Hit Start- “Project Zomboid” is the game zombie enthusiasts have yearned for


The search for an authentic zombie survival experience is over.

“Project Zomboid” is an isometric zombie survival game released in November 2013 and in the last nine years, the game has received constant updates by its dedicated development team. In the last year, the game has become a sensation, with it quickly becoming one of the most played games on Steam– Valve’s gaming distribution service– with over 20,000 players in August.

The game starts with an ominous message to all starting players: “This is How You Died”. Upon reading this message, I was a bit nervous to start playing. This is a survival game, isn’t survival the point? But upon entering for the first time, I was surrounded and eaten alive in mere minutes. This game isn’t a survival game in the traditional sense. While survival is possible with enough luck and skill, everyone’s luck runs out.

Death in this game is not an obstacle, it’s an inevitability. It can be from a swarm of zombies, a single scratch or laceration, a bite, or from ramming your car into a tree at 30 miles per hour because you aren’t used to the isometric controls yet. No matter what, your character will die and that constant threat hanging over your head can make for a thrilling experience.

Furthermore, when you die, that character is not only dead, but will roam the map as one of the undead horde. Should you choose, you can create a new character, find your old one, and start again with all their supplies. Other games have used this sort of mechanic, but the difference here is that each character is entirely customizable.

As mentioned above, the gameplay is isometric, which allows for a full 360-degree view of your environment. To cap this, the games’ shadows prevent you from seeing potential threats hiding behind the corner. Your vision in-game acts as your vision in real life, with a certain field in front of you that has perfect lighting and all zombies are visible while to your sides and mostly behind you, the area is darker and zombies are invisible until they are mere centimeters away. As a result, although you can technically see everything, you will still need to watch your back at all times.

Survival is more than killing zombies. Thanks to the game’s nutrition system, you will need to watch what you eat to maintain your full capabilities. Hunger isn’t just a bar here, going above or below the average in-game weight will result in your character becoming weaker. Along with hunger and awareness, sleep, supply scavenging, and even farming are all player priorities in the long-term. Once the initial panic has subsided, you are left with a large map of Knox County, Kentucky to explore and try to survive in. Time management quickly becomes a priority as all of the aforementioned issues begin to grow larger as time goes on.

Zombies are also not your only threat, thanks to the game’s own dubbed “Sadistic AI”, which results in random sound prompts such as screams, gunfire, and animal calls attracting all nearby undead towards the sound and in turn, towards you. But those pale in comparison to the Helicopter Event. During the first few days as you are still setting up your base or being chased by hordes of zombies, a helicopter will begin to fly over you, but not to retrieve you or save you, but rather to simply hover over you, attracting every single zombie in a large radius towards you. This event can be devastating unless you take the proper precautions such as fleeing your base or hunkering down in a safe building and hoping the helicopter doesn’t see you.

The level of customization is near-limitless. Want to change the zombies’ speed? Maybe have some time pass in the world before you spawn in? How about various challenge modes to make things interesting? Is the zombie population too high or too low for you? All of these and more are changeable in the game’s customizable Sandbox settings. Character customization is almost the same, with endless careers that offer different skills and advantages, various positive and negative perks to either make tasks easier, give small boosts to certain abilities, or offer certain traits ahead of time. Just be aware that you will also need to take on some negative traits that do the opposite to varying degrees in order to balance your character’s perk points out and play the game.

Aside from the game’s vanilla settings, the modding community on Steam’s workshop is ever-expansive with all kinds of additional fan-made content which run beautifully thanks to “Zomboid’s” integrated mod menu. From other NPC’s to vehicles to new locations and weapons to slice-of-life content, there will never be a lack of new content for fans. However, if you choose to use mods, do so with caution. While the game is almost always mod-friendly, every game has a breaking point. I suggest creating backup saves just in case. File corruption has happened more than I would like to admit, but that comes with the risk of mods.

At the time of writing this review, I have put over 350 hours into “Project Zomboid”, and can proudly say that throughout that time, the game has only become more endearing for me. The case is clear for other players, as well with a large community having formed in the recent months behind the game. The future of the game only looks bright, with the development team at Indie Stone working on reintegrating official NPC’s, animals/hunting, and a reworking of the game’s gunplay all within the near future. So if you are a zombie fanatic or curious about the game, then I can’t recommend it enough. The game is only $19.99 on Steam and I can gladly say it’s the best $20 I’ve ever spent.

However, with every game, it’s not perfect, although in my opinion it’s close. The isometric controls can feel janky at first and that learning curve can damage immediate opinions. Furthermore, the game’s multiplayer is somewhat laggy and otherwise buggy with cars sometimes flying into the sky.

“Project Zomboid” has come a long way in its near-decade of playability and the team at Indie Stone show no signs of pulling back and thanks to the new player-base, the game seems to be in it for the long haul.

While many zombie games are simply about shooting zombies, “Zomboid” is about survival, with the inevitability and threat of death always looming overhead. These are the end times and this is how you died.

Final rating: 9/10.

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