Dead Island 2 is an upcoming open-world survival horror game developed by Dambuster Studios and published by Deep Silver. It is the long-awaited sequel to the popular 2011 game Dead Island and its 2013 follow-up, Dead Island: Riptide. However, hearing that report alone does not do the game’s lengthy history justice. Up until recently, Dead Island 2 seemed left for dead in development hell.
Development hell are two words no gamer and developer want to hear. It means an indefinite delay of our most anticipated games and a difficult rut developers must try to climb out of. Some games live and die in this purgatory. Others are, miraculously, released, but a handful of those titles should never have escaped that hell to begin with (rest in peace, Duke Nukem).
Dead Island 2 encapsulates this drama of development hell to a T (aside from whatever Metroid Prime 4 is currently dealing with) . To understand its near-Sisyphean development, we must start from the beginning.
Dead Island 2 Development Trial #1: Yager
Development of Dead Island 2 began in 2014, with Yager Development as the initial developer, chosen back in 2012. The game was set to take place in California, and players would have been able to explore iconic locations like the Hollywood sign and the Santa Monica pier. The game was also set to feature a new and improved combat system, with enhanced melee and gunplay. The trailer teased at E3 2014 captured everyone’s attention, its dark humor intercut with violence against zombie-kind. The death and decay of the trailer’s vapid, muscle-implanted jogger cemented that Dead Island 2 would be heading towards, and embracing, the violently silly direction and tone, a symptom of games of that early to mid 2010s era.
However, in July 2015, Yager and publisher Deep Silver announced that it cut ties with Yager, who had been working on Dead Island for three years at this point. Timo Ullmann, managing director of Yager later confirmed fan speculation by officially stating that Yager’s departure from the project was because “[the companies’] creative directions fell out of alignment.”
On a related note, there is some misinformation floating around that Yager went bankrupt because of this split or something dramatic along those lines. These are not true. The Yager sub-studio set up for development on Dead Island 2, Yaeger Productions GMBH, had to file for insolvency because Dead Island 2 would no longer be a viable option to pay for the studio’s debts. According to Ullmann, the company, and the developers in the sub-studio, endured some tough times, with some members of GMBH losing their jobs because of Yager’s removal from the project. It was a terrible lose-lose situation for everyone involved.
What exactly this creative and directional difference was is still up for speculation, with some claiming that Yager allegedly wanted to take the game in a more serious direction, while Deep Silver wanted to maintain the humorous and over-the-top tone of the original Dead Island game. This is due to Deep Silver’s own statements after the split was announced:
“With Dead Island 2, Deep Silver has always been dedicated to delivering the sequel that Dead Island fans deserve,” the press release states. “After careful consideration, today we announce the decision to part ways with development partner Yager. We will continue working towards bringing our vision of Dead Island 2 to life, and we will share further information at a later stage.”
Dead Island 2 Development Trial #2 to #3: Sumo Digital to Dambuster Studios
After the split with Yager, Deep Silver announced that Sumo Digital had taken over development of Dead Island 2. The game was then expected to be released in 2016, but it was delayed indefinitely with no clear release date.
In 2019, Deep Silver released a statement saying that the development of Dead Island 2 was still ongoing, but the game had been moved to a new development studio, Dambuster Studios. The statement also emphasized that the game was still in development, and that the company was committed to delivering the best possible game.
After years of waiting, fans of the series finally received some good news in 2022. Deep Silver announced that Dead Island 2 had a firm release date of April 21st, 2023, and that the game would be available on multiple platforms, including PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, and PC.
What Dead Island 2 has to Offer
Dead Island 2 promises to deliver a thrilling and action-packed experience to players. Set in sunny California, players will be able to explore a vast and open world filled with dangerous enemies, dynamic weather, and hazardous terrain. The game features a new and improved combat system, with enhanced melee and gunplay, as well as the ability to customize weapons and equipment.
In addition to the single-player campaign, Dead Island 2 also features a robust multiplayer mode that allows players to team up and take on hordes of zombies together. With a variety of modes and customization options, players can tailor their experience to their liking and create their own unique playstyle.
Dead Island 2 under Dambuster’s development has also implemented the F.L.E.S.H. System for combat. Short for Fully Locational Evisceration System for Humanoids, F.L.E.S.H. is about pretty much what it sounds like. When players strike an enemy in a particular area, the enemy will take realistic damage to that exact area, with the extent being determined by the weapon the player used.
Technical Art Director Dan Evans-Lawes said in an interview that this complicated-sounding gore system was not all that difficult to make and claims that he and his team are very committed to making F.L.E.S.H. the “most sophisticated and ridiculously gruesome system that anyone has ever made.”
Dead Island 2 is also confirmed to being going into the realm of utter ridiculousness by utilizing its Los Angeles location its fullest, jampacking the game with eccentric characters, wild story beats, and an atmosphere that absolutely does NOT take itself seriously.
With a long and tumultuous development cycle, it’s clear that the developers are committed to delivering a high-quality game that meets the expectations of fans and newcomers alike.
Whether that pays off or not, we will have to wait and see until April 21.