I’ve got a bit of a thing for zombie games, something that started all those years ago with Left 4 Dead. The terror of hearing the moaning Witch, the thrill of seeing a monstrous Tank come pounding towards you, knocking over several undead along the way – it’s what zombie games are about. Or were about.
Over the last few years the zombie “craze” has peaked and we’ve had some great zombie experiences as well as some less than favourable releases, but none of them even compare to Project Zomboid.
I first stumbled upon Project Zomboid whilst browsing Steam absent-mindedly, wondering what I was going to waste money on next. I’d just finished playing through Splinter Cell: Blacklist and fancied something a little different so I started to wade through the indie category. That’s where I found the most depressing game I’ve ever played, and if you play it too, I’m certain you’ll feel the same.
Project Zomboid is an open-world horror game played from an isometric view and is only available on PC for the time being. You start out by picking your character, customising their traits and choosing their profession – each profession gives different advantages to the player.
The game tells you straight off the bat that you’re going to die and that all you can do is prolong the inevitable. Initially I laughed it off and assumed my 20 years of gaming would carry me through easily.
I was dead within 10 minutes.
It’s not the easiest game, not by a long shot. I failed so miserably because I stupidly dismissed all of the guides and let my hubris get in the way. Dead, but not defeated, I reloaded a fresh game and started again, this time heeding the advice offered by the in-game pop-up dialogues.
I was dead within 15 minutes. Improvement!
Project Zomboid is much more than just running around smashing zombies in the face and going merrily on your way. You need to manage your character, feed him/her, make sure they’re warm and hydrated. Inventory management is a big issue, something that took me a little longer to realise than I’ll ever admit.
It’s easy enough to see an item and pack it into your backpack, but pack too many items and you’re slowed down and suffering from back pain; you’re now a vulnerable target. Sure you can drop your goods and make a run for it, but you can only run for so long before you become fatigued, thirsty and overheated under the sweltering sun, or overexposed in the freezing rain.
It’s a good game, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve never been so depressed whilst playing a game that at the same time was highly enjoyable. I knew each and every time that I booted the game up that I would be dying at some point and that all of my efforts will be in vain. You can spend hours collecting items that may prove useful, only to have it all undone by breaking into one house and setting off an alarm which in turn attracts the zombies you’ve just snuck past to get here.
Or maybe you’ve been working on cultivating your own crops and maintaining a building. I spent the better part of last Sunday scouring the town for a hammer so that I could make wooden planks to board up all the windows of my hideout, only to be bitten by a zombie whilst I made a quick stop because I noticed a medicine cupboard (I needed some sleeping pills, my character wasn’t sleeping well…)
I didn’t die instantly though, I was only bitten on the arm, in fact I didn’t even realise until I checked the character stats and noticed he was in bad shape. Three in-game days later and I’ve died from the infection, destined to roam the digital world forever. Or until I turned my laptop off in a hissy fit…
If you’re looking for a zombie game that’s a little bit different, you can’t really do much wrong with Project Zomboid. You’ll die plenty of times but the real fun is fighting the steep learning curve and coming out at the top, something I’ve almost accomplished.