A lot goes on during a Zombie Apocalypse
Let’s play a word association game. No, wait, don’t leave! I promise that this is relevant to the review! Still here? Good, good. Okay, so anyway, let’s get back to that word association game. What comes to mind when I say “Zombie Apocalypse”? I’m not a mind reader, but I am sure that most of you reading this immediately began thinking something along the lines of The Walking Dead, Left 4 Dead, or Resident Evil. Whatever show or game ended up being your zombie go-to, I’m sure that it was a popular one. Now, I’d like you to answer a second question. Where does that series take place? Most likely, a lot of it takes places within an area that used to be populated; a town, city, etc. I’m also guessing that it took place in a fictionalized version of our present time (or whenever the “present time” was when that game released). By now, I’m sure that most of you see what I’m getting at. Despite their differences from one another, most media surrounding zombies is set in a world that mimics our own. Most likely, this is done to add a bit of “realism” to the situation; the whole “this could happen to you!” factor. Have you ever wondered, though, what the nefarious Zombie Apocalypse would look like if placed within a different setting? Like… say… maybe a Fantasy setting? Well the folks over at Soldak Entertainment sure did and, because of that, we now have the game Zombasite!
The story behind Zombasite is somewhat randomized and follows player progression due to the fact that it is largely procedurally generated, but it does come with a bit of a backstory to kick things off in the lore department. Within the world of Zombasite live a number of races with varying skills, lifestyles, and personalities. Although some races are aggressive, and because of this somewhat more dangerous than others, no race has ever been as terrible as the Dark Elves. Fascinated with playing God, the Dark Elves are prone to experiment with both magical and intellectual pursuits in order to further their own gain. One day, after viewing a massive horde of zombies destroy a city, the Dark Elves were struck with an epiphany; they should take the power of the zombies for themselves! While possible in theory, no one had actually ever attempted such a feat (at least, no one of which they were aware) and naturally it was quite risky. The Dark Elves decided to disregard this danger however, as their desire for power was all-consuming. As you can probably guess, things didn’t go to well. Though they appeared to be running rampant without a master, the zombie horde that the Dark Elves ran into belonged to a powerful necromancer named Ciglio whose magical prowess surpassed that of their own. Upon trying to size control of the zombie horde, the magical powers of the Dark Elves fused with Ciglio’s magic. The end result of this was a new breed of creature; a zombie parasite known as Zombasite. The Zombasite ended up increasing the zombies’ power, and causing them to wreak even more havoc. In a short time the zombie horde’s reach ended up stretching across the land, threatening every clan living there. Now, with the threat of total extinction looming ever-closer, it is up to the player to protect their clan from the horrors of the Zombasite.
Zombasite‘s gameplay could best be described as a roguelike mixture between something out of the Diablo series and a simulation game, with a heavy focus on adventuring and overall customization. The bulk of Zombasite‘s gameplay will have players exploring the lay of the land, fighting monsters, and collecting treasure. Both the creatures and loot within each map, as well as the map itself, are procedurally generated meaning that each new game will essentially be a completely new experience. Combat itself is simple in design, allowing players to fight foes with a simple click of the mouse. As players level up, they will gain access to a wide variety of unique class-based skills and stat boosts in order to help them make it though some of the game’s tougher areas. Picking up on combat mechanics is pretty easy in the beginning, but can become very in-depth when your character begins to level up which, depending upon how well you know the game’s mechanics, can either grant you total domination over your foes or leave you a confused mess due to the fact that players have free reign over which skills they want to specialize in (as opposed to using a more structured method such as a skill tree). Zombasite also offers plenty of customization beyond player class and skills and allows for customization of the game itself such as the ability to remove some of the more hostile events and enemies that occur normally, including zombies (more on that later), in order to make the game a bit more user-friendly to newcomers or those who want to enjoy a casual run through the game. Players are also able to add specific conditions and handicaps to their playthough before they begin in order to challenge themselves, making Zombasite quite adaptable to player skill growth (or lack thereof).
While I can assume with quite a bit of certainty that most of your time spent playing will revolve around exploration and beating down baddies, merely doing nothing more than adventuring isn’t going to get you all the way through the game. Claiming victory within Zombasite is done through accomplishing a specific task, or rather one of a number of specific tasks. To make things a bit clearer for you (because things get muddled pretty easily), a player can win in one of four ways:
- By defeating all other clans within the area (Military Win)
- By successfully allying every single clan with another, including your own clan (Diplomatic Win)
- By gathering a large surplus of food (Logistics Win)
- By completing every single quest within the area (Adventurer Win)
Objectively speaking, being able to win a game through a number of unique means is a pretty cool thing. Allowing players to carve their own path to victory creates an opportunity for multiple players with vastly different styles of play to complete the game in the way that best suits them. Overall Zombasite does a decent job of making sure that players are presented with plenty of opportunities to get keep their Clan on top regardless of how they are choosing to seize victory. Unfortunately, it isn’t without its flaws.
