How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fleshkraken

I'm a little bit of a perfectionist. Okay, maybe a lot of one. When I play RPGs, I obsess over making the choices that best fit my character, often leaving conversations to go level up skills so I don't miss any dialogue options. It's fun for me because I like to see everything, but it's also unarguably neurotic as hell. To my surprise, Death Trash knocked that neuroticism right out of me. I'm not sure whether it's the punk attitude, how it's sometimes as interesting to fail a quest as to finish it, or because human problems pale in comparison to the deeply existential matters of the Titans, but something about it had me game for anything and grinning the whole time.


Screenshot of Death Trash showing the player character exiting a stone temple. Flesh is growing out of the roof.
If you ignore the flesh growing out of the roof, it's really a beautiful temple


STORY & Set-UP


Death Trash is a post-apocalyptic action role-playing game that is oozing with atmosphere (literally). Your character has been outcast from the safety of underground civilization due to an unspecified illness, and now needs to brave the dangerous outside world, and maybe unravel the mysteries of the cosmic horrors they encounter along the way. It take heavy cues from CPRG classics like Fallout 2, Wasteland, and Baldur's Gate, but there isn't exactly another game I can say it's like.


What really drew me in to Death Trash, and what sets it miles apart, is its firmly unique perspective. It's weird, gross, and utterly delightful the whole way through. In your travels you'll meet cosmic beings, friends having puking competitions, and defunct androids that want to see the world. These characters and quests were always surprising and fun, and the constant contrast of the deeper themes with the weirder bits made me want to explore every inch of the strange, fleshy world.


Screenshot of Death Trash showing character stats
Problems of the future: do you need to be better at the occult or cybertech to survive in this modern world?


Combat and customization


Not everyone you meet is looking to hang out though. Most people, and creatures for that matter, want you dead as soon as possible. It's a tough wasteland out there! Unlike most CRPGs, combat happens in real-time. In my opinion this breathes a lot of life into an older style of game and adds a new dimension to the strategy of fighting. You'll find plenty of traditional options for violence like guns and melee weapons, and some fresh options like psionic lightning bolts and worms that act like horrific little grenades.


All of these contribute to a strategic and often fast-paced combat system where you'll be rolling away from exploding flesh monsters as often as you're sneaking up on punks. The combat felt fun, responsive, and most importantly varied. My first playthrough I used guns and lightning, but my second was all about a sick set of claws I found and my fleshworm army. Both styles were totally viable ways to survive, and made each of my saves feel unique and interesting. Combat in CPRGs is often my least favorite part of the game, but this fresh take made it exciting and something I actively looked forward to.


Your character also has stat points to be allocated, which give you a general proficiency like strength or occultism, and skill points for specific weapon types or bartering. These, as is common in these games, will open up different approaches to various situations. High lockpicking skill will mean more treasure to be found, but putting those points into empathy instead might allow you to learn new things about the people you meet. These systems aren't extensively deep, but they do impact your playthrough enough to contribute to the feeling of your character truly being your own.


A screenshot of Death Trash showing a combat situation. an NPC says "eat shit, motherfucker".
Couldn't have said it better myself


atmosphere


If you're anything like me, you're so hungry for modern ARPGs that you stopped reading this review already to go purchase Death Trash. But if you're a little less excited by energy weapons and skill checks, maybe you need to know a little more about what makes Death Trash a special game. Put simply, it's the game's unique and unrelenting perspective. The game is grimy, and gross, and weird - and it never apologizes for or minimizes that.


That's not to say that it lacks heart in any way though. Between giant fleshkrakens that just want buddies and a guy lamenting the loss of his worm pal inside a Puke Bar, so much of the game will put a warm, if slightly queasy, smile on your face. In amplifying the weirdness, Death Trash eschews nuance to instead throw its apocalyptic horror right in your face, and asks what you're going to do about it. Where most cyberpunk and post-apocalyptic stories tread lightly, Death Trash screams from the rafters and makes you lube machines with vomit. There is nothing subtle about it, and I honestly loved it for that. The world has gone to hell. There's flesh growing out of the ground. You're as likely to be blown up by an exploding zombie as you are to be shot. Why bother with decorum?


This brutal honesty gives the game such a special feeling that from the moment I booted up the demo and had to use my own puke to start a machine, I knew I'd be hooked. While I don't usually go for grotesque humor, there's genuinely something about the way it reflects the state of the world your character finds themselves in that I'm obsessed with. It lends itself so perfectly to the weird cosmic horrors the central story ties into as well, giving the world a coherence and contrast I wasn't expecting. I think it's this contrast that wormed into the perfectionism I have with RPGs and got me to go with the flow and just explore instead of trying to take apart. And for that, I feel like this game is really something else entirely.



Screenshot of Death Trash where the player character is speaking to a giant kraken made of flesh. A dialogue option saying "so, what do you do all day?" is highlighted.
I mean, it's a fair question


Early Access


By this point, I hope I've been able to convey exactly how much I'm enjoying this game, but we do need to talk business for a quick moment. Death Trash is currently in early access, which means it's still under active development, but purchasing it now allows you to play as it's being worked on. As far as I can tell, I've done every quest and seen every location, and my play time clocked in around 7 hours (you could probably add 2-3 extra if you didn't play the demo). I think this is a great amount of content for the price, and it's definitely enough to get a real feel for the game. Importantly, early access purchases also mean more stability for the developers as they finish this labor of love. My understanding is that saves won't transfer to the full game, so for now I'm satisfied with what I've seen and I'll happily wait to keep playing until the game is released in full. I can't wait to get back to the world, but I hope the (very small) team takes their time as they continue with their incredible efforts.


Screenshot of Death Trash showing the overworld map
What other game makes the Kraken Temple a safe zone?


TL;DR


Death Trash is a cosmic horror-filled post-apocalyptic ARPG that is weird, inventive, and full of heart. I enjoyed every second of it, from meeting a person who communes with the flesh that grows out of the ground to exploring dangerous abandoned mines. The genre is vastly improved by real-time combat that gives players a wealth of ways to approach fights, while maintaining a required level of strategy to avoid dismemberment. The current amount of content feels great for the price, and more importantly I'm happy knowing that a purchase now means more security for the developers as they finish this incredible labor of love.


Death Trash is available on itch.io, Steam, GOG, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. It's full release date is still TBA, but there's plenty to see in the meantime.