Strange Brigade - Isle of the Dead Review

By Mark Delaney, 10 days ago
"Isle of the Dead" is the first of three episodes in The Thrice Damned campaign that will unfold as post-launch content for Strange Brigade. In this first drop, one new campaign level takes players to a beach with shipwrecked skeleton pirates and the rest of the usual fare of monstrosities as seen in the full game. If you're a season pass holder, you'll also have access to a few new characters by now, including a new one launching alongside this campaign chapter. Free updates have also added more and touched up the game in various ways, but as this review is solely focuses on what the new paid campaign brings to players, it's a bit of a letdown.

Thrice Damned Isle of the Dead

If you've played Strange Brigade, or if you read my previous review on the full game, you'll be familiar with its formula. Up to four players push through hordes of monsters set in 1930's Egypt on the way to toppling a violent supernatural foe. Horde and Score Attack modes offer an arcade-like sense of replayability while the story mode includes several missions that tell a loose, comedic story. These story levels mostly play out nearly the same as one another, but for those who like the formula, it makes for a fun romp with friends. What you think about the first paid content drop for Strange Brigade, "Isle of the Dead," depends largely on your point of view. If you enjoy the formula and just want more of it, you'll find more of that here. If you're hoping for this DLC to reimagine or somehow alter what you already saw and played, "Isle of the Dead" is not at all going to give you that experience.

"Isle of the Dead" plays exactly like every other campaign level that precedes it. With similar pacing, off-the-beaten-path collectibles and puzzles to discover, and a final boss fight held in an arena-like room, there's nothing new here for anyone who has played the game before. For years, studios have made a habit out of rethinking the way their games work for post-launch content, and that can result in cool new ways to play, or sometimes it can result in experiences that stray too far from what worked before. Taking no risks whatsoever, Strange Brigade's first bonus chapter is exactly as you left it. Even the setting looks like it will rethink the base game's tired environments by opening on a beach beside a shipwreck, but as you head inland, more of the same vines and tan rocks await you.

The story was pretty much wrapped up in the full game so this DLC decides to tell something of a side story, but given how little the story matters in Strange Brigade, it's nothing to get hung up on. As before, the narrative is simply there and the best bits come not from the barebones storytelling but in playing Strange Brigade with friends. If you don't need your DLC to give you a new look then you'll likely enjoy this first of three chapters as it means what also returns is the fun co-op romp around Depression-era Egypt that is comfortable offering a no-frills shooter that's better the bigger your squad gets. In the same way it's a problem that "Isle of the Dead" is just as the game always was, it may also be a benefit to some as it's still a fun formula provided you're not sick of it and didn't need it to evolve.

Thrice Damned Isle of the Dead

Five new achievements come with this first chapter and, fittingly, they're not unlike the base game's list. You'll need to complete the chapter and find the various collectibles with achievements for each type and that's all. It's pretty straightforward provided you're thorough or use a guide.

Summary

The first of three post-launch chapters, "Isle of the Dead" takes no risks whatsoever, giving players a little bit more of exactly what the game was already. If you want a new level to explore with friends, this will give you that, but if you were hoping to see Strange Brigade in a new light, episode one of The Thrice Damned campaign is not for you. Like the base game, it's a no-frills experience, but this time a few frills would've been welcome.
3 / 5
Positives
  • For fans wanting more of what they had before, this is that
Negatives
  • Doesn't rethink the formula or add much to the game other than one new level
  • Briefly introduces a new aesthetic before reverting back to previously seen environments
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approximately 50 minutes exploring the Isle of the Dead, defeating its boss and collecting one of the five new achievements along the way. An Xbox One Season Pass was provided by the publisher for this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is one of three voices on the TA Playlist Podcast. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his family. He almost never writes in the third person.