Courtesy of The Indie Stone
In the world of zombie games rarely do you see a game as difficult and as good as Project Zomboid. Project Zomboid was first brought to the public eye back in 2011 when it was released as a tech demo by The Indie Stone Studios. The Indie Stone wanted to make the perfect zombie survival game and took inspiration from zombie movies instead of other zombie games. The game itself was part of a large release of games to demonstrate the new distribution platform Desura, which is still used as an official distributor of Project Zomboid. The Indie Stone team released a stable version of the game to STEAM in 2013 to make it more mainstream.
The Indie Stone team is composed of only 4 people. Early in the game’s development everything was going well, they had just shown people that they were making the game and had gained a small following, but in June 2011 someone leaked a version of the game. This forced the team to take the paid version offline and release a free version. Later, two of the developer’s flats were broken into and their computers were stolen. Without these leaks and burglaries, though, the developers would not have given a presentation at a convention named Rezzed with the title “how (not) to make a video game,” which gave them more traction.
Despite their rocky start the team still managed to produce a game worth playing. Project Zomboid is really difficult, there’s no easy learning curve. Take the tutorial as an example: it starts you off like any other game, working you through the basics. Things like “here’s how you eat food” and “here’s how you interact with the world.” This is normal stuff, but after your first zombie encounter, the tutorial tells you “Q” is the antidote button and you should press it to save your life. However, instead of saving you from this zombie infection it spawns hordes of zombies around you and tells you outright, “good luck, this is how you die!”
Project Zomboid takes place in Knox County, Kentucky. There are some real places like Muldraugh and Louisville, but the other places were added to have more starting positions and thus more opportunity and creativity. If you die you could spawn in the town that you died in or head to a new one and eventually wander back towards your old base.
The game has a variety of ways to play and many traits to pick from. You could, for example, be a 60-year-old woman with a mohawk who worked as a lumberjack, smokes a pack a day, and can’t stay organized. There is a nearly infinite amount of characters you can make. One of the more popular and brutal tasks in the game is having every negative character trait available to you, but the skills and perks are only a small layer of the real game. As you explore the world you can find all sorts
of things, from rest stops to police barricades. Each encounter, town, or house, is an experience. You find new ways to sneak your way around and new ways to clear towns and possible base locations. The different ways you can play also add a layer to the game that was not intended. You could pack up your stuff and find a car to drive from town to town, finding loot and shoving it into the back of your car. You could break down every piece of furniture in your starting house and use it to barricade yourself into your home. Or you could run into town, break down the door of the police station’s armory, and run out guns blazing (sure, it’s fun, but it may not get you far). If you don’t want to start the game the same way every time, or you just want a challenge, you could play the scenario starts. Take, for example, the CDDA challenge where you start off blind, sick, soaked and, oh, your house is on fire. This start is the hardest to survive but can be done if you’re lucky. If you’re looking for a challenge but don’t want to die in the first 4 hours of the game there’s the one-day challenge where after an in-game day a zombie horde follows you wherever you go. No matter what you do there will always be a hoard behind you.
This game is one of the more realistic zombie games. The zombies are not training dummies, but they’re not immortal either. It’s the perfect balance of difficulty and enjoyment. The game can be found only on PC due to its complexity, but you can find it on steam here and on GOG here.