Comforted

Zomboid

Friday, June 3, 2011 | 12:43 AM | by

The last couple of days I've been playing a little game in its alpha stages called Project Zomboid. It's operating under the business structure that's becoming more and more popular for indie devs these days wherein if you pay for the game, you can play it as it's being created.

As such, Project Zomboid is rough around the edges and has quite a ways to go. However the direction it is headed looks incredibly promising.

Hailed as a "Zombie RPG", the game charges you to survive for as long as possible after a zombie apocalypse. To be clear here, there is no "I win" scenario. There is only "I survived longer than I did last time". The game features a pixel-based isometric view that gives it a wonderful retro feel. However the game is far darker and more challenging than it seems on the surface.

You need to scavange for food, barricade your residence, tend to hunger, exhaustion and injuries, all while avoiding dying to the zombie horde. While not currently in the alpha, the ultimate plan is to have basic utilities like gas and electric begin to shut down months after the outbreak. Which means that on top of dwindling food and ammo resources, survival becomes harder and harder as time goes on. Basically it looks to recreate a realistic, "Walking Dead-esque" approach to the zombie survival game.

Like the game says when you launch it, this is strictly the story of how you die after the outbreak.

Minor early game spoilers follow, fyi.

The game in its current iteration offers a glimpse at what will hopefully be a robust crafting and inventory management system, as well as extensive environment interaction. It opens with you and your wife in an abandoned house during a rainstorm, very shortly after the initial outbreak. It hasn't been easy going thus far, and your wife has been badly injured.

The first thing I did was hunt around for some sheets, which I tore into strips to make bandages via the Minecraft-ish crafting box (ie, place ingredients in, combine, receive new item). I then found some painkillers in the medicine cabinet of the house we were holed up in, which I gave her for the pain.

I also found a pillow in the closet, which I tried to offer her, thinking she'd be more comfortable. I ended up smothering her.

Whoops.

So next game I knew not to try to give her the pillow. After a brief venture outside to the shed, I found a hammer and nails and some wood, and proceeded to board up our house, to slow down any zombies that might try to get in. At this point I was starting to get hungry, so I made my way over to the neighbor's house. After braining a zombie with my trusty hammer, I found some canned soup.

Combining it with a can opener, and a pot I'd found, I created a 'pot of soup'. I placed the pot in the oven and turned it on. At this point a radio started working, and while I was listening to the emergency broadcast, my soup, and the oven it was in, exploded. My first instinct was to try and save the soup.

Instead, I caught on fire and burned to death.

Whoops.

So next game, I still fucked up and the oven exploded. But this time, I didn't go near it. Instead I ran upstairs to grab my wife, thinking that I'd get her out of the house which was now on fire. However instead I accidentally clicked on the bed, not her. This caused me to take a nap. I woke up a few hours later in a blazing inferno. We both burned to death.

Whoops.

It's not an easy game. I still haven't figured out how to eat food, and thus even on my best attempts end up starving and weak. But so far it's a very enjoyable simulation of surviving a zombie outbreak. The permanent death and no save game is sort of harsh, and won't be for everyone, but I really enjoy it for the tough, gritty and nervewracking experience it creates.

I also liked that you have a wife, and that you don't start off as just some lone "hero". It gives the game an entirely different flavor. You think more about your actions and the risks you take knowing that there's someone depending on you to survive. It's sort of like what Dead Rising 2 tried to do, but less annoying and more meaningful.

If you want to give Project Zomboid a shot, all you need to do is buy one of their other games. It's about an $8 investment, and you get not only the game you purchased, but lifetime access to Project Zomboid. Not a bad deal, considering you'll probably get far more than $8 worth of entertainment from it.

I'm really excited to see this game progress, and to see whether or not they add all of the features they're talking about.