Project Zomboid: The Zombie Game of My Dreams?

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Zombies. Almost everyone knows what they are. They’re walking corpses of decaying flesh that hunger for brains, because as we all know, they’re just far too lazy to study for that college exam. Of course, zombies are purely fictional and I’m hoping it stays that way. That said, zombies are pretty popular in the media and this is especially true as of late for video games. It seems like you can’t go a month without seeing a game that involves zombies somewhere. From mainstream AAA titles to smaller indie games, zombies are just “in” at the moment.

Zombie games rarely spark any interest within me, though. The last zombie game that I can recall being excited for was Dead Rising for the Xbox360, the game that practically sold me on the console back when it was first released. Zombies have been popular since the days of black and white movies, but I think Dead Rising caused the chain reaction that made their modern popularity within video games snowball into the frightening mass that it is today.

From games like Resident Evil 5 and Dead Island to games like Space Pirates and Zombies and I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1 there are a lot of varying styles of games that include zombies. However, these games just don’t cut it for me. Gore fest zombie games like Dead Rising are fun, and so are the oddball games, but that’s not all I want from zombies. When a game gives you powerful weapons to kill zombies with, they stop being scary. They’re basically just targets for you to kill.

These games are really great, but not exactly what I want.

 

I’ve always wanted an RPG-style zombie game where your goal was to survive in a zombie-infested world. Not to kill as many zombies as you can for sport, but rather avoid them all together, or take out a single straggler that happens to be in the way of that house, which likely has food and other goodies you would need to survive. It seemed like no one was interested in making a game that took that premise and executed it well. At least, until I heard about a game called Project Zomboid.

Project Zomboid is a game being made, right now, by developer The Indie Stone. As the name suggests, they’re an indie development team, so the game is far from AAA quality, but don’t let that turn you away. It runs on java and is still early in development. That said, the game has an incredible amount of potential. It’s playable right now assuming you drop 5 bucks for it, and seeing as how the game will be updated gradually and continuously, perhaps even after it’s officially released, it’s well worth the investment.

The game, at its base, is a zombie survival RPG. To go more in-depth, it’s designed to be a story of how you died in the zombie apocalypse. The game is a bit of a sandbox, so not everyone will experience the exact same thing. Loot from houses are randomized, so you can get lucky and find a weapon in the house you start in, or you can get unlucky and be killed on your way to the house next door, either by zombie or another survivor who happens to be toting a shotgun.

There are also the player’s own actions to account for. Will you be ballsy and attack anything that stands in your way, or be sneaky to avoid a fight if it’s not necessary? Will you go to the vulnerable super market for food and then barricade yourself somewhere safe, or will you hop from house to house, looting not only food but other goods as you go? Will you take a chance and eat a moldy loaf of bread for survival or will you risk going out in the harsh rains, putting yourself at risk for catching a cold, for something safer to eat?

Each decision you make changes the outcome of your story and your survival. Ultimately, however, you will eventually die. The game is actually kind enough to tell you this before you even play. “This is how you died.” will show on the screen just before you jump into the game. There really is no way to win at Project Zomboid, that’s not the goal of the game, it’s just the unique story of your doomed attempt to live for as long as possible. It’s admittedly sad, but it makes for an interesting game.

Well, let's hope it wasn't something embarrassing.

 

Project Zomboid features preset stories, but so far the only one available is the Kate & Baldspot story, in which a husband (the player) patches up his wounded wife and then goes in search for food. This story serves as a tutorial, more than anything, and is a great way to introduce the player to the things he/she may encounter in the game. Playing it for the first time, I quickly learned that it’s not just zombies you have to worry about, but your own carelessness. Let’s just say that a pot of soup was the cause of my demise, of all things. The stories are neat, but I prefer Sandbox Mode.

In the Sandbox Mode, you can customize your Average Joe and select certain traits that affect survival in a variety of ways. Profession traits are free, but other positive traits (like not needing to eat as much) can only be acquired by selecting negative traits (like having weaker attacks.) This balances out your character quite well.

 

As of the latest update, you can get sick, as I’ve hinted at before. Project Zomboid has an incredibly expansive health system, which I absolutely love. With it, you are not some special human destined to stop the zombie apocalypse. You’re an Average Joe who can be killed off by the flu if you’re not careful. On top of hunger, occasional panicking, and sleepiness, you have a lot of things to worry about.

If you get scratched by a zombie, you’ll need to bandage it and stay well fed to heal it. Though, you’ll need to make your own bandages using items you find in the game. Scratches aren’t a big deal, but it’s a good idea to tend to the wounds quickly, because if you’re in too much pain you won’t be able to sleep. Painkillers come in handy in such a situation.

If you run, or swing your melee weapon too much, you’ll get exhausted and have to stop. This can become a big problem if you find yourself surrounded by zombies. The more exhausted you are, the slower you’ll walk and run until you can’t even run at all. Fortunately, all that’s required to recover from exhaustion is to stop and take a breather, but if you’re already being chased by zombies even that can be difficult.

If you eat raw or moldy food, you could get sick, which isn’t very fun at all. You’ll want to store foods like meat, vegetables, and bread in refrigerators to extend the duration of their freshness. Personally, I believe it’s a good idea to eat these foods first, saving chips and canned soup for emergencies. Once food goes bad, there’s no way to make it 100% safe to eat.

Cooking food gives it a bonus stat towards your hunger, if you want the most out of your food you should cook it whenever possible. Mmmm. Steak.

 

If you stay out in the rain for too long, you could catch a cold, which will make you cough and sneeze. In the zombie apocalypse you don’t want your position to be given away because of a stupid cold. You’ll want to keep a tissue on hand for when you have a cold, which will muffle the noises.

Finally, if you get bit by a zombie, well… your already short lifespan just got a lot shorter.

Of course, you could avoid a lot of that by stocking up on as much food as you can and barricading yourself on the top floor of an apartment complex. (As of the last update, anyway.) You could survive a long time if you manage your food well, but that’s no fun at all. You’ll want to go out and explore, interact with the world, and risk your life. It’s the run-ins, unexpected ailments, and close calls that really make the game a fun experience.

It gets very, very dark at night. It's best to stay indoors and sleep until morning, otherwise you're not going to see what's going on around you.

 

The game is far from completion, but The Indie Stone has long-term plans for the game, a lot of which I am excited for. Also, putting aside the overwhelming lack of features and uselessness of many items, the game is riddled with bugs and performance issues. That said, the game is in the pre-alpha state, so these are to expected. Even with these issues, it still manages to be a fun game that manages to scare me at times. However, I’m a bit of a baby, so maybe that’s just me.

If you want more information on Project Zomboid, you should check out their website. There’s a ton of informative posts there, particularly this one.

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About McBeeferton

I'm McBeeferton. No, I am not really a pikachu, but I like playing one on the internet. My real name is Anthony, I'm 20 years old, and I happen to be a nerd. I contribute advice for gaming vices, as well as anything else that might be interesting to people who play video games. I write the Back from the Future series, but I'm not a reviewer. I'm simply a guy with an opinion.