Dead Island 2 will feature six playable survivors from launch. You might already know one, and that’s Jacob, the Lenny Kravitz-esque character starring in the Dead Island 2 re-reveal trailer. During my cover story journey, I played Dead Island 2 for about seven hours, but I didn’t mess with Jacob. However, I did play for a few hours with Dani and Ryan, two very different survivors who add their own flavor to the story of this zombie cup ypse.
I came out of this cover story journey confident that Dani is the survivor for me, but Ryan was awesome too. And then there are the other four survivors that I didn’t get to play. Nonetheless, I want to tell you about Dani, and so does Dambuster Studios (read about Ryan here).
What Went Wrong in Los Angeles
As you may already know, Los Angeles has gone to hell, and both the characters in the game and the team at Dambuster Studios affectionately refer to the once beautiful and thriving city as Hell-A. Mind you, Hell-A is still beautiful and thriving, but only for the select few who have chosen to stay behind, like Dani.
Dead Island 2 begins massive evacuation efforts in recent days to get those uninfected out of LA. It’s set roughly a decade after the events of the first Dead Island, and while logic suggests that Dead Island 2’s zombie outbreak virus is the same as Banoi’s, that’s not necessarily confirmed. The evacuation was “surprisingly efficient,” Dead Island 2 narrative designer Khan tells me. The military put the city on lockdown, prompting the decision to quarantine what’s left of LA to allow the infection to run its course. This is where the island aspect of the game’s namesake comes into play, according to the studio; nobody goes in, nobody goes out.
You meet every survivor on one of the last planes to leave LA. Unfortunately, however, it turns out that someone on board is infected. Protocol results in the military shooting down this plane – after all, no infected are allowed to leave the city – and it lands in Hell-A. At this point, I took control of my chosen survivor, Dani, and the game introduced me to his combat and his main enemies: zombies! It doesn’t take long for Dani to get bitten, however, and this is where Dead Island 2’s narrative begins: you’re infected, but you don’t turn around, and you must pass that information and your blood to someone who can help.
Now that we know how Dani’s story begins in Dead Island 2, let’s talk about why this character is so successful in Hell-A.
Dani grew up in County Cork, Ireland, a beautiful place that’s also considered a student town, according to Khan. As a result, there is plenty of music and night time activities. She’s growing up with a “very traditional Stepford wife of a mother” and “equally beige” sisters. Her father is the kind of person who, when faced with conflict or emotion, ignores it and goes fishing instead. Dani has always been the fish out of water in her family, with a small bite on the shoulder. She doesn’t feel like she belongs and doesn’t have a particularly good relationship with her family.
Dani discovers the city’s punk scene and it shapes her childhood and youth. As soon as she can, Dani will leave County Cork. She hops across the pond and ends up in Boston, which Khan says has a large Irish community. This works well for Dani because, according to Khan, if there’s an Irish pub, “you’re always guaranteed a job if you have an Irish accent”. Dani falls in love with the punk scene in Boston, but then the first Boston winter hits.
“[She says] F— that and traveled home with an MIT student on a cross-country road trip to the warmest place she had heard of – California – and knew that the weather was nice there, and she just wanted to go to paradise. She’s feeling like, “I’ve escaped this very narrow-minded, very conservative, very you-must-the-right-way family and history” and just never wanted to be that again. So that’s how she ended up in LA.”
Dani discovers roller derby in LA and it becomes her new love. She’s still the punk girl from Ireland in many ways, but roller derby becomes her outlet to express herself. Khan says Dani has a hobby that is more than aggression in roller derby, noting how Dani used mosh pits to release those feelings.
Meanwhile, Dani works jobs she doesn’t care for, like retail and hospitality, and employers have let her go more times than she cares to admit because she likes to be “a little too revealing” about her opinions on clients. Khan says, “She didn’t live to work, she worked to live.” She lived the life of a 20-year-old in California and loved it. When the zombie apocalypse hits, she’s not so concerned about going home to her family. Her allegiance now belongs to her team, and she is lined up for an out-of-state roller derby match.
“That’s the first thing,” says Khan, commenting on Dani’s priorities. “She has her chosen family, her chosen people, and she will support them, hell or high water. And then it all gets a little weird.”
Dani’s innate skills
You can transform your survivor in Dead Island 2 into the kind of character you want to play in terms of skills, gear, and more. Each Survivor starts with two innate abilities that speak to their nature and loosely lead you to a possible path for that character.
- Striked by Thunderbolt: Heavy attacks trigger a powerful explosion on impact.
- bloodthirst: Dani regains health through a rapid succession of attacks.
Khan says that because Dead Island 2 is a gameplay first, fight first game, the characters were sketched as playable survivors before they were fully realized characters. As a result, the storytelling team was able to “reverse engineer” the personalities of the survivors. For example, Dani specializes in heavy attacks. Why? That was a question that Khan and the storytelling team were able to answer with details that shed light on who Dani is as a person.
“The last thing I wanted was to do a caricature of an Irish woman,” Khan tells me. “I wanted someone who is a modern day California girl and … someone who ends up as someone who charges into the fray and loves in as gratuitously, cheerfully and joyfully as possible a laughing berserker. She wasn’t rewarded for being good at work, and now she’s really good at it. It’s not roller derby that can be dismissed as a fad or sport or game, and it’s not fun with music or surviving in a mosh pit. That’s that she’s really excellent at what she does. So we ask, ‘Why is she like this?’ And then we reverse engineer it.”
Do you think Dani is the survivor for you now that you know her backstory? Let us know in the comments below!
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