Take it like a Slayer: Introducing the Masochist Skill Card

So, you’re a few playthroughs into Dead Island 2. You’ve tried two or three Slayers, honed your skills and developed some top builds: you’re ready for a new level of challenge.

Be careful what you wish for. A new Skill Card is coming with the new SOLA expansion and it’s going to kick your sorry ass.

The brainchild of Game Designer Mauro Lana, the Masochist Skill Card slots into one of your Survivor skill slots and transforms the difficulty level and feel of the game. The damage you do goes down, along with your impact on zombie stability. Your health takes longer to regenerate, and healing items lose some of their efficiency. Weapons lose durability faster, while status effects pile on faster too.

The result? A Dead Island 2 experience that will push experienced Slayers to their limits. Want to survive? You’ll have to up your game.

“We saw an opportunity with this expansion to deliver something a bit out of the ordinary,” says Lana. “I thought, why don’t we use the Skill Card system, which is just a wonderful, very flexible system, and deliver a lot of quality with a single Skill Card?”

“It also comes from a personal bias,” he adds, “because I love a lot of difficult games.”

Lana describes the Masochist Skill Card as “a cocktail of game modifiers that ramp up the challenge. Slot in the card and you’ll get this new combat feel. But it’s not just combat,” he explains. “There are multiple effects, and they also compound on one another. It’s more than just a flat scale-up of the difficulty level.”

Take the damage reduction. With the Masochist Skill Card in play, any outgoing player damage is reduced by 50%. That’s instantly going to make zombies tougher to kill, but it also means it’s going to take longer to maim zombie limbs and trigger all the benefits that come from maiming damage. Now mix in the 50% reduction in Force, or stability damage, and it also gets tricky to knock zombies off their feet. Put that all together, and even small groups of walkers become a serious threat.

“Don’t worry,” says Lana, “the dropkick will still do what the dropkick if supposed to do, but it makes you rethink your strategy, your loadout and your choice of Curveballs, and perhaps rethink what defensive moves you’re going to take into battle.”

Meanwhile, the Perfect Block and Perfect Dodge abilities also become more skill-dependent. Smart Slayers know how to use them to stun incoming zombies, and get a window to heal, reposition or reorganise. “One of my favourite things about the Masochist Skill Card is that it reduces these enemy stun times by 70%,” Lana notes. “You need to capitalise very quickly on your Perfect Block or Perfect Dodge.”

Not tough enough? How about 25% slower health regeneration and healing items that are 20% less efficient? Managing your health is going to be much harder. What’s more, all negative effects are going to accumulate 25% faster. “I recommend you always keep a spare med kit,” says Lana, “just for the clutch saves.”

“We’re trying to target those experienced players who really know Dead Island 2,” says Matthew Abbott, Lead Game Designer on the game. “They’ve got their techniques down and they’re looking to seek that extra challenge. The damage ends up pushing other things like the combat timing, and your Survivor skills as well. It brings to the forefront new tactics.”

Every one of Dead Island 2’s Slayers is going to be affected, and the team has worked hard to make sure that the game will be playable with Masochist on all. Yet a Masochist playthrough with some will be more challenging than one with others. “Going with Masochist with Bruno or Amy is for real hardcore players who want to seek out new challenges, especially when you start looking at things like a glass cannon build,” says Abbott. “You’re backing yourself that you’ve really got this down.”

Crucially, the Masochist Skill Card joins your deck at the moment you unlock the SOLA expansion, and isn’t level restricted. You can slot in the card and ramp up the challenge from the moment you start a new playthrough. Even the fact that Masochist takes up a Survivor slot ups the ante, losing you a perk that might save your bacon when you’re in a tight spot. And if you find Masochist too hard? You can remove it from your slots at any time, without penalty, then return it when you’re ready.

“People are looking for the ultimate hardcore challenge within Dead Island 2,” says Abbott. “This is definitely going to scratch that itch.”