Deathgarden is a unique online multiplayer game. It has elements of a First Person Shooter, but cannot be classified as such. This is not the kind of online multiplayer game where you will be joining a team to face off against another opposing team. The goal is not to frag each other or to complete objectives for victory. Actually, both of those things do play a part, but not in the way anyone would expect. A team of five Runners will take on a well-armed and well-equipped Hunter. They must complete objectives and escape before the Hunter takes their lives and emerges victorious.
There was a time when the “4v1” genre was the next big thing in gaming, like the way battle royale is currently trending. There were others that tried and failed, but the genre had risen and fallen with the release and failure of Evolve. Fortunately, there are a few games out there that have broken the mold and have become largely successful. Dead By Daylight and Friday the 13th are the two that instantly come to mind. People are still logging on to play these games every day. Ironically, hours into Deathgarden, I realized that it was made by Behavior Digital, the very same company that developed Dead By Daylight.
The premise and aesthetic of Deathgarden is akin to The Hunger Games or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Running Man, a deadly game show in which five contestants must complete objectives together and escape with their lives. In a match, the runners have one of two selectable objectives: to take control points or to get keys and run them back to three different stations. The objective does not change for the Hunter, who must take down the runners and send them to the Bloodspot, ejecting them from the game. The arena, called “The Garden,” is generated to be a forest-like biome with a chance of rain and fog that can play a factor in the competition. The best part is that players can choose their preferred role before going into matchmaking.
The Runners are my favorite role to play. Customization is fairly extensive with appearance and loadout; you will want to utilize your favorite combination of tools and perks to survive. Runners cannot actually kill the Hunter, so there are various tools that can make the Hunter’s job a lot more difficult for him. Players can also choose between three different classes to specialize in particular tactics. My personal favorite is the control class, which is all about debuffing and slowing down the Hunter. The other two are called Torment and Support: torment is meant to harass the hunter and use distraction tactics while the support class assists their fellow runners. Nothing is more satisfying than having a good support player by your side as you run for your life in an effort to get away from the Hunter.
Where the Hunter lacks in customization, he makes up for in arsenal. He sports some heavy armor and still manages to move around the garden like a beast. Players can carry two weapons as the Hunter which range from assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, and more. There are also special abilities and extra equipment that can be changed to fit your best strategy as well. My personal favorite is the deployable turret which can shoot at any movement in an area of the map that you cannot get to in time. I also enjoy using the shockwave which stuns any enemies that try to come near me. The Hunter is more than capable of defeating a swift group of Runners.
The reason that Runners are my preferred role has a lot to do with my own vision disabilities, though many objects are revealed on the map with an outline. When I played as The Hunter, it was difficult for me to try and keep track of five runners; their red silhouettes were hard to see in the distance. Though I found my place as a Runner, it was beneficial to learn how the hunter plays and how they can be deadly in the hands of the right players. Player balance in this kind of game is always a concern, but I played enough matches on both sides to see that the balance of power does not lean to one particular side. The results of how often a Hunter or the Runners won felt varied enough. It usually came down to how well The Hunter can apply his arsenal versus the teamwork and resourcefulness of the Runners.
Behavior Digital took a formula they knew so well and decided to apply it to a different setting. It seems they have put some hard work into the graphical presentation. To be honest, it feels like a major improvement over Dead By Daylight in this area. The hub area acts as the main menu, where you can customize your loadout and appearance, proceeding to jump right into the training area. Seeing how the screens in the training area and in the hub show live gameplay was also very surprising. It made me curious about how much work it took to be able to implement such a thing from a developer’s point of view, rather than someone who gets to appreciate the end product. The generated arena is an achievement in itself, but I also see how it could become stale in the future. I hope to see some other biomes in the future such as a desert, snowy mountains, or even a destroyed urban setting.
Deathgarden is another Early Access title that I would like to keep an eye on as it progresses. The release date of the 1.0 version is set to release in 2019, including a full release on consoles. After spending time with their previous work as well as Deathgarden, I can see that they know exactly what they want to do this time around. At the moment it may feel light on content, but that is usually the case when these games are still early in development. I was impressed with how far along the game felt; even the soft launch that was floating around before it came to Steam felt great. With many Early Access games, there is a certain lack of polish to be expected, but I didn’t have that experience this time around. I look forward to what Behavior Digital has coming for the contestants and hunters of Deathgarden.