Saturday, April 16, 2016

Zombasite Early Access Impressions!




                Zombasite is the first game produced by Soldak that I've had the chance of playing out of the four ARPGs they have put out thus far: Depths of Peril (2007), Din's Curse (2010), Drox Operative (2012) and obviously, Zombasite (silly name), which has been released in an Early Access format. Soldak Entertainment is a small company with only two (very busy) employees that has been adding a nice twist to the classical ARPG formula throughout all of their titles: the game worlds come with a promise of dynamism and reactivity towards the player's actions.

                In Zombasite, you play as the leader of a clan trying to claw its way to survival through a zombie apocalypse. From the start, I was impressed with the number of different classes that are available, from the classic Warrior to the dark Demon Hunter and the deadly Death Knight. Each of these classes has three unique skill trees that shape their fighting playstyle, but you can also roll a Hybrid character and choose a combination of any two skill trees, so the possibilities are quite ample. The game's combat is hack&slashy and I found it to be similar to Diablo or Path of Exile. Thus, I choose not go into details about it but rather focus on what sets Zombasite aside from the other ARPGs out there. It suffices to say that are plenty of combinations of classes, skill trees and items that you can experiment with.
                The main draw of the game is its dynamic and evolving world: with every character you create comes a differently generated world with new areas, quests, monsters and items. The clan you lead is not the only one trying to survive, as there are other clans with which you can interact by forming alliances, trading or simply going to war with them. Once you find another clan, they appear on the Relations screen, from where you can see the relations between all the clans you have discovered so far. These other clans can also become allies or fight amongst themselves, making the world feel real and alive. Solving quests for another clan, trading with it or slaying a monster close to their lands will improve your relationship with it, whereas solving a quest for one of their enemies or refusing their demands will hurt your relationship. Knowing whom to ally yourself with and whom to fight is key in order to survive the zombie threat.


                There are multiple ways of winning the game, such as destroying all of the remaining clans or forming a coalition with them, but also by gaining a huge surplus of food or solving all of the quests in the world.  While doing that, you have to take care of your own followers by making sure that they have enough food or that they're content with their situation. You can take any clan member into combat with you, but you can also send them hunting for food or foraging for herbs that are necessary for potions. Relationships between followers exist, and some may even fight amongst themselves or banish a commonly despised member of the clan. As leader of these people, you have to keep all these aspects in mind, as losing all of your followers means certain defeat.
                Zombasite's neat twist that makes the game feel so alive is that while you are out in the wilderness questing and slaying, the other clans are doing the same thing. You may find that the fearsome monster you've set out to kill has already been taken care of by another clan or that the NPC you've been trying to recruit can no longer be found, as quests have different priorities and you had ignored the quest text which warned that these were time sensitive issues. When you add to this the previously mentioned clan relations and follower systems, Zombasite's world becomes a complex and challenging place which is certain to provide plenty of hours of enjoyment to the player.


                As Zombasite is currently in Early Access, the player's choice to support its developer by buying the game should be an informed decision, as there is a tendency for some EA games to get stuck in development hell. The two guys at Soldak have been pushing out quite substantial updates at a good pace and their previous experience of developing games (as proven by their previously released titles which enjoyed a good reception) can only be interpreted as promising signs towards the future of Zombasite. However, there were a few things that bothered me during my time with the game. I was not impressed at all with its presentation, as the game looks very outdated and yet doesn't perform too well even on a GTX 970. Also, the music felt quite bland, and this is quite a hit to the atmosphere of the world. Now, these matters are probably easy to overlook when you consider that Zombasite comes with some unique and fresh features, but also that there are only two guys working on it. Nonetheless, it is a shame that developing the game with one of the more powerful engines such as Unity or UE4 was not possible. I would have also liked to see more attention and polish being given to the interface to make it more appealing, but I believe that this and the optimization in terms of performance can be worked out before the game fully comes out , as the developers have launched it in Early Access to receive feedback just like this.


                Overall, the value and fun per price ratio is enticing, with the game only costing £12, yet offering plenty of hours of fun through its randomly generated maps, multiple character customization options, different playstyle possibilities offered by the Clan Relation system and even a multiplayer co-op mode. With all of these in mind, production value aside, it's hard not to recommend Zombasite.


(This article is based on a press copy of the game provided by the developer.)




Wolfe

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