It’s survival time in Indie Focus today as we look at isometric zombie game Project Zomboid. Having been subject to various development tragedies, including burglary, in its attempts to create the ultimate zombie survival game, it does seem that Indie Stone is onto something a little special. Despite its troubles it was greenlit and released on Steam Early Access in the tail end of last year.
The aim of Zomboid is to survive as long as possible in Knox Country, a zombie-infested town that has been quarantined by the government. The town is large and and filled to the brim with Zs who are more than willing to eat and/or kill you. Naturally, resources are limited so you will spend plenty of time moving between buildings as you hunt for weaponry, food, and drink. As you might expect, all loot is randomised, so while you might be in need of a new weapon because your frying pan just broke there is no guarantee that you will find one.
It’s an incredibly tense affair as you can only see zombies that are in your character’s line of sight, so when leaving a building you will need to ensure that there are none outside. Just be sure they don’t see or hear you, it’s standard practice to walk everywhere so you don’t bring too much attention to yourself, but there are other ways you can be discovered. If you encounter a house that has locked doors, for example, the only way in is to break a window and climb through, which is a bit loud. Guns are a bit loud too, so melee is generally the way to go for manageable numbers of zombies.
When you are discovered you can hole up in a building, barricading its windows and doors, or run and risk running into more zombies. You can only run for so far though so you had better pay attention to how your character is feeling using the icons on the right that track your status. These statuses range from hunger levels to zombification and have to be looked after or you will experience negative effects including, but certainly not limited to, death.
After spending too long out in the rain you can get a cold, which adds medication to your shopping list and makes you noisily sneeze periodically . Running for too long can result in you getting winded, lowering your maximum movement speed and allowing the horde you were fleeing time to catch up. These, while not necessarily common features, are not unheard of, but where Zomboid edges into lesser explored territory is with managing your character’s mood. If you turn around and there’s a zombie there, your character will be panicked, which affects accuracy and awareness. You also have to fight boredom by being active outdoors, reading or writing a journal, as if you get too bored you’ll end up unhappy.
You have zombies, food, drink, sleep, weapons, injuries, medications, and a large selection of moods to deal with, but at least it’s not all looting buildings. If you choose to settle somewhere you can build and maintain a base. Vegetables can be grown for food, makeshift walls and fences can be crafted with the right materials, and you can always barricade the doors and windows as a last line of defense if you are in a house. Houses also have ovens that can be used to cook vegetables and raw meat for more filling meals and less food poisoning in the latter case.
The tension never really goes away, though. Despite the base, despite the guns, despite the small farm in my garden, the fear of zombies that are actually formidable in numbers is one that never releases its grip. You are always either exposed or claustrophobic and the constant drive to find more food, drink, and other resources instills a permanent sense of urgency that never leaves regardless of your fancy anti-zombie mansion.
The game’s opening, which occupies the loading screen before you begin, says it all – “There was no hope of survival.”