While I both understand and admire what Zombasite is trying to do, I feel as though it may perhaps be a bit too ambitious at times. During a typical Zombasite run, the player is in charge of juggling a very large number of tasks including exploration, clan management (which can further be broken down into several distinct things), combat, diplomacy with other clans, and so on. Mechanically-speaking, each of these features works well on its own. They are generally each enjoyable individually, and exhibit no real issues for the most part. The problem occurs when Zombasite attempts to smash everything into one game. At once. Right off the bat. After enough playing things start to make sense (sort of), but your initial experience will most likely consist of you half-digesting all of the rules, aimlessly walking around, fighting creatures that you really know nothing about, and then realizing that everyone in your clan is unhappy, starving, and quite possibly, insane. If you’re anything like me, then that will happen a few times. I’m definitely not going to blame this all on the game; most of these instances can be avoided, even by newcomers, so long as you pay attention. The issues that I had were with the game expecting too much from the player from the get-go, and the large list of mechanics that players were expected to memorize within a short amount of time. I get that there is a lot of depth, but I would have preferred to have been introduced to each element separately. Creating a character and being spawned into a fresh new world full of adventure only to immediately become bogged down with a veritable textbook of information however is kind of a turn-off so-to-speak and, often times, will either result in a) people skipping half of the information because they actually want to play or b) people reading everything only to become bored soon after. There’s real potential with Zombasite‘s setup, but I feel as though it has several issues to overcome when it comes to clarity.
The other issue I had with my Zombasite experience related to the zombies themselves. Now, I know that Zombasite was not intended to be a “typical” zombie experience. It wanted to shed the whole Zombie Apocalypse scenario in a different light by placing it within a Fantasy realm, and I can say with confidence that in some aspects it did – the keyword there being some. While the game’s name may lead you to believe that zombies are at they core of everything, they really aren’t; at least, that’s what it felt like to me. In fact, you don’t even really need to survive the full onslaught of the impending Zombie Apocalypse to win because none of Zombasite‘s innate victory conditions directly involve fighting off zombies. If you want, you can even turn the zombies completely off. Let me once again say that I appreciate the fact that Soldak Entertainment was so dedicated to providing as much customization as possible, but I just don’t get why this was an option. If the game is supposed to be about zombies, being able completely remove zombies from the game seems incredibly counterproductive. When enabled, the zombies do play a noticeable role throughout the game; they provide a set of powerful enemies to fight against, and are even capable of infecting clan members. Despite this, they still end up feeling more like a part of the game rather than a major focus point. It feels less “Zombie Apocalypse within a Fantasy setting” and more “Action-Fantasy game but also there are zombies sometimes”.
Zombasite‘s visuals leave something to be desired, to be blunt. While I definitely would not call them “bad” by any stretch of the imagination, because to be fair they are not, they seem to be a bit dated in certain areas. The 3D objects (including characters) within the game feel as though they were taken (stylistically, not in the sense that they were stolen) from a computer game that came out during the early-mid 2000s, with movements that feel bit stiff and blocky.The 2D effects and textures fared a bit better, and feel more up-to-date with colors and movements befitting of more current games. Generally there’s quite a bit going on when you’re playing, and the camera is zoomed out enough to avoid showing 3D models in-depth, so it doesn’t detract from the actual game itself in any way. Still, the graphics of Zombasite as a whole gives off “unintentionally retro” that feels old, and not in a good way.
Zombasite‘s audio experience is also pretty standard fare, but not faulty in any way. Games like this generally don’t seem to use extensive or in-depth soundtracks, instead relying upon ambient sound and, of course, the exciting sounds of combat. There isn’t a whole lot there, but what is there works well.
Zombasite was fun, but not outstandingly so. I can honestly say that I enjoyed my time with it, and I think that Soldak Entertainment is onto something with mixing two different genres that usually never see one another, but nothing in particular stuck out to me as particularly engrossing. There’s a definite market for games such as this, and I think that those who already enjoy this genre will have a swell time with Zombasite. Those who are new complicated Western RPGs may want to wait until something a bit more forgiving comes along. Playing Zombasite was like going to a big city for the first time without a map – it was a new and fun experience, but the more I explored and the more progress I thought that I was making, the more I realized just how complicated navigation truly was.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: PC (reviewed) Publisher: Soldak Entertainment; Developer: Soldak Entertainment ; Release Date: August 23, 2016; ESRB: N/A; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a PC review copy of Zombasite provided by Soldak Entertainment.