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LONG BLOG

Death Trash Early Access Review – Maynard’s Heaven

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The moment you sink your teeth into the flesh a sudden burst of blood fills your mouth. You can’t say its your favorite meal, but its warm, its filling, it makes the pain go away, it reminds you you’re still alive. That has to count for something, right?

Some vagabonds thought you’d be easy pickings. You take the rest of their belongings and make your way south to the Puke Bar. You go to the edge of a cliff and scan the horizon; the world is as you left it, rows of mountains, flaky land, dying trees, and that life saving meat ebbing through the cracks of the earth.

The world is meat. You are meat. We are meat. If the meat cannot be used, then the meat has no purpose.

Death Trash is an early access post-apocalyptic RPG released in 2021 by Crafting Legends. Initial development began in 2015 by a single person (as stated by the company) but now the production has changed into a small team. Since this game is still a work in progress, I won’t be using the typical review scheme.

After finishing my last review I wanted to do a 180 and talk about something completely different. So I did a 180. 

Do not read this if you intend to go as blind as possible. 

Visuals

The game is made in the Unity engine. This is what the game promises:

"A post-apocalyptic world where cosmic horrors crave humanity but meet punks with shotguns. Influenced by cyberpunk, science fiction, horror, the grotesque and black humor."

Yes. The world is post-apocalyptic and it shows. In pixel art fashion.

The very first impression you’re going to get from any game is going to be from the visuals and I’m pleased to say that Death Trash has amazing (and gory) visuals. Similarly to what I discussed in my review for NeoScavenger, the unique visual presentation helps give the game its own identity, character, though unlike NeoScavenger, where many of the art assets looked more like pixel sketches, Death Trash boasts a more mainstream style.

It’s focusing more on creating an interesting world rather than attempt to mimic something you’d find in real life. Environments are going to have this dilapidated sci-fi look, which fits well into the themes of the game.

The whole color palette of the game is rather drab, outsides generally focusing on wasteland type colors like sickly greens, rust orange and yellows and browns, while outdoors are generally more on the grey side of things. As a result, your eyes end up focusing a lot more on the red. The meat growing from the cracks in the earth is red. The eldritch creatures looking for friends are red. Fighting enemies results in you leaving behind trails of red. The more limited the color range means the horrific, violent parts of the game will end up drawing more attention. It’s a conscious artistic choice that ends up benefitting the game.

Death Trash is one of those games that pulls off the Lovecraftian aspect well. Typically when you tell someone a game is Lovecraftian in nature they immediately start thinking of Cthulhu and tentacles, but that’s not the case. The whole idea of Lovecraftian horror is the fear of the unknown. Of the grand, of the alien, of the things lurking beyond the stars, of powerful eldritch forces manipulating our every step.

The world of Death Trash is similar to ours (I use that term loosely) but different enough to raise a lot of questions. People are living in huts but there’s also access to futuristic technology such as scanners, automated vending machines and there are cyborgs. The world is mostly a desert, but what little vegetation remains is warped and has the color and shape of chemical spills. There are rooms that appear like a storage or recreation area that are guarded by automated turrets, drones, and right next to a giant mainframe. The majority of people’s diets consists of meat and organs, that are growing from the earth and appear to possess a degree of sentience. There is a human society which is controlled by robots.

What little human elements exist are constantly juxtaposed with the more sci-fi and eldritch. It makes you wonder just how much of the human element has been warped.  It is an uncanny experience and makes you feel like what little bit of humanity there is in the game world is out of place. Like you’re walking in a place not meant for human life. The game world isn’t trying to instill a sense of wonder. It’s telling you you’re not welcome here.

The decrepit locales coupled with the sci-fi and monstrous aspects made me think about Tool’s album art and music videos on several occasions. Just reminds me of those beyond human perception vibes I got from the band, which is a good thing. They’re taking the 2D art as far as they can. It is a small team in the end of the day, so for what we have, I can’t complain.

Case in point. A lot of effort has been put into the visuals and the results are fantastic.

Sound

This is the part where I’m going to talk the least and with good reason. The sound effects for the game are nice and the ambiance does a good job of giving you that desolate hell vibe but other than that I can’t really say much. The problem is it gives too much of the desolate hell vibe. Wait, let me explain.

A good soundtrack can make a world of difference. Besides evoking emotions, it gives people and places more personality. Though Death Trash does have personality, it is mainly due to the visuals.

