Project Zomboid is a fine game that seems a bit scared to officially jump out of early access.
gameplay 44 / story / graphics 60 / sound 91
Before we begin let me just prompt this review by saying I’ll be treating Project Zomboid as a full release game, due to the fact it has been in early access for over 5 years now. So keep that in mind with my review, please.
Project Zomboid is an ‘open world’ zombie survival game with a heavy emphasis on survival. It was developed and published by The Indie Stone who have nothing else under their belts as far as I can tell. In Project Zomboid you play as a random mook of your own creation, either at the start or late into the zombie apocalypse. And that’s about it for lore if you’re not actively looking for it, you’ll mostly find it within radio broadcasts and be left to piece together what you want on your own from there on.
The key thing to PZ is to just survive. Zombies are everywhere and, as usual with the overused trope, if they hear one sound every last one of them in the area will come over to tear you apart like an overly enthusiastic group working for the homeowners association. You really are the only one left in the world, essentially. Though you might occasionally hear the distant sounds of gunfire and helicopters/planes (which are lore related I’m certain.) If you go out to investigate these noises you’ll find nothing. But these noises attract zombies like there are actually people out where you thought the noises came from.
That sort of is the big issue with Project Zomboid as a whole, there’s just a lot of nothing, the start of every new run is opened with ‘this is how you died’ as well which becomes more awkward the longer you survive. There even were survivor NPCs you could run into and interact with at one point, but were removed due to complications. You’ll be playing variants of the level Knox County for the most part unless you select a challenge map, depending on how you start the game either midway into the apocalypse or just starting off will affect a lot of things. Whether or not the power will be on, if the water is going to still be running, stuff is more likely pilfered than anything.
Honestly, if I had to describe PZ it’s more like an RPG zombie survival game to me rather than an open world one. You have a leveling system where you read books to improve but it takes actual time, so usually you want to do this while in the safety of a home and not resting. Though of course, some skills are going to be what you go for by default anyhow. There are tons of zombies, as I said, there’s a thrill behind sneaking into houses and being terrified of an undead monster lurching out from the corners to take a bite out of you, and the relief of realizing the place is clear and you can sleep easily tonight.
That’s about it though, you can literally loot every body you kill, but fighting zombies is a detriment. You’re better off finding a car, honking the horn like a father trying to passive-aggressively get his daughter to get inside the vehicle before leading the zombies away. Yes, some zombies are faster than others but these are the real zombies where the disease doesn’t make 90% of them far better than they were when alive.
Once you start leading them away that’s kind of it, you keep repeating this process especially because you won’t survive without finding a place to bunker down to build a farm within. You wind up making your own challenges the more you play due to how easy it is, with starting 6 months in barely affecting that difficulty. I appreciate the realism to things when hiding from the undead, having to make sure all doors are locked in the house as well as checking all the curtains are closed before laying down to rest or beginning to read a book and going AFK. Like I said it gets numb fast though and becomes a begrudging chore after a while.
The game is fine don’t get me wrong, but that’s just it, it’s simply ‘fine’ and nothing more… Until the workshop came around. Yes this ‘early access’ game sort of blew up when the workshop came out, new maps rolled out by fans. The mega mall and Silent Hill being my favorites due to reminding me of Dead rising and, well, Silent Hill respectively. The rest of the mods, aside from maps, are what you would expect. New cars, new weapons and reduced difficulty for some things. There are also fixes for things that made no sense to begin with, like hydrocrafting, which now make far more sense.
That being said the game can be played in multiplayer as well, but if you thought things got too easy with having one person baiting zombie armies away with a car, imagine having one doing that while a second person able to loot the area you’re baiting the undead away from to take away that slight worry of the horde coming back for you away.
To sum it up, Project Zomboid is a fine game that seems a bit scared to jump into officially declaring itself to be out of early access yet. It has a great atmosphere and feels nice on that first experience but burns out fast afterward, especially when you start to think outside the box with some aspects. If you have to choose between PZ or Days Gone, the better choice is PZ, but expect it to be a time sync in some regards and try to think up personal challenges for later on. I only have about 200 hours on it from playing on and off for the last few years. If you want a zombie game that’s a bit more high paced, go for World War Z.
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