Project Zomboid: The difference between life and Undeath
It has been thirty days since this… mess started. Food is running low, during the recent trip to the Super Mart one of those things scratched your arm. Thankfully you had some pain killers and some cloth to bandage yourself up. You scratch your forehead and check your pack. You see your trusty pistol with its last clip already inserted, some water and a candy bar. You begin to look around your temporary safehouse and see that it was the house where you saw Miss so-and-so shamble toward you, the first time you saw one of these “Undead”. You see her carcass on the floor and the lamp you used to beat her head in… You decide to stand up, as your knees ache, you turn around and realised… the windows are uncovered. One of them turns toward you out in the street, stands lifelessly, staring at you as if you were a painting in some museum. With a single groan it begins to shamble toward your house. Instinctively you draw out your pistol and fire, the glass shatters, and the bullets flies harmlessly right next to it. Before you know it the whole street is bathed in groans and before long you hear the characteristic hammering and scratches on the front door… Looks like this is your last stand… Welcome to Project Zomboid.
Project Zomboid by the Indie Stone is what I personally consider a revolutionary Zombie Apocalypse Simulator. As it stands now (version 0.1.4c) you and your wife barely survived a meeting with the undead and take refuge in an abandoned house, cut off from the rest of the world with nothing but you, your wits and anything you can get your hands on. The zombie game genre often tried to bring about the sense of horror a lot of the old Romero films managed to wreck havoc upon our minds and bodies. But, as a lot of us might be aware, this came often with mixed results. The vast majority of games in the Zombie genre do not pose much of a challenge, being “shooters” where the actual zombies are huge mobs, with (sometimes) the occasional special infected or mutants. There have been multiple explanations for the zombies as well, numerous ways to fight them. However any die hard know-all about zombies would not be held long by the promise of finding numerous weapons all over the town, mowing your way through often very pathetic and weak foes until you reached objective X, Y, Z.
It has guns, zombies and in essence you also have to survive. It is not that simple, nor can you be as careless as in many other games when it comes to fighting zombies or any other undead. Imagine if you will, the good folks at Indie Stone made the zombies intelligent, and intelligent in the way that make you realise that these undead will not lose you if you turn around the corner. Zombies have path-finding systems, and they will follow you inside buildings if you did not make them lose you. If you do a lot of noise you will bring about the wrath of the horde which will brake down any door they find in their way (for now, only doors). If you run down a deserted street you could suddenly see zombies shambling over, since, although you covered a distance you still made a lot of noise! You broke down a door to get inside a house? Noise. Set off a fire alarm? Noise (and most likely a huge fire). There are many ways how the undead can detect you, including, peeking through windows. But you are not entirely helpless against detection. You could always walk (a revolutionary idea), barricade up windows (you cannot look outside but zombies cannot look inside either!) and plan ahead a trip to some remote location, gather the necessary supplies and then proceed rather than end up in a sticky situation.
Zombies are not the only danger in your small rectangular section of zombie hell. You can get tired, sick and hungry. Ignoring the need for food or rest will often result in you collapsing in the middle of the street, dying in the process. Sickness as well, once added will be capable of ending your incredible survival spree if you neglect dressing warmly when it is raining outside and not taking your vitamins. Wounds too, caused by the zombies will bleed and if you do not have bandages you might bleed out. The same goes for the pain associated with such wounds. When you lack pain killers your little character will eventually be unable to act properly. In the future the addition of boredom as a factor will be something that you will have to take into account. Sitting in your safehouse for countless days, even with plenty of food will drive you insane. Go out, say hello to the zombies once in a while, get some newspapers. Panic is also a factor. You open a door look inside and OMG ZOMBIE! Your hands shake and you miss the first few shots. No, I do not mean you the player, but your avatar.
So far you heard a lot of praise, and this game definitely deserves it. The graphics are simple and user friendly. You do not need a super computer to make the game operate smoothly. However with its simplicity come a few problems. The camera is sadly positioned in such a way that you might not always be certain where you are standing in a cluttered room. The problem with the engine is also when you move up or down floors, that being, you cannot see what is directly down the stair case, which could end with you walking into a horde of zombies you did not spot. This also means you cannot fire down a staircase and create a wonderful choke point. Despite these limits the game is pleasant to the eye. The (for now) small number of zombie models will certainly change in later development and a lot of new features will be added.
Another important piece of information is that the game will run on Macs. I do advise finding a mouse to make the gameplay smoother. A touch pad will not do the job, unless you are that quick.
Sounds are adequate and good. They do not become “dry” as in the case of some games. Special mention goes to the music which sets the mood for Project Zomboid masterfully. During a zombie attack you feel despair, inside the house with your wife you feel calm and while exploring the town you cannot help but think that something bad is about to happen. Noise is also something that plays a key role in the game. Knowing whether there are zombies or not, as they will often groan and shamble about giving you a clear idea if right beyond the door to your safehouse is a horde of zombies.
Already at this early stage there are mods. There are new maps, new models and some visual changes to the weapons and other objects. The Project Zomboid Community has not wasted any time and already now you can try your strength on much bigger maps and survive for longer than just a week. Current record holders last for at least a few months! There are also some “Challenges” the community offers to the more experienced players. Such as, never using the shotgun, or eating food in a specific order, rescuing your wife from the house and moving her somewhere safe, etc.
To finish off if you wish to support the project you can buy the game already from the Project Zomboid Site, but for now they only accept Google Checkout. It is a possibility however that the game will be also released on Steam. So, do not worry if you do not have PayPal, there will be more ways to fund this great project and pat the developers on the back for a job well done.
The game is challenging yet relaxing. It should be noted however that it is still under development and even some of the things I mentioned here are not yet implemented. If you want to give it a go take a look at the Project Zomboid Site and download the public demo. A warning to all, the current version of the game has no “Save” feature, so you can taste what is yet to come and if you are as much a zombie fan as myself await for the full and complete release. Also, do not be annoyed if you die constantly, as far as Project Zomboid goes it follows the same philosophy as “Dwarf Fortress”. It’s how you end that matters and the journey you took there.
Alex “WriterX” Bielski
|Pros:||Zombies, as they should be!
No need for uber specs
|Cons:||For some, too challenging
No Happy Ending
|Game producer's website:||The Indie Stone|
|Official website:||Project Zomboid|
|Game available at:||Project Zomboid|