Ever wondered how well you’d truly do in the case of a worldwide viral induced zombie outbreak? While many people have often envisioned strategies for where they’d plan to hole up in such an event, and which weapons they might prefer, what they often don’t consider is one of the most important things of all: what are they going to do for food and water? Unless you have somehow sequestered away years worth of food in advance – a feat preferably accomplished before the initial wave of zombie induced panic strikes – at some point or other you’re going to have to begin scavenging for resources, and it’s this idea that is at the very core of Mongadillo Studios’ recently released Survivor Z (out now, $1.99).
The first – and easily most significant – way that Survivor Z majorly differs from the horde of other zombie games currently available on the market is that it’s a text based RPG, rather than an action title. After first completing the game’s lengthy prelude/tutorial – chronicling the protagonist’s run home, avoiding rioters and the military in the process, in order to reach the safety of the bunker he or she has prepared – the real action begins a year later when the story’s hero is finally forced to leave their place of safety in search of more supplies. Along the way they will face down – or evade – the restless dead in various states of decay, as well as dealing with the other survivors whom can sometimes be far more dangerous than an entire throng of zombies.
Survivor Z is – as I mentioned before – a game this is almost purely delivered via the medium of text, although playing the game will generally feel far more like reading a choose your own adventure book than playing a round of Zork. Normally you will be greeted with two textboxes: one which describes the world around you and any thoughts you have at the moment, and the other which describes the situation at hand that you are specifically expected to respond to. Below these two text boxes will be a varying number of buttons – each listing a specific action – that the hero can currently take, extra options may also show up if tools relevant to the present situation are currently on hand.
A player – for example – may find themselves in front of a house that hasn’t yet been broken into as far they can tell, meaning all the potential supplies inside haven’t yet been carried off by other scavengers. A quick look around the place reveals that the back door is of rather flimsy construction and could easily be kicked in, but doing this would definitely cause a lot of attention getting noise. However, should the player happen to have found a hacksaw earlier – and thinks to put it in their hands at this time – they could just as easily cut off the lock far more silently.
Survivor Z is not a game of flat out avoiding situations, since nothing ever ventured always equals nothing gained, rather instead focusing on how intelligently a player delves into each and every potential scavenge scenario. While the above example illustrates how a player may manage to avoid attracting unwanted attention by not making loud sounds, a truly clever person could furthermore take steps to ensure that inevitable zombie encounters happen on the best terms possible. Merely walking straight into a room – for example – could position a player dangerously close to a zombie that has been waiting quietly inside, where as knocking on the door first could instead wake up the zombie such that player outside now knows that the drooling biter is in there.
Whenever combat starts the zombies in the immediate area will begin one of three distances away from the player: a ways off where they can’t reach you yet, but they are still close enough for you to attack them with any weapon you wish; a bit closer where they are able to attack you back as well, and you no longer have enough room to switch to any weapons currently in your backpack; and finally way too close grappling you down to the floor, at which point you no longer can switch out what’s currently in your hand even if you have a pistol conveniently holstered at your side. As you can see it heavily pays off to start a fight with a zombie while you’re still some distance away, rather than learning that the drooler was there by walking smack dab into its happy-fun-time hugging range. It’s especially important to start fights on terms most amicable to yourself since there are no continues available in zombie land, meaning a single mistake gone horribly awry can potentially force a player to start over completely from scratch.
Of course some of this damage can be mitigated if you find and equip various pieces of makeshift armor that you might find laying about, eventually putting together over time your very own authentic post Z-Day getup. My personal defensive load out included a riot helmet, a heavy blanket that I kept wrapped around myself like a poncho, a pair of leather work gloves, and – because sometimes you just need to look good – some sunglasses. Due to somewhat random nature of Survivor Z, your own personal wardrobe could easily end up looking wildly different – in both appearance and effectiveness – than the one I just described above.
