The Autophage, also known as Autophagy, is the collective term used to describe the zombies in Dead Island 2. It is a phenomenon that was discovered to be ingrained deep within the DNA of humanity and will eventually cause humanity’s own extinction.
In this guide, we will talk more about the autophage, how it was discovered in Dead Island 2, and how it changes and affects the story of the Dead Island franchise.
What is Autophagy?
In real-life science, autophagy is the natural process that organisms do wherein they consume their own body parts that are deemed no longer necessary for survival. Almost all living organisms, including humans, do this process as a way to recycle nutrients and resources into usable stuff.
In Dead Island 2, this term gained a larger scope as it now refers to humanity consuming its own as an entire species; whether this is due to survival in the grander scheme of things or just how entropy manifests itself on humans was not made clear in the game.
How the Autophage was discovered
25 years before the events of Dead Island 2, Dr. Reed discovered that the human DNA was structured in such a way that it abruptly shifts and changes its structure after some generations have passed. Based on their model, it was predicted that this change would happen around the year 2160, and from then on, they assumed that humanity would ultimately change its course of existence. Given that the event is just a century and a half away, and to satiate his curiosity, Dr. Reed decided to hasten the process to find out what this change is.
During his work, Dr. Reed created the HK1 retrovirus. This virus was developed in order to “spoof” the DNA into reaching its zero-clock state, after which the change could then be observed. After seeing that the tests performed on individual cells did not yield much progress, Dr. Reed decided to move to doing live-testing on volunteer subjects.
One of their early live tests involved six subjects. Upon introducing the HK1 virus to their systems, the subjects suffered complications and died soon after. The testing was deemed a failure, but then the corpses of the subjects reanimated into the mindless beings that are known to be the first recorded cases of the Autophages; at least in the records and knowledge of Dr. Reed and his team, they were the first cases of zombies.
The entire research facility was destroyed by the autophages, and most of the staff were killed. Dr. Reed and a few individuals of the core team managed to survive the onslaught. Convinced that this would be humanity’s fate, Dr. Reed continued his work toward finding a way to prevent this cataclysmic wipeout from happening. As the years passed, more work was put into finding a way to put a stop to this countdown timer unbeknownst to the public. Eventually, a breakthrough was found through the discovery of the Numen.
Who are the Numen?
The Numen are humans who have contracted the virus and survived it without flipping into a full-fledged Autophage due to their inherent immunity. Some Numen have even gained superhuman abilities such as strength, speed, special eyesight, and even a sort of hivemind consciousness that lets them communicate with other Numen.
Upon the discovery of the first few Numen, Dr. Reed put his efforts into studying them, as he saw the Numen as the key to humanity’s survival. However, the Numen are highly rare individuals, and the probability of getting a human subject to turn into one is almost abysmal. Fearing that humanity may not have enough time to find a cure, Dr. Reed made the inhumane decision of spreading the virus to a larger population to increase the chances of discovering enough Numen for their research.
The known Numen in the game are the protagonists/slayers, Lola Konradt, Thurston, and Cadenza. Despite being genetically modified to have Numen blood, Tisha, Dr. Reed’s daughter, does not appear to have gained any abilities that the mentioned Numen have. It is possible that Tisha’s abilities are simply latent and will be awakened once she gets subjected to high enough stress or once she contracts the virus.
Despite acting as the antagonists in the first half of the story, Lola and her team were actually looking out for the protagonist as they pushed the protagonist to the limit and fully awakened their Numen abilities. In contrast to Dr. Reed’s goal of stopping the extinction of humanity by putting a stop to autophagy, Lola uses this event as an opportunity to scout other worthy Numen to join their cause, as she believes that the Numen are the next evolution that humanity must achieve.
The Cure to Autophagy
The cure to the inevitable fate of becoming an autophage appears to be the blood of the Numen and the human. This is why Dr. Reed wanted Tisha to survive, as her blood is the key to creating a vaccine that can neutralize the autophage. This has been proven effective during the final scene, where the protagonist decided to give the vaccine to Sam B instead, who immediately felt its effects just seconds after taking it in. However, it is still unclear if this vaccine is at its final stage, if its effects last for a lifetime, or if it can be used on both infected and uninfected individuals.
HK Virus and HK1 Virus
The HK virus was the virus that spread and caused people to turn into zombies in Dead Island 1. It came into existence when an HIV strain was mixed up with the Kuru disease, and the resulting virus was later dubbed the HK pathogen. The first identified individual who carried this virus was Yerema, a native of Banoi who was immune to the virus and was able to pass it along to other people via her bites.
Although Dead Island 2 is a sequel to the first game, the connection between the HK virus and the HK1 virus remains unclear, as there are no direct mentions or references between the two. It appears that Dr. Reed was also unaware of the HK virus and its zombification effects, as he was the one who synthesized the HK1 virus, yet he was still surprised when the subjects were reanimated.
The HK virus was simply seen as a more potent strain of the Kuru disease, a disease that was known to be contracted by natives who performed ritualistic cannibalism on the dead members of their tribes. In short, the HK virus was just the Kuru disease taken to the extreme, whereas the HK1 virus served a different purpose.
Nevertheless, Dead Island 2 gave the origin of the zombification process a greater and deeper lore that encompasses the narrative of being just an outbreak that was caused by a virus. The HK1 virus was just a tool created to get a glimpse of what humans will inevitably turn out to be. Dr. Reed believed that there was something greater that created the existence of this “bimodal existence,” as he put it, and he believed that the Numen were merely either anomalies or puppets of whatever entity was behind it. This is just one of the things that were left unanswered by the game, which can be explored further if ever expansions or a sequel come out in the future.
That explains the Autophage in Dead Island 2. For more news, guides, and features about the game, feel free to check out our other Dead Island 2 articles here.
Dead Island 2 is available now on PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.