There are many things about Michael Blackney's project Dead Static Drive that speak to me on a deeply aesthetic level, but it's key hook is that the game is 'Grand Theft Cthulhu on Route 66' and there are very few things that can top that. I mean really, Blackney got me at "Grand Theft Cthulhu" without ever having to show me a scrap of gameplay. The concept and key art was enough. I was sold.
To be fair, with some indie games, if the art is good enough I'll like the game as long as it isn't terrible. The game just needs to be half as good as the art and I'm all in. Dead Static Drive is not one of those games, because it just might be as good a game as its art implies.
Now, despite the premise implying a whole lot of combat, Dead Static Drive is more of an adventure game than an action one, as it is in part a relaxing driving sim with developer Blackney wanting players to "enjoy driving and to enjoy the road trip." There's a decent bit of scenery to gawk at and explore and several different environment types to drive through. Sure, some of the driving ends up going horribly, but the bits that go smoothly capture the joy of driving pretty damn well.
In fact, the game is designed so the player can absolutely get through it without needing to get into combat.
As Blackney detailed in a developer blog post:
A lot of my target right now is making the player able to play without needing to get into combat. Which is funny because I've spent months getting combat in for both the player and a lot of enemy types – but I want the game to be both playable and fun (and fun for casual gamers) without having to spend hours mastering combat. Exploration needs to be rewarded; being observant, investigating NPCs and the environment, and engaging with the other mechanics – this is what I'm currently focused on. Sleep, fatigue, gas and other resources all play a part, but there's also a big dash of survival in the game, including some crafting of talismans and using protective items specific to certain types of enemies.
That post hit just about a year ago now, and the game has come a long way since.
If you do decide to engage in combat, it's a pretty deep, strategic sort. So the variability in playstyle is fantastic. There's no "one true way" to play Dead Static Drive.
And the subtle moments of tension are incredibly satisfying.