None of the music tracks ended up standing out to me. They all feel too similar. Even when you’re at a place where you’d expect a little bit more energy like The Puke Bar (yes there’s a location in the game called The Puke Bar), the soundtrack is subdued in my opinion. It does tie into the sensation I mentioned in visuals, but I can’t shake off the feeling there’s wasted potential. It’s all just so similar to me.

I’ve heard people refer to Death Trash as Lovecraftian Fallout and it is Lovecraftian but not Fallout. Besides the massive difference in story and gameplay, Fallout’s music is so distinct the moment you hear one of the songs like say Metallic Monks or Dream Town you immediately know where it takes place and what it is about. The monk like chanting. The SOS signals. The tribal drums. The brief Mongolian vocals. All the motifs helped make the Fallout soundtrack what it was. Granted, Fallout is Fallout. You can argue that it is intentional but as some games like System Shock 2 have shown you can have tension building music with some upbeat stuff.

Again, the game is still in Early Access. There’s always the chance for change.

Gameplay

Before you have the chance to fight any cosmic horrors you’ll have to go through character creation. You have a decent bit of options in terms of appearance and once you’re done with that you’ll have a chance at assigning your stats.

There is Core and Skills. Core refers to your character’s physical and mental attributes whilst Skills is about proficiency. You gain experience and can increase your stats through level ups. Like most RPGs, experience is gained through combat, exploration, completing quests, though you can slightly speed up the process by hunting down XP consumables.

In Core, what you currently have is:

Hardiness – Your overall pain tolerance. Assigning points to Hardiness will increase your health and resistance, allowing you to tank more damage.

Strength – Influences your proficiency and crit chance with melee weapons.

Finesse – Influences your proficiency and crit chance with ranged weapons.

Occultism – Reflects on your ability to communicate with The Flesh, the piles of meat growing around the world. This will also let you cast more frequently.

Cybertech – Influences your efficiency with the various cybernetics in the game. With a higher level you’ll be able to use more advanced cybernetics.

Empathy – Your ability to influence those around you. Think of it like charisma or persuasion.

In Skills, what you currently have is:

Animalism – Your ability to interact with the fauna in the game.

Bartering – Get better deals from merchants.

Melee blunt – Leveling this up will let you deal more melee damage with blunt weapons like bats.

Melee sharp – Leveling this up will let you deal more melee damage with sharp weapons like knives and swords.

Small firearms – Leveling this up will let you deal more damage with small, handheld weapons like pistols and SMGs.

Large firearms – Leveling this up will let you deal more damage with larger weapons like rifles and shotguns.

High tech – Lets you deal more damage with advanced weapons.

Stealth – How easily enemies will detect you. Upgrading this will also provide you with a backstab damage bonus.

Lockpicking – Allows you to bypass locks.

Pickpocket – How effectively you can rob characters. This is done by going into stealth mode while your weapon is holstered.

Judging from earlier footage I’ve seen some stuff has been changed, so have that in mind.

Once you’re done with character creation, you’ll be given a brief tutorial on how to interact with the world around you and how combat works. For combat, you’ll always have a melee and ranged option, the ability to dodge with active and passive abilities derived from cybernetics. Though you’ll have the ability to use different sorts of weapons in the game, your chosen skills will always be the most effective.

Is the combat fun? Yes, the combat is fun.

Enemies are split between melee and ranged and they’ll always announce their attack, be it through a windup for melee enemies or a laser sight for ranged enemies, allowing you to dodge, think your options and retaliate. Dodging enemy attacks, alternating between melee and ranged is fun, and once you couple abilities, it gets even better but its far from being a power fantasy.

Ammo is finite and different ranged weapons are better for different scenarios. Rifles and pistols for example are better for taking out a single target while shotguns are best against groups. Weapons with fast firing rates are good for suppressing and area of effect ordinance is again, best against crowds. The only weapon I think is objectively bad, is the revolver, appearing somewhat inaccurate.

The overall ranged weapon lineup is good, with different/better versions of all weapons becoming available as you progress. Melee weapons are separated between blunt and sharp and each has different attack and speed values, the attack values being heavily influenced by your melee weapon level. Your weapons are best used in tandem with dodge and your abilities but there’s a catch.

Using your abilities such as casting electricity to stun enemies has a cooldown and an infection cost and are best utilized when enemies are huddled together. Certain enemies are immune to effects and there’s a damage type system, which looks simple though I didn’t feel like it was that significant, at least not yet. Ranged option are a big help but regardless what build you’re picking, you need to invest in some melee. Since you know. There’s not enough bullets for every monster in the game.

