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Death Trash is a gutsy take on old-school RPGs, but maybe play it next year

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Guts, gore, and a whole lot of dialogue

A character faces a one-eyed monster in a pool of green ooze in Death Trash Image: Crafting Legends

One of the first lessons I learn in Death Trash is that I can use my own puke as a resource, so I scrape my vomit off the floor and tuck it into my inventory. That’s gonna come in handy, since these ancient machines need bio-material to operate. It’s a quick way to get accustomed to the weird world that awaits me out there.

Death Trash is an early access role-playing game by developer Crafting Legends that feels like a 2021 take on the original Fallout. I emerge from a bastion of safety and enter a hostile wasteland to scrape out a living. Along the way, I encounter small civilizations and groups of people who need help. Those quest breadcrumbs lead me along the path to more groups and larger storylines, and so on, until I’m really embroiled in a complex narrative ecosystem laden with mystery and danger.

Much like other RPGs, I get a limited pool of points to send on stats and skills. Tools like empathy allow me to explore further conversation options, while animalism lets me scoop up little fleshworms and fling them at my enemies. I can specialize in rifles, and stay back to whittle my enemies down with ranged fire, or forgo the hassle of ammo management and just beat people with blunt weapons.

Death Trash - the protagonist stealths behind a stone pillar while avoiding her enemies, who’s vision is represented with red radial cones. Image: Crafting Legends

Once I explore an area — a dungeon, settlement, or clearing — to my satisfaction, I head back to the overworld map. As I travel, I often find myself confronted with raiders or cultists who want nothing more than to beat my ass for interrupting their day.

While this game has tons in common with the old Fallouts and Wastelands, combat in Death Trash is not turn-based. In fact, it’s fast, and at times desperate. My character has to roll around to dodge shots, reload her rifle after every volley of return fire, and carefully use abilities like Shock or Stealth in order to survive. The further I get into the game, the easier it is to break things. I eventually turn into a stealth monster who shows up, backstabs my enemies, and vanishes back into the shadows without anyone noticing.

Unfortunately, a lot of Death Trash in its current early access form stops short of being really satisfying. There’s not a lot here — you can blitz through the main quest in around two hours, and there’s not a satisfying narrative conclusion to many quests. Instead, the game just gently asks you to come back for the full release sometime in 2022. The experience starts out with tons of promise, and does an amazing job of wooing you with the atmosphere of its early environments and the magnetism of its characters, like the lonely but friendly Fleshkraken.

Death Trash - the player talks to the Fleshkraken, a giant red beast made of gore. The player is asking him “So, what do you do all day?” Image: Crafting Legends

But once you’re into the meat of things, cracks start to show in Death Trash’s early access build. For instance, animalism sounds fun, and it’s great to use worms as makeshift projectiles. But I couldn’t find another use for the skill in the game so far, so it feels like a point sink without purpose. Occultism, which also sounds like a lot of fun — of course I want to know about the spooky, mysterious side of this already strange world — doesn’t seem to come up at all. At first, I was pleased with how streamlined items and inventory were, but enemies dropped the same things, like an old rifle, over and over. I kept waiting for shinier loot and a sense of progression, but it never really came.

Right now, Death Trash feels like a demo. It’s a great preview of what could be a great game, but it’s not a full entrée in and of itself. I’m excited for the game’s release in 2022, but for now I’m putting it back down. There’s a ton of potential here, and I’m glad for a sneak peek, but I don’t want to spoil my appetite for the final, meaty product.