Death Trash Review (Early Access)
What does the husk of a decaying universe look like? For Death Trash, that is the scenes of destruction and towering metal structures, which are marked by splotches of mysterious, quivering pink meat just sprouting everywhere: growing at corners of an abandoned building, or bursting through the crevices of a blackened cave. Fleshy worms wriggle around too, where these enigmatic sinews thicken and convulse. It’s an immensely abhorrent but fascinating sight—one that pricks at your imagination about the calamity that brought about this world’s reckoning. I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of B-movie monstrosity lurking underneath the decrepit surface.
What’s more is that all these flesh is good enough to eat too, which makes for a convenient, if not crass, diet for the dwellers here. And they never seem to run out; even the grubby worms nearby can be harvested for food. Some folks even hunger for the meat aggressively, as they gorge themselves silly on these pink blobs in communities that congregate around their growth, or bars that are set up near these abominable sources of food. At the same time, there are also a small handful of survivors who eye the strange meat with suspicion, instead embracing a vegan diet, as they gnaw on alien cactuses for nutrition.
I’ve not considered being a vegetarian in games before, and this freedom to pick dietary preferences is an anomalous one for post-apocalyptic worlds. Unlike most games in the genre where scarcity is the norm, and survival is contingent on hoarding resources—starving dwellers are often begging for and fighting over morsels to survive in those games—no one is particularly malnourished in Death Trash. That’s not to say that survival is simple, but that this feels like a powerful metaphor on our parasitic nature and the ills of excessive consumption, especially when it takes on such a cannibalistic edge.
Eat more flesh
Unless you’re particularly dexterous and careful, you can’t quite avoid indulging in this meat feast too. In fact, you’ll end up stuffing tons of this strange flesh into your mouth hole throughout your journey, since its healing properties are quite unparalleled. Got shot in the guts with a shotgun? Eat some meat. Got smashed in the face with a hammer? Eat more meat. Got a slight scrap from being attacked by the wriggling, fleshy worms? Kill them, and then eat their meat. It’s a macabre experience, but it’s also this setting that makes Death Trash’s gritty, pixelated hellscape so remarkably bizarre and irresistible.
In essence, Death Trash is a grimy RPG that resemble the battered wastelands of early Fallout games. You’re an outlaw who’ve just been ejected from a clandestine community due to an unknown illness, and have to fight for your survival on the surface of the planet Nexus. Like a hapless newborn, you’re simply dropped into this depressing new world after a short tutorial on navigating around the map and some basic drills on self-defense: you can shoot shit up, or clobber other shit with big melee weapons. Or both.
This setup in Death Trash isn’t all that novel; it still features the same trappings of most classic RPGs after all. There are stats to increase, experience points to collect, an assortment of equipment to outfit yourself with, and a handy variety of ways to kill crusty meatbags around you. Conversations, meanwhile, are straightforward and occasionally hints at the universe’s macabre origins, although some dialogue options are surprisingly delightful—like the capacity to sacrifice a follower to fleshy abominations in one instance. There are also additional skills you can assign more points to, from bartering to specialising in hi-tech weaponry. It’s very enjoyable to tinker about in this system, but it’s also very familiar. While Death Trash is not particularly original in this aspect, this well-worn framework is well-suited to the rigours of its world.
Till there’s nothing left
But what’s most sacrosanct to Death Trash is freedom: it wants you to believe you can do whatever you want. Talk your way out of combat if you like. Adopt a vow of non-violence and avoid all enemy encounters. Walk away from conversations just to be an asshole. It’s a fun little gimmick, but it’s hardly universal—I would love to attempt a conversation with some of the fleshy, mutated folks living in the map’s far-flung corners, but they’re more inclined to kill me instead—and it’s rarely what defines the game’s best moments. Instead it’s the rancid universe itself that is rife with memorable anecdotes, and which are a joy to unravel. In one instance, I ran into a man who claimed that his eyes were stolen by robots, and have asked for my help to get them back. The solution is deceptively simple: just decimate all the machines in the building and search their remains. However, the man insisted on tagging along for the slaughter too, since he has a shotgun, but unaccustomed to his blindness, he wound up endangering both of us. It’s a hilarious and altogether unexpected twist, built upon one of the same premise that Fallout seems to be sold on: that its smaller, self-contained events are infinitely more interesting than the main journey.
As an Early Access title, Death Trash is still incomplete, with a few more chapters still in development and waiting to be unveiled. But even then, it’s a game that’s incredibly easy to sink your teeth into. Its backdrop of debauchery, monster flesh and body horror, while not altogether foreign, conjures a compelling image of humankind in a parasitic relationship with our post-apocalyptic host. We often hear of hostile worlds that want to kill us, but not so much of civilisations that are slowly and literally devouring the planet, as they rip apart the still-breathing planet muscle by muscle. Death Trash shows us that our insatiable hunger makes us the biggest threat, even as the world is in the throes of death.