Death Trash’s whole vibe is summed up early in its beginning area, where the tutorial messages ask you to puke. Before you earn more flashy powers like lightning bolts and poisonous blood, the game’s dedicated ability button (‘F’ by default, in case you were wondering) is just for making your customizable player character retch a big, steaming glob of green vomit.
This being a tutorial, the puke has a purpose: You’re meant to pick it up, place it in your inventory, and use it on a nearby machine desperately in need of “organic lubricant” to fulfill its duty, opening a door to the next area. I, however, spent the next 10 minutes puking continuously to see all the different things my character says both upon spitting up and picking up the pile of sick. I’m not proud.
The world of Death Trash is a disgusting place, so much so that it has rubbed off on its inhabitants.
In the first major settlement, a man asked me to find a certain item to help him in a puking contest with a woman I could only assume was his wife. He won, and his partner pulled me aside to thank me for helping raise his spirits. Another wayward soul asked me to meet him at a place known only as Puke Bar upon completing a side-quest. I later learned the name was all too apt: The same green puke I was able to produce on command stained the building’s cave-like floor, producing a sloppy squish with every step I took.
I obviously felt compelled to add to the building’s misery. When I pressed the puke key and vomited my breakfast in front of the bar, everyone in my vicinity did the same out of adherence to some bizarre cultural convention. We all then went about our business like it was the most normal thing in the world. One patron even asked me to sleep with them afterward, but accepting their proposition caused my character to spontaneously combust and, naturally, die for currently inexplicable story reasons. Death Trash giveth and Death Trash taketh away.
Death Trash is bloated with these organic vagaries. The setting, a barren world in which a mysterious, edible meat oozes from the ground and great fleshy titans are rumored to roam just beyond the horizon, bears very little in common with the games it apes mechanically. Sure, Death Trash is just as wasteland-y as the next post-apocalyptic adventure, but its fusing of the environmental with the biological makes it feel like your journey is taking place atop a mutating Cronenberg protagonist rather than a simple alien planet.
What started as a joke by German developer Stephan Hövelbrinks about building his own Fallout 4 “with blackjack and hookers” has, six years later, evolved into a unique action role-playing game now available through multiple storefronts. This early access build is, by Hövelbrinks’ own estimation, about one-quarter of what he plans for the full release when it launches sometime in 2022. And after spending a handful of hours with Death Trash, I can confirm that the game is still very much a work in progress.
Death Trash is still a whole heck of a lot of fun, even if it’s currently full of dead ends and promises. Like Fallout, you’re asked to build a character with limited stat points before being thrust out into the wild to fend for yourself. Whether you want to be an empathetic gunslinger or an occult-obsessed weirdo is up to you, and Death Trash as it exists now includes enough skills, gear, and upgrades to let you approach combat pretty much however you want.
I’m particularly fond of sneaking right into the middle of a group of enemies, busting out my Sharp Melee skills to slice them up with a pair of high-damage, metal claws I found during one jaunt into the wasteland, and finishing off any leftovers with electric fingers courtesy of my Occultism specialization. Sometimes, my character even apologizes to the raiders and flesh mutants she kills, considerate of the lifestyle into which they’ve been forced by the circumstances. Living’s hard when the world around you is in a constant state of decay.
Sadly, this open-ended approach to character creation rarely has ramifications outside of battle. While Death Trash does feature limited opportunities to flex your people skills or high-tech knowledge during conversations, I found that many of the quests currently have one actual solution. This makes for an experience that is far more linear than Death Trash’s obvious influences might suggest. Most of the time I simply felt railroaded from Point A to Point B with little opportunity for problem-solving along the way, a far cry from even the most basic of Fallout scenarios.
Death Trash, as it stands now, is a powerful promise. While I fully expect most, if not all, of the problems I have with the game to be addressed by the time it’s fully released, that may just be because I’ve fallen for the world Stephan Hövelbrinks has lovingly crafted. It’s rare for a game these days to captivate me so completely, but there’s no other game like Death Trash. Few are so dedicated to being downright disgusting while also chock full of empathy for humanity despite our many, many faults, and I can’t wait to see more.