Lightning never strikes twice, that’s how the old saying goes. So when Behaviour Interactive announces a new asymmetrical multiplayer action game that seems highly similar to their still-quite-successful title Dead by Daylight, one may be tempted to roll their eyes. But Behaviour aren’t doing this to get lighting to strike, they’re doing it simply because they love the concept of asymmetrical gameplay and want to explore what else they can do with it. Hence their new title Deathgarden, which puts the focus on a futuristic death sport as opposed to survival horror. It’s interesting, but does this new setup still carry a spark within it as well?
The rules for the basic game of Deathgarden: The Garden That Eats (I will never be able to not imagine it with a subtitle like that, sorry) are simple: after the arena is procedurally generated, five runners and one hunter enter. For the runners to win, they have to capture two of the three control points in order to open the exists, then have at least three of the hunters successfully make their way to them and escape. For the hunter to win, they have to kill three runners, effectively preventing that win condition. And like in Dead by Daylight, each type of character plays differently, with the runners being controlled from a third-person perspective while the hunter plays like an FPS. Knowledge of either side is the key to success and it may be a bit trickier than you would expect.
For runners to succeed, it needs to be a team effort. There are three different types of runners: those that support other runners with healing boosts and the like, those whose job is to distract the hunter and lure them away and those tasked with confronting the hunter with tools that can slow them down. Each one has their own unique set of skills, but they have to be unlocked by finding upgrade points tucked away around the arena (which they then have to take a station), along with health, ammo and other points of interest. Upon discovery, runners can fire arrows at them to mark these areas of importance for the others, highlighting them with a glow that all runners can see. It’s simple yet clever stuff,and easily encourages everyone to study the battlefield quickly. Plus, zipping around it with rather agile moves is always fun.
The hunter, in comparison, gets access to a variety of all of their skills at the start, such as the ability to plant mines or turrets. Once you take out a runner, they begin to bleed out until another one revives them, even having the ability to cause health kits to deny health to others so they can’t revive themselves. But if you think that you can just knock down one runner and stand by them until they die, reality will give you a swift kick to the face as you realize that you’ve left the control points open without any defense. The hunter’s gameplay may be more straightforward, but it also means that anyone playing as them has to get more creative and keep on their toes. Even after taking down three runners and triggering a blood post for an execution on a trapped runner, you still have to do it quickly before they can be rescued.
Deathgarden is still in the alpha stages and a lot of its world and characters still have yet to be developed, but so far it seems like a burst of fun that could work. There are a few issues to be ironed out (gathering enough ammo for runners is a bit tricky), but the five-on-one gameplay works quite nicely, with both sides being vastly different yet feeling equally powerful, providing the opportunity for a lot of strategy. No release window has been announced for Deathgarden yet, but odds are that there will be a lot more opportunities for alpha and beta tests in the near future, so stay tuned for any further info on this impressive multiplayer mayhem.