It's been a while since I did a Have You Played article. Quite unsurprisingly, a lot of games have piled up that I want to talk about eventually. For my first comeback article, though, I want to talk about the game that absorbed more of my time than any other game that I've played for quite a while - Project Zomboid.
The tale of this crazy good game begins as early as 2011. Back in the day, we still thought that Early Access titles would actually be a good idea and that they were not only a means to sell unfinished titles but build a community and let it have a say in what the game's development should focus on. By now, we obviously know better. Nevertheless, Project Zomboid is (un-)living proof that there are actually Early Access titles out there that really understand how to use the format to its fullest.
As of today, the game has been in Early Access for eleven years and has seen as many as 41 major updates applied to itself. While there's a case to be made that the game feels like it's never going to be finished, right now there are almost 50,000 people playing the game on Steam so it seems like they are doing something really really right. So what exactly is Project Zomboid?
Project Zomboid is a hardcore zombie survival RPG and every time you start or load a game, you get the above message before you actually get to play. There's no hope of survival, these are the end times, this is how you died. In Project Zomboid, it's not about winning the game, it's not about a happy end, not about getting out of there. It's all about how long you can make it, how long you can survive - it's all about how you died.
Sounds scary? It certainly is! Whenever you start a new game, you get to choose what occupation your character had before the zombie apocalypse started, what special traits he had, and what town he used to live in. After that, you spawn in a random house in your chosen neighborhood and from there on out you only have a singular goal: Survive as long as you can. Doing so is easier said than done, though, as Project Zomboid is a pretty complex game, simulating many different mechanics and needs you have to satisfy in order to stay healthy and, ultimately, alive. Your character has to drink and eat on a regular basis, he needs to sleep every now and then, he needs to be protected against heat and cold, deal with bad weather and conditions, and, worst of all, deal with a constant onslaught of zombies.
On its own, each of these zombies is not all too dangerous. They are slow, stupid, and you can simply outwalk them most of the time. The thing is, they never rest, they never stop, and a single bite is guaranteed to turn you into one of them, untimely ending your current run. Project Zomboid is hard and your first few tries, you are pretty likely going to die on your first day. But at the same time, it's a really rewarding experience. Getting to know the game better, you will die less and less to random occasions and more and more because you took unnecessary risks or simply because you didn't pay enough attention because you thought you where save when that zombie was lurking just around the corner.
Project Zomboid sports one of the largest maps you will ever come across in any game you'll ever play. Walking from one edge of the world to the other is likely going to take you a day. Not an ingame day, mind you, but an actual day in the real world. Luckily, you can just hijack your neighbors car and go for a lovely drive along the country side. That is if you can find his keys first, get some fuel and keep everything else intact. Also, did I mention that zombies are really attracted to any kind of noise? So no matter where you park your car, you should always expect a full horde of zombies coming for you.
At first sight, you could dismiss Project Zomboid as an indie RPG looking like it was made 20 years ago. Sure, the graphics are outdated and pretty rudimentary, but beneath that lies one of the most complex, most entertaining, and surprisingly most realistic RPGs you'll ever play. By now, I've played more than 100 hours and I still feel like I've only scratched the surface of an awesome game.
The latest upgrade (Build 41) also introduced a stable multiplayer version, bringing the game to a whole new level. There's nothing like operating a zombie apocalypse shelter with some friends. Thanks to the complex character generation system you can really build a diverse group of survivors, each with his own strengths (and flaws). One character could be the cook, another one focuses on fortifying the groups base, while the rest is heading out there to collect everything needed to survive another day.
As I've mentioned above, there's no way to actually win the game. While this might sound odd to some, it's actually what makes the game really interesting. No matter how strong your character(s) grow, no matter how strong your fortifications are and how good your equipment is, it's only a matter of time before you run out of one crucial resource or the other and before you'll have to take risks to acquire what you need. Again, a single bite from a zombie is all it needs to end your game for good. This is going to always keep you on your heels, always aiming to just survive another day.
Project Zomboid certainly isn't for everyone. Its hardcore setting and perma-death feels like a throwback to another time, a time when games were meant to be hard, a time where you had to start over from scratch every time you died. But if you can suffer through a few untimely deaths initially, you will be rewarded with one of the most complex, most interesting, and frankly most satisfying games you are going to play for quite a while.
You can buy Project Zomboid over at steam for as cheap as 16.79€ (~20$) or 49.99€ if you get the 4-pack. While it's a great game to play alone, it's one of the best games ever to play with a group of friends. So get the 4-pack, summon your friends for a long weekend of zombies&beers and just enjoy yourself dying over and over again. Project Zomboid is one of those rare Early Access gems and you are really missing out if you don't give it a shot!
And that's all from me for today, thank you all for reading and see you next time! (God I've missed putting that phrase under a finished article! :D)