It feels like everywhere you turn these days, there's another zombie themed something-or-another being shoved in your face. Personally, I blame The Walking Dead since it seems as if the entire pop culture theme arrived en masse when it debuted on AMC in 2010. In gaming, we've seen more than a few zombie-themed RPGs and pseudo-RPGs lately. Not to be left behind, MMOs have embraced the undead apocalypse too. Big studios and indies have taken to the new genre with wild abandon. Enter indie developer and publisher Bigmoon Studios and Headup Games with multi-platform Trapped Dead: Lockdown, a zombie-themed aRPG with an isometric view similar, at least in those two respects, to Grim Dawn, Diablo 2 and Torchlight 2.
Trapped Dead: Lockdown starts pretty much where you would expect: A small American town has undergone some mysterious transformation from idyllic to horrifying as most townsfolk have both died and come back to life as zombies. It is up to the player to help out while simultaneously seeking to complete their own personal task within the town borders.
Players start the game able to choose from one of five fairly typical classes: Assassin, Butcher, Exorcist, Marine or Marshal. Character classes are definitely TD:L's best feature as each has decently distinct abilities, though all are male and there are no customization options available. Developers have also made a loud case for each class having its own storyline and, while true in the smallest way possible, all progression through the 'story' is virtually identical.
Story is definitely where TD:L falls down. While the locations are diverse and somewhat interesting, the theme rinses and repeats itself way too often:
- Enter area
- Find NPC
- Get quest from NPC
- Go to location and SURPRISE! kill zombies in droves
- Return to NPC
- Move on to next area
- Rinse and repeat throughout the entire game
Combat in Trapped Dead: Lockdown is pretty much what you'd expect, though there is a nice mechanic for dual wielding. Players can put a melee weapon in one hand, ranged in the other. For my Marine, basically a Jack of All Trades type character, this meant a pistol and a wrench (or pipe or other melee weapon). Attacks for each are controlled by either R or L mouse clicks, the result of which is a very bloody mass of goo left on kill. Up to four abilities or items can be hotkeyed as well, again a fairly standard trope for aRPGs.
Movement is accomplished by left clicking the ground. Sadly, no WASD movement controls were added but, then again, that is standard aRPG procedure so I can't fault the dev team.
The one very fun combat mechanic included in Trapped Dead: Lockdown was using a car as a tool of zombie annihilation. At least one quest involved mowing down zombies and it was great fun with things flying everywhere or squooshing noticeably beneath the wheels of the instrument of (true) death.
A lot of items drop in TD:L with each equipped item appearing as is on your character. Certain classes can only use certain items which also gives a slight amount of interest to some in the replayability category. Skills and abilities are gained on, interestingly enough, leveling down in a sense. Each level begins with a "fear" bar that is reduced by killing monsters. When it disappears, BOOM! Your character levels. Skills are pretty diverse as well, though it's unclear whether or not that's enough to keep players coming back since all in all, the story remains the same but for very minor plot differences.
And then...monsters. There is not a lot that can be said about "diversity" in the monster corps. Zombie humans, zombie dogs, zombie bosses pretty much make up the entirety of the bestiary in Trapped Dead: Lockdown, despite the developers promising a wide variety. Bosses hardly differ from standard zombies. They just take longer to kill or are surrounded by astonishing numbers of minions as to make the fight more challenging. But in the end? It's rinse and repeat over and over and over, something that all zombie-themed games are going to have to address.
I can't say that Trapped Dead: Lockdown is a bad game. It's not. Multiplayer can be fun if players can overcome random bugs and glitches. The single player game has its moments but it doesn't take long to tire of the same old themes repeating themselves ad nauseum. At its best, TD:L is a short session game. A little goes a long way.