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I’m sure you have heard of this setting in video games before: someone tries to survive in a post-apocalyptic world after a nuclear disaster. Triple-A video games have done it, and one famous example is Bethesda’s Fallout series. Indie games have even found success in these settings, such as an action roguelike game known as Nuclear Throne and Robot Gentleman’s strategy game known as 60 Seconds.
Dead Man’s Diary uses the same setting, albeit with a twist. Compared to other post-apocalyptic games where nuclear fallout is the building threat, this game promises to be a survival game with puzzles and exploration. It has attractive elements indeed, but will the setting and the gameplay save this game? Will it be successful like the other nuclear post-apocalyptic games?
In this article, I will give you my honest Dead Man’s Diary Game Review to see if it will be a dead game or a man’s Steam wish list. Many video game developers tried mixing puzzle and exploration elements. They succeeded like Outer Wilds, but I am sure many have failed, buried as a stepping stone for the extraordinary ones. Read on ahead if you are on the fence about buying Dead Man’s Diary.
[Gameplay Review] Collecting Resources: The Game
When I first set foot on the game, everything went well because of the familiar controls. You have your standard movement using the WASD keys. You can look around by moving your mouse, jump by pressing the Space key, crouch by pressing the Ctrl key, and use your flashlight by pressing the F key. Again, these controls are standard, and I appreciate that the developers did not make them complex.
You are dropped in a forest where you navigate through a path. At first, I got petrified because the game would occasionally make random noises like a branch snapping or some cans tumbling, indicating that someone or something was out there with you. The character would even pause their movement to look at the sound’s direction. I don’t have a gun, so I cannot defend myself!
It was all stimulating, and the build-up was significant until I stumbled upon a core game mechanic: your welfare. You have to take care of yourself like drinking water, eating food, and everything else. I don’t mind this because it is a survival game, and that is what survival games do. Plus, there are plenty of resources out in the open. However, it got annoying because of one thing: the Geiger counter.
The Geiger counter is a tool you need to determine if your food or drink is toxic from radiation or not. It fits the game’s theme so that it would make sense, but I hate how the game does not tell you where it is. If you are not someone who openly explores every detail of the game, then there is a huge probability that you will entirely miss it, just like what I did on my first gameplay.
You can even proceed to the next chapter of the game even if you do not have this crucial material, and nothing will stop you. The game does not have a map or an indicator for where you can find it, so it becomes a guessing game for where it is. So, I restarted my game, and the jumpscares became predictable after learning that nothing happened in the forest during the creepy noises.
This game loves collecting resources. You cannot progress the story until you have collected certain materials. For example, you need a few things to set up camp and sleep. So, you begin collecting the requirements. However, it becomes annoying when the items are not immediately visible on the overworld. There would be an indicator for when you can pick an object in most games.
Some games have them shimmer or glow. In Dead Man’s Diary, you get nothing but a prompt to pick it up only if you get close to it. Otherwise, they blend in with the surrounding, especially the wooden slats and the metal beams. It came to a point where I quit because I could not find the remaining material, and I’ve explored the area a dozen times already. Keep in mind that you can’t progress unless you have them all.
Still, I found some gameplay elements fun. For example, the game’s lockpicking part was simple and a breath of fresh air from all the resource hunting. You can collect notes which give the world more flavour, and the protagonist is fully voiced in English. To be fair, I had fun collecting materials at first because of the looming threat of someone’s presence, but after a while, it slowly faded.
[Graphics Review] A Dead World’s Beauty
This game is absolutely gorgeous. The scenery is very photorealistic with the graphics settings on ultra. The sunlight finds its way among the trees and unto the ground during the daytime, and the surface details of the concrete walls and the dirt are really intricate. Sometimes, I look at the pictures I took while playing the game and admire them.
I would relinquish the scenery in-game, but time is ticking, and the hunger meter goes down by the second. Thankfully, the game comes with a photo mode, so the developers know that its game’s real ace is its graphics. However, its photo mode is confusing because it is German, even though my language is English. So, I couldn’t clearly make the most out of the feature.
I know that its photo mode will be excellent, and I hope the developers will consider translating it to English. Even without the photo mode, I caught some lovely pictures that could become wallpaper. I believe the graphics are thanks to the game’s backbone, the Unreal Engine. It is excellent that they made the world this detailed because some of the game’s selling points are its atmosphere and exploration.
[Story Review] Simple Setting with Tidbits of Lore
Right off the bat, the protagonist narrates what is happening to the world. According to him, the world became littered with nuclear toxicity after 2000 when a villain used atomic weapons on Earth. Some people saved themselves by living in nuclear shelters where the fallout cannot harm them. However, their supplies cannot accommodate everyone, so they have a system to solve this crisis.
Their system forces one of them to be sent out to the world, and that unlucky person is the protagonist. The story is promising for a survival game set on a toxic nuclear Earth, and so far, I haven’t seen a setting like it. I wonder where the story would lead since I have not reached its ending yet. Even at the beginning chapter, something happens that makes you question the game’s world’s current state.
Another cool thing about the game is its world-building. Throughout the game, you will find a lot of notes from random people who tried to survive on the world’s surface. It is evident from their tales that their conditions are harsh after the nuclear incident. Some notes even help in the story; for example, one note tells of a safe place in case of emergencies, and you can use this information to hide from foes.
