Terminus: Zombie Survivors Is A Zombielicious Roguelike With Serious Potential
The zombie apocalypse and the survival roguelike genre are a match made in heaven. The setting of a desperate world where essentials are scarce and danger is always around the corner coheres perfectly with the resource management and permadeath worries of the roguelike. Terminus is a great marriage of genre and setting, tasking the player with guiding a lone survivor through a zombie-infested city to “The Terminus”, a place where survivors can apparently go to seek safety. Of course, the journey is far from easy and fraught with perils.
Terminus is viewed from a top-down perspective, much like FTL, and the exploration and combat are resolved through turns. After each turn, your character gets a certain number of AP points to spend, which they can use to move, search through furniture for supplies, travel to other areas and fight zombies. Right from the start though, everything becomes a delicate balancing act and a race against time. Every item your character is carrying increases the AP cost of moving around. That means you can move less far from marauding zombies, and it makes your journey take longer, which is problematic when you constantly need to eat to stay alive.
This means you’ll have to plan your journey very carefully, and luckily guidebooks and street maps can be scavenged, giving you an idea of locations ahead. Knowing the path ahead can present you with some difficult choices. Sometimes you might want to head to the electronics store to find a radio, which allows you to get precious info from The Terminus, including its location. On the other hand, you might be running low on food, so hitting up a restaurant might be good. Not only does a restaurant contain food, but it also might have a frying pan, which you can use to cook food.
Normally, when night falls, it’s a good idea to cover up the windows with rags and sleep, as night gives a bonus to sleep and zombies are more active and aware at night. Not having enough food might force you to make a tough choice like venturing out at night and this is extremely risky so keeping track of the time is very important.
Every weapon loses durability and eventually breaks when smacking zombies with them. You can make canny tactical choices to extend the lifespan of your gear though. To finish off a zombie, you’ll need to destroy the head, which the fire axe is adept at doing, and it’ll take fewer swings with it to fell an undead foe. A baseball bat can more effectively smash a zombie’s legs, making allowing you to get away without them being able to pursue. A machete can chop off a zombie’s arms, meaning they can’t rend and tear at you. Combat is less about killing all foes and more about getting through while using as few resources as possible. Even combat is about logistics and making the smartest choices to preserve your resources.
There are different scenarios to tackle as well as the standard one. There’s “Sold Out”, which ramps up the challenge by having all the stores be already looted of precious supplies. There’s also “Frozen Zombies”, which gives a new challenge by having the frigid undead be half as fast, but the freezing temperatures required me to chop every piece of furniture I had into firewood to survive.
There’s a great selection of classes at character creation, all of whom have special abilities to distinguish themselves. For example, the park ranger class means the player character can survive at significantly lower temperatures and start fires without a lighter. As you survive more scenarios, more classes become unlocked such as the awesome “driver” class, allowing the player to drive twice as far on a tank of gas. Since it’s difficult to find cars and gas for them, this is crucial.
The different classes and scenarios, and the way you’re rewarded for completing each one provides a huge amount of replay value to Terminus and had me plugging away at it for countless hours. The main issue with Terminus right now is the lack of depth to interactions with other survivors you meet. Beyond having a quick chat, trading with them and recruiting them to your crew, there isn’t much deeper interaction. In a genre full of pivotal choices at key moments in a journey, it’s a shame there’s no encounters with survivors where you have to make tough social decisions rather than how to use your resources. Likewise, the final fight to get to The Terminus itself can be a little underwhelming. It’s definitely nothing so exciting as FTL’s final boss battle.
If there could be more interesting encounters added to make Terminus a bit more unpredictable, and more distinct challenges in the endgame, there could certainly be something very special here. As it stands, Terminus is already an addictive survival roguelike that fans of the genre will eat up as voraciously as its cast of zombies will eat the player’s flesh!