They Are Billions (Early Access) Review – Not Just Another Zombie Game

They Are Billions
Numantian Games

When I’d first caught drift of indie developer, Numantian Games’ They Are Billions, I was sort of just “meh.” Although it aspired to be a sort of combination of Starcraft and World War Z, the whole zombie craze has pretty much already worn out its welcome. Really now—how many times can you keep going back to the undead well? I mean, it must be pretty dusty and stale at the bottom of it, like a room full of old zombie farts.

But I have to admit that I was a little intrigued. The premise of a real-time strategy set-up, where you carefully manage the last survivors on earth, ala Age of Empires with full resource collecting, and build up defenses to fend off wave after wave of voracious zombies, sounded kind of interesting. RTS games of late have been more and more fast paced, where resource gathering is either minimized and behind the scenes, or done away with altogether. I loved the older RTS games of yore where you could actually see your little workers toiling away at resources—whether they be wood, stone, or whatever else needed to be collected.

Granted, I eventually found out that your surviving colonists gather resources automatically after you set up their prerequisite building. You can’t grab however many workers you want and assign them as you used to be able to in more classic RTS games. But this actually frees your fingers up for more important tasks, and quickly find out that there are billions of them (couldn’t resist).

When I finally got my very own copy of They Are Billions, I installed it and immediately gave it a spin. The game’s sole mode for now is Survival, where you must fend off increasingly larger are meaner waves of zombies who are drawn to your tasty little survivors, and their make-shift colony.

So off I went, scouting the areas around my Command Center, your starting building and the one that must be kept safe at all costs (as I quickly found out). You’re given four Rangers, which are quick but fragile scouting units with bows, and a single Soldier unit who is equipped with a shotgun. Since you have to construct tents in order to increase your population of workers, I promptly plopped a few down and continued scouting.

I’d just tasked my newly manifested workers with building a hunting lodge, when I suddenly received an alert that my colony was under attack. Under attack? I’d just started my game two minutes ago! Sure enough, I scrolled over and looked on in horror as a passel of zombies attacked one of my tents. This resulted in them corrupting it, which created more zombies. That throng in turn attacked another tent, creating yet more shamblers. I’m sure you can figure out where that went.

My second game lasted about a minute longer. At least I managed to get up my first food production building before falling to the flesh-eaters. The next six or seven games resulted in me lasting about two to three minutes longer than each preceding one. I think I’m on about my fifteenth game of They Are Billions now, and I’ve made it to around the thirty minute mark.

Now you might be thinking, “wow, this guy seems frustrated!” Well, surprisingly not really. They Are Billions can be disappointing because each time you fail, you have to watch your poor colonists getting munched on by the dingy dead. But you always learn something from each defeat. Each game is also features a procedurally-generated map, which drastically increases the game’s replay value. They Are Billions may seem simple on paper, but the way in which each game plays out is anything but, because of all of the game’s inherent variables.

At one point a colleague of mine jumped into a game. He was seemingly on a mission to embarrass me. Not only is he just plain better at micro-managing in RTS games, he also figured out a big open secret: The space bar. Tapping the space bar pauses the game and lets you strategize your next move while you give your little fingers a break. So far, he’s made it quite far into the game using the space bar. And yes, he has indeed succeeded in making me feel inept.

Your primary resources in They Are Billions are Colonists, Workers, Food Production, Gold, and Electricity. You can also gather other resources which are scattered around the map, such as Wood, Stone, Iron, and Oil. You can expand your territory via electrical grid by building Tesla Towers, wherever you see fit.

Each game sees you balancing how fast you can develop your military forces, with how efficiently you can build and develop your colony. Boost up your military too fast, and your colony will run out of food and other resources. Conversely, if you rapidly expand your colony with not enough military personnel to defend it, you’re bound to get invaded and overrun by the stinky, uncouth ones.

They Are Billions is a brilliant concept which thankfully, is also well-executed. Even though it only recently entered Beta, it almost feels like a finished game. It plays smoothly, has beautiful graphics, and has an addictive tower defense-like appeal that will keep people coming back for more. Personally, I can’t wait to see what its devs have in store for it in the future.

SCORE: 88%

They Are Billions features outstanding graphics that make its post-apocalyptic gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:

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