ZombiU is too good a game to languish on the WiiU. That’s the thinking behind Ubisoft re-releasing it for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC on August 18th (or “reanimating” it, as they put it in the press release). They’re partly right. But the part they’re right about is the part that only works on the WiiU.
As a zombie survival game, Zombi (awkward…) should be on par with any middling zombie survival game. A little less than a Dead Island, and little more than the half-baked Dead Rising 3, with a touch of Demon Souls for how you play through the risk/reward of your inevitable deaths. Fair enough.
But the real value of ZombiU is as a multiplayer game, in which two players in the same living room go head-to-head. The main action takes place on the TV screen, with one player trying to stay alive long enough to kill a certain number of zombies. Or, better yet, the mode in which one player tries to capture a certain number of flags. This latter mode introduces all sorts of cool strategy about running the map, collecting upgrades, retreating, rearming, dealing with specific kinds of zombies. The other player uses the WiiU’s gamepad for an overhead view, dropping zombies on the map, researching upgrades, and being the zombie god in a head-to-head real-time strategy game. There’s nothing quite like ZombiU’s multiplayer in terms of two people in the same living room having a grand old time with the undead. You and your friends can squander entire evenings this way.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to recreate this on the single-screen PS4, Xbox One, or PC. The main appeal of ZombiU is unique to the WiiU. Fortunately, you can get ZombiU here for $13. The WiiU will cost you another $300.
City of Horror isn’t really much of a game. The rules are surprisingly simple for a board with so many pieces, most of them being zombies on little plastic stands. It only lasts four turns, which means you will only ever make four moves. The modular board doesn’t seem to have any sense of balance or tuning. “Eh, just use whichever side you want,” it says about each tile, as if it knows the board itself is one of the least interesting things going on here, despite being gussied up with zombie apocalypse artwork. Useful artwork, by the way. The discard pile is an overturned garbage truck. The pile of antidote tokens goes on an ambulance. The zombie markers pile up behind a barricade until you put them into play.
But none of this is as important as the people sitting around the table. How you play the board doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you play these people.
After the jump, you don’t see them screwing each other over for a victory point.Continue reading →
“Did Napoleon Dynamite do the artwork for this game?” my friend asked as I was explaining Rise of the Zombies, a tabletop co-op zombie survival game. The developer, Dan Verssen, is known mostly for a dogfighting card game called Down in Flames and a solitaire game about air strikes in Vietnam called Phantom Leader. I’m currently addicted to Phantom Leader. There are other versions of Phantom Leader involving Hornets, Warthogs, and U-boats. You can even play it on the iPad. Don’t get me started or we’ll be here all day. Verssen isn’t known for lavish production values. I didn’t even need to use the word “lavish” in that last sentence.
“I think this is supposed to be a liger,” my friend mused, studying one of the zombie cards.
He has a point. Rise of the Zombies, a card game with a tiny smattering of chits, doesn’t have much, uh, visual punch. I hate to ding the artwork for such an obviously modest project, but there’s no style to these sketches. There’s no color. Literally, and figuratively. And who picked this wretched font? As near I can tell, the zombie herd is actually a zombie hero.
As a design, Rise of the Zombies doesn’t seem very well thought out. The interface, as it were, is a sometimes incoherent sprawl with little thought for how to relate the cards to each other. The manual recommends that if players want to fight each other, they should make it dramatic. Like a movie. Which is one of the dopiest things I’ve ever read in a rule book, which should instead contain rules. But what Rise of the Zombies does right is the stuff that really counts.
After the jump, no one gets left behind except the guy who made the Napoleon Dynamite crack.Continue reading →
Unlike many open-world games, State of Decay ends decisively. You can always go back to your saved game just before the last mission. But once you do that mission, you leave Trumbull Valley for good. The credits roll. There’s no going back and doing fun activities. State of Decay is over.
Fortunately, developer Undead Labs is working on an open-ended sandbox mode. How will it work, given that Trumbull Valley is seeded with a limited amount of resources when you start playing? Community manager Sanya Weathers passes along some details from an online chat with Undead Labs founder Jeff Strain.
