Developer: The Indie Stone
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS
Project Zomboid is the pure definition of a survival game with zombies. Your aim is to survive as long as you can from the zombies, along with everything else in your somewhat hopeless situation. The game begins by saying “This is how you died.” A self-fulfilling prophecy as you WILL inevitably die. There is no end game, there is no army that will come in and save you, nor is there any real way to end the game in a positive way, i.e. solving the problem, killing all the zombies. You are in a hopeless situation where you are alone and no-one can help you. You will die, it just a matter of when, not if.
Now this game, as crude as it appears, features actual, proper survival elements, not the crappy versions of it that we’ve been taught to expect from other games. It’s not a test of strength or even cunning, but a test of your willpower. How can long can you persist in a truly hopeless situation, before you make a single mistake and end up torn to shreds?
So, you start off in a little house, and right clicking on the appliances and furnishings brings up all a whole host of domestic options. Turn on the cooker. Read a book. Close the curtains. They’ll see you through windows, be drawn to light and sound, and will throw themselves against windows and doors until they get inside, once they know you’re in there. Everything from cooking food to barricading requires some forethought. In State of Decay, for example, you only have to hold a button down and you will infinitely barricade windows until you are done, because…you keep lots of wood on you (apparently). In Project Zomboid, you need to make planks, which you make by chopping down trees, and then cutting up the logs into planks, using tools in your carpentry skill set, then you require nails and a hammer, and each one of your nails counts as you agonisingly try to prepare for the worst. Also, when cooking, you need to be thinking about LONG TERM survival. Yeah, you could eat those easy foods first, saving your good stuff for later, but when the power and water supply runs out, and you can’t store your meat that you’ve been saving, you’re gonna starve. So, do you pre-cook everything and store it in bowls or pots in the fridge till the power runs out, or do you think ahead and learn how to use a backup generator and stock up on fuel so that doesn’t happen? And when you need to light the oven, did you bring matches? A lighter? No. Well, too late now, you’re dead.
Your character much more complex than most other games like you to believe. The psychological aspects of your character are just as important as the physical ones in Project Zomboid. My character in for example is a complete coward, and doesn’t like being indoors, and doesn’t sleep well, but he doesn’t have similar problems to many others I’ve encountered in multiplayer. Whilst my character doesn’t like sitting on his hands learning from books, he likes to go out and explore and scavenge, making him useful for supply runs, but often needs to retreat when confronted by more than one zombie indoors, because…he doesn’t like being indoors. He doesn’t get tired easy, but he has restless sleep, so when he does sleep, it takes longer, often late into the day, whereas my colleagues have already left to loot the nearby town. A lot of them get depressed or bored because they have a routine and nothing to do, but my character thrives on the night hours, and being wakeful doesn’t need to sleep as regularly as others. He is a strange, yet interesting person, but lacks the strength to deal with problems without assistance, so working with others in the multiplayer game is very handy.
I find myself obsessed with making even the slightest progress when I play alone, even if you can’t really call it progress. I fist punch the air when I come across a decent enough weapon, or a working generator knowing that it will increase my rate of survival somewhat, only to become outraged that whilst I was looting a fridge a zombie bit my neck because I couldn’t see it coming behind me. You can take all of the precautions you like whether you last 1 day or 100, surviving another day is quite a thrill and although these sorts of games are not short in supply, most often miss the mark by some distance, whereas this game, that is lucky to even exist; is truly remarkable and will no doubt be an indie game worth mentioning in years to come. Long live GOOD zombie games.
Ryan Griffiths is a British gamer, known as a bit of a lone wolf. Retro games are his passion, with newer releases not living up to his expectations. Of course there are exceptions to the rule when it comes to Dynasty Warriors & Total War games.