If It Smells Rotten…
Techland’s zombie action game has gotten its first official DLC content. Initially promised to gamers who purchased the Pre-Order edition of the game just a few weeks after launch, the DLC has now been delayed nearly three months. After getting our own hands wrist-deep in the extra blood and gore, we can safely say that the extended wait sadly does not yield any ground-breaking new experiences.
Upon installing the content, which is still free to those with the original voucher, and 800 MS Points ($9.99) for the rest of us, players will be able to use any fast travel map in the game to access the new arena lobby (alternately accessible by foot in the entrance to one of the tunnels on the Resort map). The arena itself is an out-of-commission army bunker originally deigned as an evacuation point in case of an island-wide emergency (doesn’t a zombie outbreak qualify as “emergency”?). Now it is occupied by bored military troops who’ve been cut off from their command due to the communications blackout. Instead of providing shelter to refugees, the bunker’s installations are now used to host insane battles to the death for those wanting to prove their mettle, and as some kind of crazed proving ritual/rite of passage for the soldiers themselves. OK, so the actual connection to the plot is sketchy at best.
Choose Your Path
From the main arena lobby, players can access one of four endurance maps, where wave after wave of zombies will assault them. Each arena has its own difficulty rating, ranging from Easy to Very Hard. Depending on your preference of challenge, you’ll enter either a rocky cave system with land bridges spanning from one side to the other, a moonlit boggy swamp, a grassy field, or the innards of a vast bunker to do battle. However, the foes assaulting you on each map are the exact same ones seen in the game proper, with tons of Walkers and Infected leading the charge, and the occasional Suiciders, Floaters and such. It’s not that a whole host of brand-new enemy types were expected, but it does beg the question: If the environments are based on the ones you encounter in the game, the enemies are lifted right out of the campaign, and the whole “zombies rushing at you from all sides to tear you apart” theme isn’t dissimilar from the main game experience, then what’s left to draw you to the arena DLC?
While a handful of weapon mods and collectible items can be found in the arena lobby, the real draw of the survival maps is the fact that any gold, items, and – most importantly – experience earned here counts toward your character’s campaign levels and is carried over into the main game. Each zombie bludgeoned to death, electrified, or kicked off a cliff; each wave survived is a boost of XP that alleviates the grinding required to reach the top-tier levels. Along the way, you’ll be able to work on your meta-achievements (as well as a few all-new ones exclusive to the arena maps), as the game honors your arena kills and mutilations for this purpose as well.
Extra round-specific challenges add some slight variety to the process, such as being tasked to amass a certain number of bladed weapon kills in a round, or using nothing but your fists for three consecutive rounds. Similar to the main campaign, you’re able to play the arena maps in a group with up to three other players, but meeting up with others must be done in the arena lobby – once inside the actual maps themselves, there is no dropping into a group anymore. Leaderboards are also in place for those that want to chronicle their rise to the top of the pile.
The Final Verdict
Overall, the biggest downfall of the Bloodbath Arena DLC is the fact that it doesn’t offer anything drastically different that the game didn’t already – how could it; the game itself is already a survival-based affair with unending waves of foes rushing you from every direction. The payoffs are also rather slim, making a stint in the arena more of a novelty experience than a fun or helpful one. With recycled enemy types, environments, and gameplay, one can’t help but wonder why Dead Island’s first DLC suffered such a delay in the first place.