ULTRA-INDIE Daily: Deathly Stillness is a Surprising Gem
The first thing about Deathly Stillness is that it is not a game meant to hit the market. Created by Chen Jiacheng the project started as a challenge to make a game in half an hour that failed however Chen carried on developing a working build in ten hours and then continued as interest grew to release it on Steam so his audience could easily download and play it.
Deathly Stillness is just two levels of clearing out a small zone of zombies, one being a highway detour and the other a culdesac of houses. Gameplay is pretty straightforward, The player selects their clothing and one of two guns with the second being louder and less accurate for a harder but high octane experience. After beginning the mission to a sweeping view of the map players push forward clearing out the zombies which wander idly until alerted of the player’s presence. These zombies are fast which isn’t that unique to the genre but some of them are also quieter which can be more surprising as headphone users won’t hear them rushing up until a few meters away. Zombies can be dispatched with enough bullets or with a solid headshot, players can also melee them to save ammo and deal a final kick with cinematic slow-motion on impact.
Our character isn’t an action hero, however. Zombies take a notable portion of the health bar so being swarmed is not ideal. The player can’t sprint as fast as them and they can easily path-find and vault obstacles. My strategy was to tap headshots as I approached from afar and then deliver small bursts to any zombies that were alerted. If it’s down to one I can stunlock them with melee and get a solid kick finisher. Ammo was never a big problem even without picking up the ammo crates hidden in the level. The only time I needed to spend many bullets was to get out of situations where multiple zombies have closed the distance.
All things considered, this is a game jam/ prototype that for merit alone feels good to play. The assets are from the Unreal asset store but aside from a few less vital animation input hitches, it feels good on the hands. Asset flipping is one thing, Deathly Stillness adequately implemented into its own creative vision even if that vision is cliche. Having played other recently published third-person shooters I’ve had my problems with their character controllers but less so here. It’s a solid design.
The hard mission, in Deathly Stillness, Village, had me more mixed. I’m not sure if my game was experiencing a bug or if it was the intended gameplay. As I spent time in the mission zombies would spontaneously scream and run out of the houses zoning in on wherever in the map I was even if I was in a secluded house on the other side of the map. At first, I thought these zombies had been super amped up with massive attention cones but later one I realized I had walked right up to some zombies occluded in shadows and they were none the wiser. I found I was encouraged to wait it out instead of developing a method to the level especially since the unpredictable rushes almost knocked down all my health.
It certainly was an experience I’m just not sure if it was a good experience. It was nice that the interior of the houses was explorable but it’s the last place I want to be when a handful of zombies get sudden cravings.