Speaking of the random nature of the order in which you might find objects, the places you can search take one of two forms: randomly discovered scenarios, and fixed location scenarios. It is with the fixed locations that one of the most truly unique features of Survivor Z comes into play: this game actually uses your internet connection to determine exactly where you are in the real world. After checking your location you will be able to ransack every place of interest – convenience stores, parks, apartments, schools, malls, gyms, doctors’ offices, restaurants, gas stations, bars, etc. – within a solid quarter mile radius of where you currently are, a distance that will expand if you should find a still functioning car in game.
There is just something hauntingly chilling about being told you are scavenging through actual buildings in your hometown, especially when Survivor Z even gets their actual names correct. Now admittedly this feature is not entirely convenient for those who don’t like to play games everywhere they go – or perhaps can only go online where a WiFi access point is available – but a player only needs to be in the presence of the internet long enough to start the scenario, not needing web access again until after they’ve finished with the current building. As the developers obviously can’t create a unique event for every single building of interest found across the entirety of the world, these fixed location adventures will usually be simpler affairs (although I have heard quite complex things tend to happen at malls).
The more complex and storied scenarios are the places that can be randomly discovered from anywhere the player might happen to be, which also happen to rely far more heavy on the puzzle solving mechanics I mentioned above. While there are currently only so many of these far more plot intensive random scenarios available in Survivor Z, the developers have said that many more of these will be added to the game in future updates. Mongadillo further claims that in the future players will be able to craft and submit their own random scenarios to the game’s main server for other players to test their mettle against.
Speaking of features that the developers plan to add, they have stated that they will eventually make it possible for players within each other’s search radius to have a chance of bumping into each other and interacting (either helpfully or harmfully). But until that day players will already have plenty of other NPC survivors to keep them busy as is, for these other zombie survival specialists could easily become either your best friend or enemy in a heartbeat. Players must be careful that they don’t get raided themselves for supplies, afterwards left zip-tied to a streetlight to serve as zombie bait, yet at the same time a player will also need to be careful that they don’t just carelessly blow away someone who might have potentially become a powerful ally.
Even while killing everyone with no regard might be a great way to quickly amass supplies, a lone survivor is going to find always having to do everything on their own is not exactly an optimum life style (and you’re certainly never going to repopulate the planet that way either). Friendly players – should they have ample reserve food and water already on hand – can recruit the more amiable survivors they encounter, whom will then aid them both in resource gathering and zombie fighting (especially if you pass on extra tools and weapons to them). Of course those who have dreams of building their own post Z-Day super team will need to be sure that they make efforts to keep the gang’s morale high, or they just might find the band splitting back up under the pressure and bickering.
While Survivor Z doesn’t exactly have much in the way of graphics, the game does feature very well written second person narrative that really draws you in to the various life and death scenarios you will encounter as you scavenge about for supplies. This is especially true in the far more story heavy random encounters where players will encounter tales of whimsy, horror, sadness, dread, as well as grim reminders of just how bad some people can become when society’s rules get chucked out the window. The occasional images that are used here and there – particularly for the backpack’s inventory, as well as the combat engine – get the job done, but otherwise aren’t anything terribly special.
The heavy emphasis on scavenging and survival, coupled with the wide variety of ways that situations can be tackled – each with their own unique array of benefits and penalties – brings something very tangible to Survivor Z that most other zombie games simply lack. While the game is mostly devoid of pictures, the well handled second person prose grips the player and pulls them heart and soul into the large variety of scenarios they’ll encounter in the never ending quest for more food and water. Survivor Z’s interesting use of the internet adds a further chilling touch by personalizing your scavenging experiences such that you’re visiting actual places in your own hometown, although for some users its implementation might be seen as something of a hassle. Add even more features on top of all this that are promised to be implemented in the future, such as the upcoming PVP system, and you have a unique survival heavy RPG that should greatly appeal to anyone whom has ever wondered just well they would survive after Z-Day hits.