After a year marooned on the Epic store, Dead Island 2 debuts on Steam to 'mixed' reviews for a very silly reason

After a year of exclusivity on the Epic Games Store, the zombie survival game Dead Island 2 is now available on Steam—and not everyone is as excited about its arrival as you might expect.

Dead Island 2 didn't knock our socks off when it debuted in 2023, thanks to "dull design choices, repetitive combat, and a painfully weak story," as we put it in our 55% review. Even so, the long-awaited sequel was generally well-received and did very well for itself, surpassing one million sales over its launch weekend on the way to becoming "the biggest launch" in Deep Silver's history despite its Epic Games Store exclusivity, which—without getting into the merits of the debate—remains a sticking point for some gamers.

Interestingly, the early reaction to the Steam launch is mixed. Many users are happy that they can now get Dead Island 2 from their preferred digital seller (and take the opportunity to slag off Epic Games) but there's a significant number of negative reviews driven primarily by the presence of Epic Online Services, a free SDK that enables various sorts of multiplayer functionality—matchmaking, voice chat, friends list, leaderboards, all that sort of thing—regardless of engine or platform.

As you can see from this SteamDB list of games that use Epic Online Services, it's a widely-used SDK: PUBG, Rust, Warframe, Elden Ring, Rocket League, Palworld, TESO, Mount and Blade 2, Sea of Thieves, Payday 2, and Hades represent just a small handful of the games that make use of it, some of them extremely popular. But the presence of Epic in any form or measure is apparently a bridge too far for some gamers.

In response to one user who complained of "Epic's trash," a Plaion developer clarified that the Epic Games Store launcher is not required to play Dead Island 2 on Steam. "If you prefer enjoying either single-player or multiplayer with other Steam users, you won't need the Epic Games Launcher," the dev wrote. "However, for crossplay with players who own the game on EGS, the launcher will be necessary to sync up friends lists."

A user in the Steam forums said they were told essentially the same thing by Dead Island 2 support: "We want to clarify that the game will not require you to connect to a personal Epic Games account to play single-player or co-op with other Steam players."

(Image credit: Steam)

The Steam release of Dead Island 2 has hit a couple other minor bumps: The SoLA and Haus DLCs included with the Gold Edition of the game were delayed slightly, although should be available now, and some users have reported difficulty connecting to the Epic Online Services servers. I've reached out to Plaion for comment and will update if I receive a reply.

Dead Island 2 on Steam is currently on sale for half price, taking it to $30/£25/€30 until April 29. The Steam release is currently verified as "playable" on Steam Deck—it runs, "but might require extra effort to interact with or configure"—and for those who want to pick up where they left off, Plaion said on Twitter that existing saves "should be" compatible with the Steam version.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.