Asymmetrical games are a tough nut to crack with one major title currently dominating the category and a mere handful of contenders vying to take its place. Saber Interactive and Boss Team Games have teamed up to take their shot at 4-v-1 with Evil Dead: The Game.
The Book of The Dead
Evil Dead: The Game is an upcoming 4-v-1 asymmetrical multiplayer experience based on the iconic film and TV franchise. Although my introduction to the game was short, it left me impressed and wanting more; much more. Evil Dead: The Game tasks four human survivors with navigating a map to complete a series of objectives while fending off hordes of undead enemies and dealing with an evil demon that is controlled by another player. The demon player’s mission is to kill all four survivors before they finish their tasks.
The playable survivors come from a huge library spanning both the Evil Dead film and television series. The game is sporting characters from 1981’s Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness and Ash vs. Evil Dead. Survivors are broken down into four classes; Leader, Warrior, Hunter and Support with each character bringing their own special abilities to the table. For the preview, I played the valiant Knight Lord Arthur from the leader class. His ability allows him to light his sword on fire dealing bonus damage to enemies which also buffs the party by slowly lowering their fear levels, an aspect I'll expand on shortly.
The team of four survivors has to explore the map, gather items, and complete a series of objectives before the demon player kills them. Players may come pre-equipped with a weapon, but they’ll be able to find items that range in quality and rarity by exploring areas like abandoned buildings and tool sheds with their flashlights. Pistols, shotguns, katanas, knives and shovels are just a few of the weapons you’ll find along the way. Players will also find a potent elixir called Pink F in some crates that they can use to level up their character's various stats, like health, stamina, and fear.
The maps in Evil Dead: The Game are also impressive and spooky. While I only got a peek at two levels, they both sported awesome details from the films that fans will appreciate. The maps are huge, probably the biggest in any asymmetrical game I’ve ever played, which encourages exploration, but also dread, as enemies and traps can be anywhere. There is a sense of fear as you explore the dark forest from the first two Evil Dead films, and although I didn’t stumble upon the infamous “cabin”, rest assured it’s got to be somewhere in the game.
The environments have a great sense of atmosphere using fog, lights and shadows to their fullest extent. They also feel organic in design, like these can be real places in the real world which adds to the tension. Human survivors are equipped with a flashlight, but it does more than help them see, it reveals hidden items in buildings, such as health kits, weapons, and other upgrades. Whether you’re passing by some dilapidated trailers in a trailer park or exploring an old abandoned mansion, the maps ensure you’ll have plenty to see and loot while trying to secure your team's next objective.
Survivors have five objectives to complete in order. First, find Necronomicon Ex-Mortis pages scattered throughout the map. Once all of them have been found you have to combine them all together. This is accomplished by defending a zone while the game’s AI and demon player set traps and throw undead minions your way in a manner similar to a horde mode. Next, you have to locate the Kandarian Dagger and summon it into existence. While summoning, you once again have to defend an area from undead enemies for a set time. After you’ve successfully obtained the dagger you’ll then have to locate the ominous Dark Ones and banish them while channeling a spell that can be interrupted by an enemy's attack. If you manage to banish the Dark Ones, the final objective is preventing the demon player and their Deadites from destroying the Necronomicon. Of course, this is only half the game. The other half is looking out for the evil player-controlled demon whose mission is to kill all four survivors before they complete their objectives.
Face Your Fears
Fear is a resource that human heroes must balance. Your fear will slowly go up throughout the course of the match for a number of reasons. Fear will increase as you fight hordes of undead enemies and will grow faster if you decide to break off from the group and explore on your own. It’s important to keep your fear in check. Fortunately, human players can reduce fear by using abilities or lighting campfires they come across on the map as long as they’ve been able to collect a few matches.
Dead by Dawn
Playing the demon is a completely different experience from the human heroes. You are put in a first-person perspective that mimics the fast-cam evil force shots you see in the Evil Dead films. You skim along the ground gathering red crystals that act as your resource and use them to activate your demon’s unique abilities. The demon can possess objects like cars, trees, and even player-controlled heroes. You can possess a hero when their fear gauge is full. This is a gauge that slowly goes up during the session. You can also speed it up with certain demon abilities.
The demon player can also directly scare the human heroes by selecting an ability that allows them to build up and dash quickly over a short distance. Any human heroes they pass through directly will hear a loud noise and their chosen class portrait will flash and obscure their screen. This increases a large amount of fear for the players the demon passed through. As the demon, you are also given a photo prompt confirming which survivors you successfully scared with this ability. Once a player’s fear gauge is totally full, they’re outlined in red indicating you can possess that specific player. After the player takes a certain amount of damage the game forces you out of their body.
“It came back, big time.”
While the demon player has a set number of abilities there are also three subclasses of demon you can choose to play: The Warlord, Puppeteer, and Necromancer. Though each has its own skill tree and unique abilities, they also affect the game visually. The enemies that spawn on the map by both you and the AI take on the form of your chosen demon. For example, the Warlord will spawn Deadites while the Necromancer will spawn undead skeleton enemies that crumble upon defeat. It is just a fun little extra detail that Evil Dead fans will appreciate.
While the heroes have a skill tree and objectives to fulfill, the demon must stop them from completing these objectives and the only way to win is to kill off all four of the human players. The demon’s skill tree is much deeper and more important to develop carefully in order to win compared to the human heroes. I am sure that, given enough time with the final game (as we only got to play about an hour in total), there will be cool meta builds and tactics to use for each of the unique classes.
From the short time we played the preview build for Evil Dead: The Game I enjoyed it immensely and felt excited, energized, and inspired for the remainder of my day. Saber Interactive and Boss Team Games have something special here and I can't wait to play more.
These impressions are based on a hands-on PC demo build of the game. Evil Dead: The Game is set to launch on Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, and PC via the Epic Games Store on May 13, 2022.