by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
If you played Dead in Bermuda, either on tablet or on PC, then Dead in Vinland will be familiar fare. For the most part, Vinland is a re-skinned version of CCCP’s earlier game. It adds some freshness in the form of a simple but enjoyable turn-based combat system, as well as an all new story through which you will need to navigate your survivors with a much wider range of camp upgrades. If you liked Bermuda you will almost certainly love Vinland’s Viking theme, but you may hate its difficulty.
I can’t quite recall just how far my survival instincts got me in Bermuda but they’re not serving me here - at least not on the game's recommended difficulty setting.
The main culprit for Vinland's sometimes harrowing difficulty is its introduction of an evil protagonist. Björn Headcleaver owns everyone on the island, and that includes all new arrivals such as yourself. If you want to live, you’ll need to pay tribute on a weekly basis. Never mind that you've barely found your feet after your ship crashed on the island shores mere days ago. He’ll send over one of his cronies to collect and issue a new demand for next week's tribute. You’ll struggle a bit to cough up the first three but those are doable. The fourth, however, can be dishearteningly difficult, especially if you've not found the key component to upgrading your work stations. And even though it is the same tribute every playthrough, it happens often that there is no realistic way to prepare.
Don’t get me wrong, I like tough survival management games – I mean, why bother if they’re easy. But few survival games keep the light at the end of the tunnel as dim as this one.
And still, it’s a fantastic game. The small changes that have been made to Bermuda’s formula all work out wonderfully. Your survivors are a family of only four and any further allies need to be picked up on the island itself, adding to the sense that you are building something from scratch. The crafting roster has been expanded across the board and work stations, that potentially provide wood, stone, iron, fruit and even livestock, are waiting to be constructed and upgraded.
None of these stations can be taken for granted either. Wear from use and weather cause stations to degrade over time. Worse, many stations such as the garden need time to recover from being used and their output will decline steadily over time unless you give them a rest. This does add yet another aspect of your camp that requires micromanaging with minute attention to detail. And those are just the things you have some semblance of control over. Rain can quite literally save your life but if your survivors are dying of thirst and are too tired to fill up the tanks or chop the wood required to cook it before consumption, you’re up the creek.
Each night, your survivors and camp followers share stories about their past, giving you a better sense of where they came from but also what role they might play in the future. A few of the later additions to your group have unique, intricate storylines that will be good for a surprise or two along the lines. You won’t pick up the same people every time you play either, so the stories remain fresh for quite a while.
Unfortunately, Dead in Vinland’s difficulty means that you’ll be starting from scratch almost as often as you would be when playing a game of FTL. This means you’re going through the family’s chatter over, and over, and over again. But where the difficulty can be dealt with by switching to “Nice Vacation” mode, the chatter cannot be taken away. By your third playthrough, you’ll be suppressing your frustration with clicking away dialogue windows.
Dead in Vinland eclipses its predecessor in almost every way. If you felt Dead in Bermuda was catering too much to a more casual experience, you’ll find plenty to love here. There’s a ton more depth and the additional combat sequences really add flavour. The game would benefit from being a bit better balanced at its default difficulty settings though. I would love to experience more of the game before it unceremoniously boots me out at the death of a family member. And a “send all to shelter” button would not hurt either. Yet when all is said and done, Dead in Vinland is a masterfully crafted survival adventure that I find hard to put away.
Deep survival play, improves upon its predecessor in almost every way
Default difficulty setting is too hard