, it can definitely make for a rewarding experience when things go to plan!