It often feels like that one out of every 10 game being released each day has something to do with zombies. It’s basically a tried and tired trope in entertainment medium, but one that is often crowdpulling. Yet zombie strategy games are few and far between. They are Billions belong to to those handful of zombie themed strategy games floating amidst a sea of generic zombie shooters.
They are Billions is a apocalyptic real time strategy game developed and published by Numantian Games. it is available in Steam’s Early Access program since December 2017.
Story & Narrative
They are Billions is a steampunk zombie survival/real time strategy game where you have to survive against the clock, and the ever looming threat of the unded. As of now, the world is randomly generated and lacks a proper campaign. At the time of writing this preview, the Early Access game only contains the Survival Mode.
Gameplay & Mechanics
At present the game has only one mode, where your objective is to survive for a number of days depending on your difficulty (80 days being hardest & 150 days being the easiest). The gameplay is a lot reminiscent to Age of Empires II, with same art style and 2D characters, but with green-grey-yellowish color palette. But unlike other RTS where manage max 4 to 5 resources, here you have to manage 8 resources (gold, food, workers, wood, stone, iron, oil, and energy). Since it has no story campaign at the moment, what does make this game so exciting? You guessed it, zombies hordes! And oh boy if you are not careful with base defense and micro management, they will wipe your hours of hard work in a under a minute just like they did to mine.
At start, you are given a town hall and handful of scouts, from there you work forward and start building your colony. Since there is a lack of modes, what made this game replayable is the randomly generated maps . Since it is only focused on single player you can pause the game and build according to your plan and command your troops to proper position, and its a welcome feature. Once the game progress and you research and equip techs walls, shock towers , ballista and guard towers, you can have a sigh of relief, but for not long since with the passage of time, the zombie hordes increases in size, and that is where you are tested. There are five types of zombies with varying stats, ranging between slow, decrepit ones, extremely fast zombies called “Harpies”, highly-resistant ones known as “Butchers” and bile spitting zombies.
Once the last ten days arrive, the game starts to live up to it name, and if you are not prepared they will squash you like a bug. They are not billions, but they are at least in the tens of thousands. Once you complete one map then other maps unlock, where the terrain varies from desert, snowy region among others. It’s a game that doesn’t hold your hand and keeps you active in managing your base and defenses all the time. The perma-save system keeps you from save-scumming and cheating your way through. They are Billions is punishing, but its also satisfying.
Visuals, Performance and Sound
As said earlier, the graphics smells of 1999 -2002 era of isometric 2D art style and its well appreciated. The steampunk atmosphere is very immersive and each buildings and assets are well detailed, so that you can easily distinguish one from the next. I played on an Intel i7 4790k and Gtx 980ti and the game ran well on ultra with 100+ fps, but during the last big zombie wave, even my rig was struggling and had to tone down graphics to play smoothly.
Sound and music is just what you expect from real time strategy games, same dialogues over and over when you select units. The music compliment the tone and style of the game. Its basically your standard stuff.
The lack of content and some minor issues here and there dags the game down a bit. Since it is early access a lot if features are work in progress. I surely hope they add campaign in the future. The game as of now, has a solid core and that could very well work in the devs’ favor if they expand upon it. If you are an RTS fan and want to test your skill, then definitely check this game out.