Jeff said, “The goal of sandbox is to provide an unbounded experience, one with no victory condition that ends the game. The way we do that is to continue to have a world with finite resources, but find out ‘how long can I stay alive.'”
Without going into too much detail (although details are coming within a week), you start in the world, build your community, clean the valley out – and when it runs dry, you can leave with some portion of your community and go to “the next valley.” The next valley is the same map, repopulated with resources…but harder. More zombies. More difficulty. Just…more.
How many Trumbull Valleys can you survive? Find out later this year, since Undead Labs has promised the sandbox mode will be out this year.
Tom Chick talks with State of Decay designer Richard Foge about the past, present, and future of Undead Labs’ brilliant zombie apocalypse game. We discuss the combat, the scavenging, the stealth, the character builds, the economy, the storytelling, the march of offline time, and more. And what’s the deal with co-op plans? What are the challenges Undead Labs faces with the upcoming sandbox mode? And in the event of a world culture reboot, find out which three movies Foge would pick to preserve zombie mythology for future generations.
If you’re like me and you’ve been waiting for the patches for State of Decay to finally come through Microsoft’s certification process, you’re now cleared for some zombie apocalypse this weekend. The latest update adds a whole mess of fixes and revisions, including the ones from the first patch fumbled in a previous update that also went through Microsoft’s certification process.
Of course, if you haven’t been playing while you waited, you might have trouble in store. The simulation in State of Decay runs in real time, whether you’re playing or not. Your characters will go on missions, eat your food, expend your ammo, and sometimes come to dire straits. When I started the game today after applying the update, nearly half of my survivors had gone missing. So far, I’ve found one of them. Marcus, my most powerful character, is still AWOL and I don’t see a mission yet to recover him.
I adore this game, but I am absolutely mystified about a design decision that punishes players for not playing. That should be the exclusive domain of subscription-based MMOs.
As a deck building game, Shelter is pretty simple. Before an encounter, you take your pick of any twenty cards from your collection. You also get to pick a survivor to accompany you, which adds a few extra cards to your deck. The riot cop gives you some nifty stunning equipment to buy you free turns, but are you sure you can do without the soldier’s bad-ass L22-A2 carbine? As for the girl with the construction equipment, she spends a lot of time on the sidelines. Sorry, miss.
At the beginning of every turn, draw your hand up to five cards. Spend your action points putting cards on the table or using the ones you’ve already played, which is usually a matter of firing your gun cards at zombies. The hunting rifle pierces armor, but the Baretta gets off more shots. Do you use your hollow point rounds yet? Which gun gets the reload card? At the end of your turn, you can put a single card at the bottom of the deck if you want to get rid of something you can’t use yet or if you just want to cycle your deck faster. Simple.
Then the zombie player gets to play his deck. He’s not really a player, though. The zombie side of the table is a face-up dummy hand drawn from this encounter’s zombie deck. The zombies on the table follow simple rules — basically they crowd forward and attack — and then new cards are played from the zombie hand by rolling dice. Shelter is a solitaire game that uses cards, dice, and a simple deck-building concept to present zombie sieges.
Man, Australians get no fun. Yesterday, we reported that Saints Row IV had been refused by the Australian Classification Board. Today, word comes from developer Undead Labs that its open-world zombie survival game has also been given the dreaded “Refused Classification” judgment effectively banning it for sale in the territory.
We’ve run afoul of certain prohibitions regarding the depiction of drug use. We’re working with Microsoft to come up with options, including changing names of certain medications in the game to comply with ratings requirements. Whatever our path forward, it’s going to take a bit.
I know this is frustrating – believe me, we’re frustrated too – but each country has the right to set its own rules about content, and it’s our responsibility to comply with them. Rest assured we’ll do everything we can to find a way to get the game into your hands. Stay tuned.
Polygon was able to confirm via Board documents that self-medication seems to have been the objectionable content that resulted in the refused rating.
I love the sound of this muscle car’s engine, especially as I slow down to cruise by a farmhouse I spotted from the main road. Should I go in? Are there survivors in there? Is it safe to look for salvage? My stamina is low, so I could use some food. And we’re in dire need of food back at the base. Three of us are weak from hunger. However, my machete broke when I foolishly tried to clear out an infestation at the gas station back there, and I only have four rounds for the shotgun. Do I head home and hope someone else found some food? Or do I make the one last stop?
