Dead Man's Diary Review
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Dead Man’s Diary is a first-person survival game developed and published by German indie studio TML-Studios. The game is set 15 years after a nuclear holocaust. Players take on the role of a survivor that has been in a bunker for the past 15 years and must survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland using resources found in the environment. While balancing hunger, thirst and radiation, the main character keeps a diary of his exploration and overall survival against the wilderness and aggressive creatures that stalk him.
This game has a great feeling of isolation in it. You truly feel like you’re alone and on your own all the way through the game. You explore ruins of villages and other rundown areas both during the night and day. The night can be truly atmospheric, especially in super dark areas where your flashlight doesn’t really provide enough light to see much of what is going on ahead of you. For an indie game, the overall graphics are overall pretty good. This game has TONS of forest and wilderness areas to explore. Usually, there is a main path to follow, but you can often go off the main path and into the forest areas to explore and possibly find some hidden areas.
The overall sound design to this game is one of the best parts. The game has many foreboding tracks and there are many noises and sound effects from the environments that made me feel uneasy very often. The game is sometimes called a “survival horror” game, but the horror is minimal. It has jump scares and creatures, but the main focus is still on survival. It has a pretty good overall story to it. The voice acting is ok. The main character often speaks about the areas he is in quite often. Some of his jokes fall flat however.
Each stage has nearly the same objective. You wander through the environment and try to find supplies in order to make a fire and a place to camp out for the night. The majority of stages follow this formula, but some add in extra objectives and some might not have a camping area. While finding supplies, you’ll have to keep a sharp eye on your hunger, thirst, radiation level and any injuries that you receive. Your overall character is highly fragile. This guy’s constantly getting thirsty and is prone to damage with the slightest fall from a high place. Any time that you hear him yell out something, such as the slightest “ouch”, that means that you just lost some health from that fall.
Hunger, thirst, and radiation are easy enough to take care of so long as you can find the supplies used to replenish them. Water is used for thirst, chips and canned goods are used for hunger and iodine pills as used to halt radiation. Injury and overall health (fever) are harder to replenish. You must set up a camp and start a fire then collect certain materials to take care of each of them. The main problem with survival in this game is that your character degrades very quick constantly and you have such limited resources to use on him. Your character dies once any category degrades fully. Run out of water? Dead. Run out of food? Dead. As you might expect, it’s easy to get stuck in this game. The game autosaves constantly, but that still doesn’t help for getting stuck. Thankfully, there is a stage select that will start you out with full health and with some resources. The stage select is a saving grace for what could have been one horrific experience.
There is an option that points out key items to you – it can be turned off or on. After a certain amount of time, the game will automatically target mark the next item that you need. This is HIGHLY needed on a first playthrough of this game. Sure, most people, including myself, don’t really like hand-holding, but you can spend a GREAT amount of time trying to find certain items in this game. Items often blend in to the environment rather well, especially at night. The entire time that you’re exploring, your health is dwindling rapidly also! The game has puzzles here and there. The puzzles in the game are often easy, but there is either no explanation in how to solve them or the explanation is unclear – once you figure them out, they are easy, but sometimes reaching that point takes a lot of time. Also, your health depletes while engaged in some puzzles, so you can’t afford to think about some of them for too long.
For the most part, you are alone, but there are enemies in the environment as well. You’ll have to dodge and run away from some enemies. The game will often use scare tactics (jump scares) throughout a stage to warn you of an upcoming danger and then either have an encounter or absolutely nothing toward the end of the stage. It does this often.
I honestly wanted to like Dead Man’s Diary, but the game becomes repetitive once you realize it’s “rinse and repeat” formula per stage. Nearly every stage is all about finding supplies and then building a fire and camping site. Once those are built, you’ll often simply progress to the next area. This game is also easy to get stuck in. There are invisible walls along certain areas and you can get stuck in between an invisible wall and another obstacle at times. There was one part at the very beginning where I accidentally moved over some barbed wire along a main path and couldn’t get back over it and was stuck between it and an invisible wall – this is all before the game allows you to jump. I also found other traces of getting stuck outside the main paths later on in the game. There is also some sort of bug that causes the controller to simply stop functioning. When coming out of menus, my controller would often die for about a good 5-10 seconds to where I couldn’t do anything, then it would suddenly wake up again.
I can see where some players might like Dead Man’s Diary for what it is, but it is not a game I found much enjoyment in. I spent about a good 6 hours on it my first time, but eventually got tired of the usual formula and overall feeling that I was going to get stuck. Like I mention, the stage select really saves the game from getting too ridiculous, but it’s still annoying to have to go back and do so much if you get stuck, even with stage select help. If you’re a fan of survival games, you might want to give this a try, but just keep in mind the negatives that I mention since they will most likely ruin the experience. Dead Man’s Diary is a game that I’d like to enjoy, but just can’t.
+ Great atmosphere and feeling of isolation
+ Sound is immersive
+ Big environments with lots to explore
- Each stage feels too “rinse and repeat”-ty
- Easy to get stuck (both in save files and in environments)
- Controller locks up frequently (random bug?)
Final Rating: 55% - Dead Man's Diary is too monotonous to truly enjoy.
Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.