Infection is generated by consuming meat and casting abilities. Higher levels of infection will result in damage over time, distorted vision, inability to cast or consume meat to regain health. “Pure” consumables like injections are few and far between. When the screen gets distorted, you know you’ve goofed. There’s also sickness and poison levels but again, just like the damage type system, I didn’t feel like they made a big change.

You can sneak up on enemies to backstab them, though that is most effective if you’ve invested in the stealth skill. Stealth mode will notify you of their line of sight and tell you how long you have until they notice you. This will let you get the drop on them, deal easy damage and makes group fights somewhat easier. If your weapon is holstered and you’re sneaking, you can pick their pockets instead.

You’ll be doing a lot of dodging, but that is governed by a stamina bar. Dodging too much can leave you in a pickle.

Also, each level is connected together via a world map. Huzzah. Locales are finite but its just how early access is. 

Besides fighting enemies there’s also hazards. Spikes will deal chip damage if you dodge or walk into them, leaving you vulnerable. There are mines, if you’re in their vicinity you have a short moment before you become a background decoration. A certain enemy type explodes shortly after being killed. You can lure enemies into explosion radiuses to sift through them and make encounters easier. That and its satisfying when a plan comes together.

You can cast more by…puking. This reduces your infection level. It also lets you collect your own puke like a true hoarder. If you feel so inclined. Your health regen options are limited when in combat so have that in mind.

Enemy variety is there, somewhat. So far I’ve encountered the following.

Humans with guns such as pistol, shotgun, rifle, energy rifle and one guy who bushwhacked me with a rocket launcher. They need to aim and reload just like you so you’ll be able to time your attacks.

Humans with melee weapons.

Melee mutant.

Exploding mutant.

Fast mutant.

Canine/dog enemy.

Spider enemy.

Flesh worm enemy.

Drone.

Turret.

One boss.

Granted I didn’t explore the entire game from head to toe so there might be more enemies.

The main quest can be completed rather quickly but there’s always side quests, with quest rewards and what you find in the world being your driving force to do them. You also discover more documents while exploring which can shed some light on your situation and the world around you. There is a crafting/deconstruction system to help you around though that will inevitably be expanded later on. At least on my run, on normal difficulty, I rarely had to use it besides crafting lockpicks. Still, mixing abilities, melee and ranged attacks and dodging is fun and if you want to go stealthy, you can. The game has different difficulties and local co-op, plus having RPG elements, there’s some replay value.

Story

It’s an early access game so like everything else the story will be developed more as time goes.

What you need to know is you’re on a planet called Nexus centuries after an event called The Bleeding. Visuals and interacting with the characters leads to speculation that the planet was dying at some point. Though records are hazy, The Bleeding resulted in showers of blood, the emergence of gigantic flesh creatures known as The Titans and is speculated to be the origin point for all The Flesh growing.

There are interpretations of The Titans and The Flesh, you find out about them by interacting with the various characters/factions in the game. Some view The Titans and The Flesh as a kind of rapture, others view The Titans and The Flesh as a kind of enslavement while others don’t care and merely look at The Flesh as a source of food. Much like how real society works.

You play as a human recently exiled from The Universal Society. The Society is described as the last remnants of the human race and are governed by robots. Again, harking back to the Lovecraftian themes. After contracting an unknown sickness, you’re deemed as a threat and are expelled from The Society and forced to find answers to your condition. It soon becomes apparent that this sickness you’ve got lets you communicate with The Flesh. Most of the story so far is based around you hunting around for tidbits of information, unknowingly becoming entangled in the world above. It’s promising stuff and for now, that’s all I can say without spoiling what little story there is.

Bugs

The game warns you about missing parts. That’s my job done.  

Personally it was smooth for me. No crashes. Nothing out there save for people humping doors when opening them in stealth mode.

Verdict

I...

Recommend Death Trash

Yeah. I’ve had fun with Death Trash and the game’s going in a good direction. First run on standard difficulty took me around 5 hours, that is doing the main questline and some side quests but you can get around 7 hours if you squeeze every drop of content.

- Now get outta here!


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About Tomas Immortalone of us since 2:14 PM on 12.12.2021

Just your average gamer guy. I come to talk about games while sampling energy drinks and chips.

Will mostly cover RPGs, oldies and the occasional hip thing.

Rating system:

A Grade - A must play!

B Grade - A good, solid game. Not necessary but still time well spent.

C Grade - A okay albeit flawed game, either due to bugs, design, or just generic in nature. When something is alright but forgettable.

D Grade - A promising game that ultimately fails to deliver.

E Grade - Reserved for games that are a barely functional mess.

F Grade - Don't bother.