So far, I have not encountered a single human yet, although I merely scratched the surface of the game’s story. Aside from the backstories, the protagonist keeps a diary that you can read anytime, and this diary details everything you have encountered that could be important. Also, the only enemies I have met so far are from mother nature, so it could be a revolving theme in this game.
[Interface Review] Compact but Lacking in Some Aspects
The game’s interfaces are straight to the point and compact. You can open up the protagonist’s essential information, such as his diary or welfare, with a simple button press. Then, the buttons you need to press are visible. So, you would know what to press if you want to move to the next item, for example, or ask for help about what the panel is.
Furthermore, the player’s welfare is quickly noticeable and understandable, like his hunger, thirst, and health. They are represented as percentages on a circular meter, and the circle’s color changes depending on how low the ratio is. So, all is well on that front. Sometimes, parts of the interface are in German even though the language is in English, so the developers tend to miss it.
However, the game struggles in some areas in making the user experience clean and efficient. I already talked about this before in the gameplay review section, but I feel like it needs to be reiterated: players should easily identify the items in the game. The only way to find out if you can pick an object or not is by going near it. If an option appears to pick it up, then you can. Otherwise, you cannot.
This situation is incredibly frustrating, especially when the core gameplay involves collecting materials. The items easily blend in with the environment, like the industrial plant or the abandoned village. I have spent hours trying to find a single item while slowly draining away my resources. It is not fun at all. Second, I disliked how the game does not provide something like a location indicator for essential items.
The game just has this “quest” section, but it does not detail where exactly it is. I have two instances where it got annoying. First, I could not find the Geiger counter in the factory. In fact, I don’t know when I should even get the Geiger counter. During my first gameplay, I thought I would just encounter it as the story progresses, but nope! It is so easy to miss, sadly.
Second, during my stay in the village where I encountered a dangerous beast, I did not understand where to go or hide. The quest just stated that the enemy must not spot me. I did not know how to get rid of it or how to progress the story. Luckily, I remembered a note talking about a safe place. Still, the quest should at least hint at what to look out for.
Then again, the game handles the player’s statistics well. They present it cleanly and efficiently. It is effortless to navigate, so kudos to the developers. I hope they can work on this issue to be even better.
[Replay Value Review] Linear Flow, Linear Replay Value
The game is pretty linear, so it is unlikely that you would want to replay it. The only way I could see that someone would replay the game would be if the game has multiple endings or if the story is highly significant. So far, the game’s description does not detail that various conclusions are available, so it is implausible that something like that exists.
As for the story, I am unsure if it would be satisfying. I do not feel any stakes are set during my gameplay other than the protagonist’s survival. There were no relationships to latch unto, which is essential for video games to create a sense of connection. Players love it when they have something to protect, and so far, Dead Man’s Diary does not seem to have something like this.
Still, the game’s linear flow is a significant variable regarding replay value. Linear games can have replay value if they have something else to offer. For example, The Forest has a linear story, but its main objective is surviving and crafting. You can play the game and enjoy it even without touching the ending. But I could be wrong, as I have not reached that far into the game yet.
Alternatives to Dead Man’s Diary
Dead Man’s Diary excels in its atmosphere and exploration, and as an avid gamer of survival games, I know some games with the same elements and more. If you feel like Dead Man’s Diary is not your cup of tea, here are some games you should consider looking into:
- The Forest
- Fallout 4
- Fallout New Vegas
- Subnautica: Below Zero
- ARK: Survival Evolved
Final Verdict: Is Dead Man’s Diary a Man’s Dead Game?
Dead Man’s Diary is a promising game. It has absolutely stunning photorealistic graphics. I also had a ton of fun with the game at the start. It frightened me, especially when I started playing this at night due to the creepy noises. Collecting resources in a place where danger can be lurking is exciting. However, later on, I realized that I am not a fan of the game, and I would give it a three out of ten.
Dead Man’s Diary has good graphics. Still, many video games that do not have the most incredible graphics have entertained millions of people because of their charm and gameplay. Gamers appreciate a game not because of the graphics alone but because of the gameplay. Dead Man’s Diary needs a little bit of polishing before it can become something that I would spend many hours on.
However, if you are a fan of collecting resources in an immersive and atmospheric game for your survival, Dead Man’s Diary might just be for you. Unfortunately, it is not my cup of tea. It still has some semblance of survival game elements, though, as you still need to keep yourself alive with food, drinks, medicine, and crafting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is Dead Man’s Diary good?
Answer: As of writing, most of the reviews on its Steam store page are negative. However, if you are a fan of collecting resources in an immersive survival game, this could be your game. It has excellent graphics, and it can be terrifying at times. Dead Man’s Diary is a promising game, and I believe it just needs a little bit of polishing.
Question: Is Dead Man’s Diary on PC?
Answer: Yes, Dead Man’s Diary is on PC. You can buy it on Steam. TML-Studios, makers of The Bus game, developed and published it.
Question: When was Dead Man’s Diary released?
Answer: Dead Man’s Diary was released on March 30, 2022.
Question: Can I run Dead Man’s Diary?
Answer: Dead Man’s Diary’s minimum system requirements are the following: a 64-bit Windows 7, 8, or 10 operating system, a processor with at least 2.6 GHz, 8 GB Ram, Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 or something similar, DirectX version 11, 40 GB available storage, and a sound card.