Four Ash and a boomstick: Latest Evil Dead game is downright groovy

By Brian Crecente

With more than ten Evil Dead video games, plus a few significant cameos, it’s likely you’ve had a chance to play as the one-armed, boomstick-wielding Ash Williams over the past three-and-a-half decades or so.

But this time it feels different, or at least that’s what developers Saber Interactive are hoping with their asymmetric survival horror take on the franchise: Evil Dead: The Game.

“There’s never been an Evil Dead game like this before; obviously technology has increased quite a bit since the prior games, and combining that with our dev team’s expertise allowed us to bring players something that doesn’t just attempt to approximate an Evil Dead experience, it is an Evil Dead experience,” said Tim Willits, chief creative officer at Saber Interactive. “We’ve put more focus on the look and feel of Evil Dead than any other game attempted before. Players are in THE cabin. They’re fully immersed in the woods, getting scared and fighting deadites - or fighting as deadites - in ways that we think they’re going to be really happy with.”

Willits acknowledged that Evil Dead is a picked over topic for video games, in fact, Ash Williams is playable in another asymmetric horror game: Dead by Daylight. But, Willits said, Evil Dead: The Game is a very different experience.

“Our game is different in some key ways,” he said. “Our Survivors fight back against the Demon player, in lieu of trying to stay hidden and just survive; we’ve got iconic melee and ranged weapons from the franchise to use, cars to drive, items and upgrades to find and equip; deadites to spawn and powers of demonic possession to unleash; and as we’ve noted, we’re faithfully recreating the Evil Dead universe, not just in our gameplay and map locations, but by bringing back many of the actors, including the cast of the original movie, to voice their characters. We’re really looking to ensure we do some new things for the genre.”

In my own short time with the game, I absolutely noted that different feel. Evil Dead: The Game has a much more tactical, and combative feel to the title than something like Dead by Daylight’s wonderful, hide-and-survive action.

A multiplayer match kicks off with players choosing to either be a survivor or a demon. The four survivors then get to select their character, pulled from the Evil Dead franchise and aligned to four survivor classes: Leaders, Warriors, Hunters, and Support. The player controlling the demon can choose to be the Warlord, the Puppeteer, or the Necromancer. 

Gameplay is, of course, asymmetric, so if you’re one of the survivors, you’re out there trying to work through a checklist of tasks in order to defeat the demon. If you’re the demon you’re, well, trying to stop the survivors.

Evil Dead The Game Characters

There’s a wealth of skills and abilities accessible to both sides of the fight, and the whole thing takes place across a beautiful, and rather creepy recreation of the Evil Dead forest, cabin, and other iconic locations.

Because the game has a leveling up system and skill tree mechanics, it feels like the sort of title that has legs, a requirement for any asymmetric title that wants to outlive the excitement built up around launch.

A couple of things really stick out to me, like the ability to set jump-scare traps that pull from a clutch of the Evil Dead franchise’s most favorite moments, like the possessed severed hand. You can also have the ability to possess items like trees and cars, the roaming deadites, and even other players–if you scare them enough and collect enough Inferno Energy.

Willits said the idea for the jump-scare mechanic came from playtesting.

“The development team needed more ways for the Demon Player to interact directly with the Survivors and generate a lot of Inferno Energy to use in attacks,” he said. “The idea of the jump scare was created as a semi-skill-based attack that would create a lot of fear in the survivors while also making it fun for the Demon. And what better way to generate fear in a video game character than ALSO to generate some fear in the human player! Scaring the player and the character is the perfect combination of fun for a game like Evil Dead.”

Evil Dead The Game Cabin In The WoodsOne thing I wasn’t able to check out yet is a surprising addition to an asymmetric survival title: a single-player mode.

“At its core, Evil Dead: The Game is designed as a multiplayer experience,” Willits said. “But we know some people like to play and experience games solo, so we’ve got some options for them, too. There are bonus single-player side missions where they can fight to secure some of the Knowby Tapes, unlocking some of the game’s lore as well as some playable characters. And players can also choose to team up with AI against an AI-controlled Demon to experience the game’s main mode. We want solo players to have a little something to enjoy with our game, and we’re hoping they will.”

The single-player options are sure to help out with the game’s long tail, but the team also has a lot planned for post-launch to ensure players stick around.

“We’ve announced that the game will have a Season Pass, and includes the Classics Bundle’s cosmetics at launch, free for Season Pass players, but we haven’t shared many details beyond that yet,” Willits said. “We have some exciting content planned for the game for the rest of the year. We’ll share details soon, and fans just have to wait a little bit longer to hear about what’s coming next.”

Evil Dead: The Game feels like the ultimate fan service, but created in a way that can be broadly appealing to fans of horror and survival titles.

Evil Dead The Game Burn Baby Burn

“We’re huge Evil Dead fans and once we had the opportunity to work on the IP, we ran with it knowing our team was the perfect fit,” Willits said. “This is our chance to not only give back to fellow fans of the franchise, but also reach out to gamers who might enjoy action games, or survival games, or horror games, or a combination of all of the above. 

“The franchise is a classic, full of iconic characters, weapons and locations that lend themselves to a game, and a great fit for a new asymmetrical horror experience.  Players can either work as a team of four survivors—including four versions of Ash Williams, Kelly and Pablo from the TV show, Scotty, Lord Arthur, Cheryl and more from the films—or they can choose to play as the Kandarian Demon, and stop the survivors from succeeding. With both good and evil gameplay, our goal was to ensure the game is easy to pick up and get right into, but difficult to master.”

Evil Dead: The Game is out now on the Epic Games Store.