UPDATE: The Indie Stone, makers of Project Zomboid, just got robbed – and this has set the project back quite it bit. Do help out if you can by buying the game! Not sure if they accept / want donations.
Season 2 of the Walking Dead is going to be out soon… You know, that awesome series/comic that got accolades for returning to the ‘traditional’ zombie survival genre: with no Resident Evil or Left 4 Dead type zombies, the true danger aren’t the zombies, but yourself and the people around you? And while we’ve still got a few more days to go before we can catch it, there’s something else that can scratch that zombie survival itch and do it INCREDIBLY well: Project Zomboid.
Project Zomboid is an indie game by Indie Stone, and is probably one of the most frightening, depressing games I’ve seen in a while. This isn’t your traditional game where your hero (be it a superhero or everyday Joe) triumphs against overwhelming odds to win the day. There isn’t a happy ending in sight. No.
The game starts off with ‘This is how you died.’
As a sandbox zombie survival game game (if you want to call it that, I prefer sim) is different to most other games out there. In the tradition of Dwarf Fortress, the point of the game isn’t to win, but to immerse yourself in the (some time frightening) day to day challenges, survive as long as possible, and get a good story out of it. Something that you can tell to your friends or discuss with fellow players.
As a zombie survival sim, Project Zomboid is accurate, almost frighteningly so. It measures a multitude of things, including hunger, sleep, wounds, happiness, addiction and sanity. Yes, sanity. Which means that any thing you do (or don’t do) will have serious consequences. If you don’t find food you heal slower and eventually starve. If you get injured you fight or move more poorly. And god help you if you actually get bit. And you die. A lot.
I played the game for about 4-5 hours in total and died 7 times. But the interesting thing is not that I died, but how I died. None of the deaths were scripted, but amazingly they all seemed literally taken out of a zombie movie. These included:
1) Fending off a horde of zombies, barricading myself in a room filled with food, only to die from a scratch.
2) Jubilantly looting a shop, carrying off guns and ammo, only to get exhausted in the middle of the road, surrounded by zombies.
3) Accidentally setting off an alarm, drawing in all the zombies from the town and promptly getting devoured.
And strangely enough, even though I never survived past 3 days, I seemed addicted for the few hours, restarting the game immediately after each death. Because I knew that I didn’t die because of the zombies; I died because I screwed up. Carelessness, overconfidence, and lack of self-control: these are the enemies of any zombie survival, and these are the reasons why I died.
Of course, the fact that Project Zomboid is such an accurate zombie survival sim is a double edged sword, and Project Zomboid will be different things for different people. Some people will be extremely put off by the fact that YOU WILL DIE. Some will love the game for its hardcore take no prisoners attitude. I fell somewhere in the middle… It’s something I can take in small doses, but having to concentrate so long on not making any mistakes or watching your character die horribly deaths, these are kind of depressing things that I can only take for so long.
Result? Your Mileage May Vary. But if you’re looking for something that simulates the dread and tension of zombies, Project Zomboid is by far the best sim out there that does that. It literally feels like you’re playing ‘The Walking Dead’.