There is one term in the gaming community that newbies despise — “Git Gud”. Hearing these two words makes their blood boil, even if their loss is their own fault. However, “git gud” isn’t a mockery, it’s an encouragement to push harder, to overcome whatever obstacle is in the way. If one strategy doesn’t work, change it. If one build doesn’t work, remap your skills. And that is exactly what Deadlink offers its players!
Deadlink is a cyberpunk FPS with roguelite elements. Developed by Gruby Entertainment and published by SuperGG.com, Deadlink comes to Early Access on 18 October 2022.
The year is ummm…. distant future. It’s a time of chaos and conspiracy when corporations hold more power than the government. And we know how good ‘corpo’ guys are at creating cyberpunk worlds! With over-industrialization and urbanization resulting in merged mega cities where crime and pollution are rampant (*cough Judge *cough Dredd), the government steps in and creates the Corporate Security Agency. Their sole purpose: keep the corpos in check, and ‘by check’ I mean carry out covert corporate espionage and sabotage. And that’s where you, the unnamed CSA agent works.
Remember Assassin’s Creed (2007) where Desmond spends almost the entirety of the game strapped to a chair? The unnamed protagonist in Deadlink shares a similar fare. The Deadlink protocol creates an instant copy of the user’s consciousness capable of full autonomy. The clone/copy is then uploaded to robots called Combat Shells. In short, you spend the entirety of the game strapped to a bed while “you” pilot a robot to fight the baddies from three different megacorporation (in Deadlink‘s current build).
However, plot twist — It all happens in a simulation! The entire game is just one big tutorial where you train the combat shells in simulated environments with simulated enemies from the real world before they are combat ready for field operations.
Accompanying you are Thomas and Usagi who are just there for lore exposition to fill your codex entries. And their bio is lofty enough to make your head spinning. This is one thing I loved about Deadlink — the way the devs tried to cram in as much lore as possible, even changing normal “video game” stuff to real world objects. You see those ammo pickups? They are real world matter printers (the codex even lists their company name!). Coins, XP and tokens? Well, something-something global currency collapse, something-something crypto stuffs and blockchain assets, some kind of exchange provisions (XP) etc. The entire lore is mostly text-based and if you start reading the codex, you’ll feel like reading a legit wiki page. While this might be off-putting to some, but hey, not everyone’s a lore junkie!
Since Deadlink is a roguelike FPS, expect dying over and over again. However, there’s relief in knowing that there’s no final objective. The sole purpose of you entering the simulations is to get enough XP to upgrade your combat shells and its weapons, and get enough Turing Tokens to unlock all its skills. That means there’s no stress if you’re stuck due to your death loop, as there’s no plot whatsoever. Your only aim is to “git gud” and you can do that at your own pace. In essence, Deadlink is the perfect game to fireup for a quick, frantic action. And I’m damn sure it will turn into one of those moments where you’re on a roll racking up headshots after headshots, level after level, as the game isn’t that tough at all.
However, there is another objective that might give you the motivation, and that is to saturate the codex entry. The more you progress, the bigger the weapons become, and the more variety of enemies you encounter, thus filling up the codex till 100%. The rewards are better but like any “git gudlike” games, the enemies also become harder, faster, and much more aggressive. That said, you’re punished for playing defensively; think you’re playing Doom Eternal instead of a cover shooter.
In terms of gameplay, the best feature Deadlink offers is to keep chaining your combat prowess by killing marked enemies in succession. The game auto-marks your nearest enemy and killing them drops shields and ammo, which you suck in like a vacuum cleaner. You won’t even need to reload as the ammo gets directly added to your magazine, and you can keep on guns blazing without your shields taking damage if you keep performing headshots.
Apart from this, after clearing each level, you get two types of upgrades: Neuralboosts like increasing your shields, elemental damage, reducing ability cooldown etc., followed by action upgrades like inflicting fire or toxic status, exploding enemies when using cloak etc. The latter one can be set to activate on performing different actions like switching weapons or using abilities or breaking those floating ammo balls. They have some energy requirement, so some micromanagement is there to set which upgrade to which action for maximum efficiency.
There’s also a minor choice-based mechanics, like choosing what Combat Shell you want to use to dive in. As of now, there are only two: the ‘tanky’ soldier shell equipped with a mediocre shotgun and rocket launcher and the ‘glass-canon’ hunter shell equipped with a far superior hand canon and ____. Each shell has two abilities, one for crossing large distances (like the soldier’s grapple hook and the hunter’s teleportation) and another for stunning enemies. Apart from this, the other choice-based mechanics involves choosing the right shutter door to go through. At the end of some levels, you get the choice to go through doors that would give you Turing Tokens or a shop or combat shell and weapons mods or simply extra credits. And sometimes you get an optional challenge room where you encounter a boss. Should you grab more coins to buy at the shop later on, a chip upgrade for this run, or a special token that you get to keep even if you die, the choice is all yours!
Each level in Deadlink is a procedurally generated arena with its own unique theme and traversal methods. They are always open areas as the combat is absolutely frantic with teleporting geishas, rampaging sumo wrestlers and walking metal gears to name a few. The only thing that Deadlink might be lacking is a powerslide mechanic, which could’ve made the combat even more exciting. Nevertheless, the arenas with their various alleys and slingshotting pads and environmental AoE hazards are an absolute meat grinder through and through! And the greatest thing about this is the respawn points aren’t far, allowing you to get back into the action as quickly as you died.
Visuals, Performance and Sound
Deadlink paints a gloriously looking cyberpunk world drenched in vivid neon and rich purples. True, the future portrayed in Deadlink with its stereotypical advertisements, empty and dim lit alleyways and walled ghettos, are somewhat generic, but the enemy designs really take the cake, especially how they make them both traditional and futuristic at the same time via tattoos and cybernetic augmentations.
As for the soundtracks, boy, I didn’t expect such undulating dynamic bass that gets more intense with the battles! It’s as good as the music from Cyberpunk 2077 (which probably the only good thing about that game).
As per performance, I did experience minor stutters in the middle of the combat. Maybe the devs might roll out some updates in future that will iron these out, as Deadlink is still in Early Access.
Feeling low this evening? Deadlink is the perfect game to fire up that adrenaline. Its gunplay is so brutal and visceral that you’ll instantly feel active and welled up with motivation (insert Vergil’s theme song). Not every game can make a roguelite easy enough for players to keep on fighting rather than logging off, as evident from FromSoft titles. Because despite just being in Early Access, you’ll have a lot of fun in Deadlink.
INITIAL IMPRESSION: PROMISING