I went into Dead in Bermuda fairly blind. It was featured on chrono.gg and given the description it seemed like the type of game I might enjoy, and I thought the art style looked pretty awesome. Other than that I knew nothing about it, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. The result was sort of a mixed bag for me. Mostly good, but not exactly all it could be. I warn you now that there will be a section with spoilers in this piece, I have marked it, but proceed with caution.
Dead in Bermuda starts with a plane wreck which leaves a group of survivors stranded on an island. You take control of them and send them to do certain tasks to survive. Each survivor comes with their own skills and drawbacks. Each character also has a unique personality and backstory. While I might dislike some of the characters, they are all well written and complex. Between days there is character development done at the camp at night. There is infighting between the group from the outset, while others will bond easily with each other. Either way, the characters must all work together to uncover the secret of the island and hopefully escape.
The game plays out in some unexpected ways. What seems to be an uninhabited island turns out to be a place with not only other people living on it but also contains a large secret. As you explore the island you find these people and dig more into the mystery. This larger story is also interesting, but at the same time doesn’t seem to flow with the rest of the game all that well. The disjointed nature of the day to day survival vs this crazy mystery kept me from feeling like I could fully enjoy the story. The characters barely comment on it, and the two aspects of the game just never seem to work together. The story also doesn’t feel finished and is unsatisfying at the end. The conflicts between the various characters were more compelling to me and served as a better story than the mystery that felt almost shoved in. That’s not to say the mystery was bad. It just needed more work and there needed to be more effort to make it fit with the day to day survival and character growth.
The survival aspect also left a little to be desired. Your characters each have skills which you can level up in two ways. The first is to simply use the skill. So if you send a character to hunt their hunting skill will naturally progress. However, individual characters will increase specific skills at different speeds. For instance, the young girl doesn’t like hurting animals so her hunting and fishing skill will increase very slowly no matter how much you have her do this. A character that is already skilled in hunting will have more rapid rewards for hunting. The second way is by leveling the character then you get a certain number of skill points you can assign. There is, of course, no limit on how you do this. The wisest course of actions would be to find skills the characters have good growth with and focus that way, but you can choose to distribute the points, however.
There is also a set number of tasks that you can do. Some tasks can be done every day until the end of the game, some you will have a limit on. They range from gathering resources, researching how to make things for your camp, exploring, etc.
This is nice and works out great. What doesn’t work out is the completely unbalanced and nearly impossible difficulty. I have not actually finished the game on normal mode and instead had to rely on the newly updated easy. At first, I was convinced that I was doing something wrong until I read other people’s experiences and realized the balancing issues with the game are pretty universal. Food degrades quickly, but you are without a solid way to replenish your supplies for much longer than is reasonable. Your camp is in the middle of a forest yet you will struggle a great deal with collecting wood and will need a large amount of it. There is also a huge imbalance of what negative effects you get for what tasks. Fishing will add depression to all of your characters, including those that spend time talking around the campfire about how much they love to fish. Sitting to research adds almost as much fatigue as exploring the jungle. Things like this are very problematic and start to shift the game from challenging to frustrating. I make no secret of the fact that I am not the best gamer out there, but I don’t mind difficult games. What I do mind is games that feel difficult without a solid reason. This is one of those games.
The newly added easy difficult is a great touch that saved this game for me. The issue is it’s… easy. It might have a few moments of panicking over running out of certain resources, but for the most part, you can just coast through it as long as you don’t make too many terrible choices. I am glad for the mode since I got to see the story through, but would have preferred that the base difficulty just get some balancing adjustment so I could still have a challenging game.
The last big struggle I had is the part that will include some spoilers. Skip to the end of the post if you don’t want to see them.
As mentioned, an important part of the game is the characters. They grow and develop while on the island and their relationships can go through some adjustment. The problem I have with this is there is not a lot of change in dialogue/scenes to reflect that. For example, Bob is an overweight character that is lazy (even by his own admission). A lot of the other characters complain about him and having to do more work. As the game moved on Bob actually became one of the most important characters on the island for a time in my game. He was the sole person getting food for the group and one of my best characters at crafting. Now I get there is a limitation to what this game can do, but it was a little off-putting to have Bob get all the food for the group and then still get scenes with everyone complaining that Bob is not helping. Jacob is a grumpy old man that basically hates everybody on the island but takes a lot of offense to Illyana because of her age. Yet she develops into a well rounded and useful survivor because she gets so many skill points when she levels and has a few high stats to begin with. She and Jacob had a reasonably good relationship as far as hearts in my game, but he still attempts to kill her for being dead weight. Also after Jacob’s attempt at murder, it is never brought up again.
I want to give understanding to the developers, this is an indie game, and changing what scenes come up and when is pretty challenging I get that. However, there is simply not enough care given in my opinion. It becomes very off-putting to put so much effort into keeping the group productive and getting along only to have an attempted murder or Bob being the brunt of every joke. These are just two examples, but there were many more. It starts to take you out of the game a little and highlight that cutscenes between characters is seemingly completely random instead of something the player can control. I am not saying there is no control, just not as much as there should have been.
I realize this is a lot of complaining, especially as I am going to turn around and say that I still, for the most part, liked this game. My issue is not that the game is bad, but rather that the game needs a little more work. There are a lot of good things happening here, but everything needs to be fleshed out a little more and fit together a little better. The game has a lot of potential, but just fails to reach it.
All of that aside if you can find it on sale (which is often) I would still recommend it for most people. Some will probably love the challenge; others will find easy mode gives them something a bit more relaxing but still takes some thought. The art style is solid and the story while disjointed, is kind of cool. The characters are complex and unique from one another, even if things don’t play out in the best way. All in all, it’s a solid experience. Not great, but entertaining enough. I would like to like it more and felt pretty close to doing so at times. I am also curious to see what else the developers can bring us, including their upcoming Dead in Vinland.