Games tend to go through major trends; whether it be a specific mechanic such as the wealth of cover based shooters that emerged following the success of Gears of War, a specific time period such as when we were over-run with first person shooters set during World War 2 following the epic Medal of Honour release. Most recently it has been a love for all things Undead.
Zombie games have been on the rise in every conceivable genre from platformers to shooters, and the end does not appear to be in sight. With such a large selection of games, it is easy to overlook some of the lesser known titles that are available. So it is that I will give a quick roundup of some of the games on offer that have piqued my interest at one time or another.
State of Decay
Developed by Undead Labs in association with Microsoft Studios, and originally intended to be an open world multiplayer survival game, it was released in its current “unfinished” form to quite critical acclaim. Reworked to a single player campaign the released form was set in the days and weeks following a Zombie apocalypse.
You initially take on the role of Marcus Campbell, who along with his best friend Ed, have just returned from a camping trip to find that not all is as it was when they left. An hour of scavenging, scouting and zombie stomping later and the first major mechanic is introduced when you encounter fellow survivor Maya. From this point forward, you can swap between characters and this introduces the requirement to rest your characters.
After exerting themselves for a short period, characters become exhausted and their speed, stamina and damage output begin to suffer. This is when you should return to base and swap to another playable character. Most survivors begin as NPC’s, but the more aid you provide to the community at large, the more respect you gain with the group and once a set value is reached, those that you have helped and befriended can become playable as well.
Add into the mix quite a sophisticated development system that increases your skills the more they are used, and you can soon mould yourself quite a good group of zombie slaying troops. There is also necessity in playing as more than one character, as should your character die they are permanently dead. Depending on the situation, you may survive these encounters if you are lucky, but don’t expect to be able to play as that character for a while. The death of characters has a direct impact on the morale of the group, and losing an essential leader can throw the community into disarray.
To help prevent this, you can also expand or move your base of operations in order to better fortify your position or guarantee your survival. Building additional sleeping areas allows you to expand your group, finding a cook and refining your kitchen will allow you to prepare meals that give all of your survivors temporary buffs, or expanding your supply storage will allow you to gather more materials with which to trade and build.
Aside from scavenging for supplies, questing to find the truth of the outbreak and exploring your environs, numerous side quests will appear periodically for you to undertake. Most of these are clearing infected areas, destroying unique zombies, or finding key supplies to continue expanding your base. Some of these quests are issued by members of your group, are timed and may result in the loss of survivors from your community if you fail to aid them in their struggle.
State of decay is a third person open world strategy survival RPG that does a lot of things right and can easily absorb lots of your time.
As one of my indie purchases last year while it was still only available via Desura, this title from the team over at IndieStone has been in development for a long time and has undergone many revisions in the last year. Now available from Steam this is a title I can whole-heartidly recommend.
Long before State of Decay and even before the superlative DayZ hit our PC’s, this unassuming title made a design choice that left it head and shoulders above its contemporaries. An isometric rpg centred around the small town of Muldraugh, Knox County with one simple goal. Survive, no matter the cost. Build, Fortify and scavenging are the name of the game. Sneak around the abandoned city, gathering what you need to keep yourself going for another night.
As time progresses critical events will take place and this realism is key to this games appeal. As the power goes out and your food starts to rot, as the water infrastructure collapses leaving you with nothing to drink and as the army moves in to attempt to eradicate the shuffling menace, you must find ways to keep yourself safe, fed, watered and sane. Mood is important, and fear plays an important part in the gameplay. Close encounters with the zombies will spike your adrenaline and paranoia, the isolation will increase your depression, and each of these require you to search supermarkets and pharmacies for the meds needed to keep you stable.
It’s probably important to say, this is a hardcore title. Once you are bitten you have a short time to survive, and once the fever comes on you will be left with the choice to become one of the undead menace, or to end it all on your own terms. With a current map of two blocks of 300 x 300 cells, (one of which is enough to encompass nearly 400 buildings within the city of Muldraugh to search and loot) and a proposed 15 x 15 blocks in the next revision.
With multiplayer, npc survivors, single player content and general tweaks and improvements on the cards alongside the map expansion, this title has enough going for it to make it worth the initial investment purely out of morbid curiosity.
My final suggestion is a quirky little title that if taken at face value, has a very unique take on the how to defeat the zombie horde. Containment is a zombie puzzler, with you battling the undead minions through city streets, university campus’ and even churches in your attempt to escape from the outbreak ravaging the streets of your city.
The gameplay itself is simple to begin with, but becomes more complex as the game progresses. Played in a formation block you are issued with a group of random units. Soldiers, Policemen, Punks and Scientists make up the key body of your group. When attacked, you must move units into place to effectively surround the zombies massing and once surrounded, these zombies will be pacified in a rewarding and suitably graphic explosion of blood and gunfire.
Use of each group to elimate the undead will unlock up to three simultaneous special moves. Use the police and you are awarded with a police marksman who can pick off a single zombie from a distance, using soldiers will reward you with a zone clearing grenade, utilise the punks and you get a Molotov, and finally eradicating zombies with the scientist unlocks a bio-hazard suit that provides short term protection from the horde.
As you destroy the zombies, the space in which they and their destroyers fill will be emptied and new combatants will make their way in to fill the gaps. Failure to destroy zombies will allow them to propogate, by infecting those units directly adjacent to them on the board. Leave a zombie threat too long, and their exponential growth could leave you without the ability to surround and effectively eradicate them, leaving you to watch as the last few surviving units are surrounded and devoured.
With over one hundred levels, a survival mode that runs alongside the main campaign, and some unique boss and special zombies to take care of during the course of play this is a fun little title well worth the small outlay to pick it up.
State of Decay is available on Xbox360 and PC.
Project Zomboid is available on PC.
Containment : A Zombie Puzzler is available on PC/Android and IOS.
With our Zombie themed articles, we thought it only best to offer up a little prize. Alongside this piece I also reviewed How to Survive, another zombie themed game and right now Midlifegamer have the code for a copy of this game on the Xbox360. To win, simply follow @midlifegamernet and “Tweet” the following message.
“Prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse and get training with How to Survive www.midlifegamer.net/features/2013/10/microburst.html #IWantToSurvive”
Winner will be picked at Random at midnight on November4th. You will be contacted via DM with your winning code. Happy Halloween!