State of Decay developer Undead Labs has some good news and some bad news. I know you like your dessert first, so there’s this tidbit in today’s blog update announcing that they’ve passed a half million copies downloaded.
We’re working on a pure sandbox mode for State of Decay, in large part because you asked for it.
State of Decay is already an open-world game with scads of freedom, but it’s got particular story beats that might get old after, say, a second play-through. But it’s also got more than enough gameplay to sustain a completely wide-open unscripted sandbox experience, and I’m delighted Undead Labs will see it through. I just hope we can name our own characters, because I already have my share of baggage with the existing characters.
Now I’m going to give you the damn veggies. It looks like the first patch will download but it won’t install. There’s some confusion about how and even whether this actually happened. But if you were like me and holding off for that handful of fixes before continuing your game, you might want to hold off a little longer. Which will get you that much closer to the sandbox mode.
My favorite part of Microsoft’s Xbox 1 presentation was game studio VP Phil Spencer coming out in a State of Decay T-shirt. He must be pretty happy about the sales of Undead Labs’ open-world zombie game (it’s second only to Minecraft for the numbers of copies sold in two days). And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer game. State of Decay is a fascinating contrast to Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, which has considerably greater production values, meticulously engineered and calculatingly effective emotional beats, and the same vivid characterization that made Uncharted so successful. But for all the raw manipulative power of The Last of Us, I can’t stop thinking about State of Decay while I play. Undead Labs knows well something too many larger studios forget as they chase their larger ideas: good game design will lead to good storytelling, but good storytelling in no way guarantees good game design.
Unfortunately, Spencer’s tastefully informal blazer covered the edges of the game’s name. Puzzled viewers must have wondered what Ate of Dec was. Furthermore, Spencer faithlessly changed into another T-shirt later in the presentation, shilling for something called Apy while showing off the new game from Superbrothers’ developer Capybara Games.
State of Decay, a supposedly open-world zombie survival sandbox, doesn’t seem very sandboxy at first. Two buddies are coming back from a camping trip only to discover the zombie apocalypse happened while they were out of range of cell phone service. Don’t you hate it when that happens? So they throw in with a handful of survivors at the ranger’s station to play a sort of third-person sneaker with some headshotting, meleeing, resource management, and even driving. Some scripted stuff happens. So far, all this could have happened in Dead Island: Rip Tide.
But I hadn’t met Ondrej yet.
After the jump, things that absolutely couldn’t happen in Dead Island: Rip TideContinue reading →
Although I’m a sucker for the “just add zombies” approach to game design, I’m not sold on its viability for boardgaming. I know there are some co-op zombie games. But I’m over co-op boardgaming that doesn’t have some sort of traitor gimmick. There are probably even games that stick some poor sod with the role of zombiemaster. But I was convinced zombies aren’t a good subject for boardgaming.
And then I played Dawn of the Zeds and realized I was dead wrong. Victory Point Games has done a dead-on job of expressing zombie mythology, and they’ve furthermore done it in a solitaire game, so I don’t even have to press my friends into service.
After the jump, when there’s no more room in hell, the dead shall walk the tabletopContinue reading →
To run in Red Dead Redemption, you can hold down the X button. It’s more like a determined trot. But to really run, you have to mash the X button repeatedly. Which is a distinctly Rockstar idiosyncrasy. I’m pretty sure that’s how it worked in Grand Theft Auto IV and L.A. Noire. Probably even Rockstar Table Tennis.
But other games don’t make you mash the run button. They know that’s a pain in the butt. They let you just hold down the button to go as fast as you’re going to go. Many games these days don’t even make you hold down the run button. Just tap it and you’ll keep running until you stop, freeing up your run finger/thumb to do things like reload, change weapons, slide, and bunny hop. I’m not convinced they’re doing it right.
Warm Bodies does for zombies what Twilight did for werewolves and vampires. Unfortunately, we’re not tween girls. To avoid Warm Bodies spoilers, fast forward to the 48-minute mark, at which point our 3×3 shines a light on flashlights in movies.