It’s been quite some time since I’ve actually played through a real-time strategy game and so my first take on a post-apocalyptic steampunk-themed RTS centered around the idea of surviving against a zombie horde is a mouthful. They Are Billions… which I would have never thought that a console would actually find the need for one is a godsend. Its high-stakes RTS survival mode not only gives you a run for your money but an awful yet enjoyable run for your life when the horde comes to you in massive waves.
From humble beginnings…
For an RTS game to be centered around surviving a zombie horde, there’s a lot, and I do mean a lot of things that could… and would go wrong. For starters, you start off with a town center in the middle of a procedurally generated tile set along with a troop of four rangers and a soldier. Gradually expanding your footprint in the world as you build more tents for your colonists, construct facilities and erect towering walls and walling towers. It’s a dire situation which only gets harsher by the minute as you expand your territory’s reach and scattering your forces as you get closer to the edges.
The early stages of the game is pretty much a race towards landmass expansion. Whether it’s expanding towards the rocky terrain filled with stones and ores or opting to spread humanity’s last bastion in the grassy plains and greener forests and lakes. Each being important aspects to take note of and expanding too much without a second thought can potentially leave you too open for a zombie to squeeze in the gaps and mingle with the colonists. And there’s already a lot of things that needs to be taken care of which only adds in to the struggle of efficiently managing a growing colony. But Numantian Games’ single player focused survival game allows you to pause the game whenever so you can direct orders and layout the ground work for upcoming projects like building farms in the plains while making walls on the other end of the map without any fear of a zombie horde closing in until you want them to.
And to add fuel to the fire, what makes Numantian Games’ They Are Billions on the PS4 really special is the mouse and keyboard support to fully take advantage of the RTS feel without requiring you to flush out a hefty load of cash down the drain. My average Logitech bluetooth M&KB combo that would not cost you over $25 (excluding rechargeable batteries of course) fits well enough for this title which only begs the question why most AAA developers (FPS specifically) doesn’t even bother to add this kind of support for gamers that came in from the PC side of gaming. On the other end of the stick, a Dualshock 4 controller works fine too but it feels more at home to be playing it with the M&KB. However if you’re new to playing an RTS game, it might be a little too much to start right off the bat with the keyboard as the game does not offer a control layout for the keyboard in-game and only the most basic stuffs for a controller that is neatly tucked away in the upper left corner of the screen when starting out.
…to rough awakenings
They Are Billions is a perilous and unforgiving playground. Only giving you nothing but a chockfull of in-game descriptions in its facilities and uses. Its lack of hand holding the moment you start off the survival is a bit too distant but it’s what makes it really fun all the same. You learn them as you go. Restarting from scratch and taking what you’ve learned through past experiences help fuel that intensity to keep pushing through and making a better attempt at survival. While I end up finding myself in the chopping block way too much in the early parts of the game, it ends up giving me more motivation to strive better than scrap the game altogether. It makes me constantly think of strategies and plan my actions way before I do them. Similar to a game of chess, you’d want to pause the game and plan out where to go and how far to go in the meantime. It’s that kind of mindset why I end up coming back after a defeat or restarting just because I want to build a more functional and efficient base than a cluttered mess.
From Bows to Missiles
But as far as the mid-game and later stages of the survival go, increasing the level of technology is pretty much a must to survive the billions of zombies about to come. With yourself walled in from every angle, with towers filled with snipers and soldiers, having more knowledge to build better weaponry, facilities and defenses seems like a daunting task to the already unsurmountable amount of things you need to take care of. Often times I would find myself getting engrossed towards expansion and zombie eradication to expand my borders rather than improving my knowledge and building a true steampunk’d colony ready to blast some zombies to kingdom come. It goes without saying that there’s a hidden beauty to learning them as you fail and fail I shall!
But there’s not a lot of them though. From your average tents comes bigger and better housing, your farms being industrialized, your troops well… are still troops but with better weaponry like a rocket-throwing badass to a flamethrower-wielding fat ass. To the upgraded stone walls and to the immobile attack towers shooting thousands of bullets per second or electrocuting them as they come. It becomes a repetitious task to make them all in every corner with little variation on what to place and why you should.
As an RTS game for the PS4, there’s not a lot of competition here especially with the mouthful of descriptions it’s attached to. However make no second guesses that this is no push over of a game nor is it something that deserves a cold shoulder. In all honesty, this is a game I could highly recommend for anyone whether you’re interested in an RTS game or just simply a fan of zombie survival. Despite the lack of hand holding which can easily be remedied by a few hours of playing, it’s easy to grasp the general idea on how things work here and it’s a title that is well-deserved to be noticed.
It does have its fallouts with a very lengthy playthrough making the full experience of one run leave you with a day or two of a night’s worth of gaming and its lack of manual saving and loading which proves disastrous when an interval auto-save is the only thing aside from a “save and exit” to protect your progress from a game crash. However it does not by any means ruin much of the experience to an already fun and satisfying game.