A well realised early access zombie game? Thing of legends, that is.
Developer : Toge Productions
Publisher: Toge Productions
Release: 14th of april, 2014(early access), 8th of august 2016(full release)
Infectonator: Survivors is the latest installment of the zombie apocalypse series from Toge Productions. Survivors is Toge Productions’ first venture to the Steam marketplace, the other installments being browser based games. Having originally been released in April, 2014 on Steam’s early access program, Toge Productions have been updating and working on Survivors for over two years and it certainly shows. The result is a real time squad based strategy game that, while repetitive and shallow at times, is quite well made.
Anyone familiar with previous installments of the Infectonator series will immediately recognise the art style in Survivors, as well as the retro inspired, chiptune soundtrack, reminiscent of previous installments of the series. Aside from the odd character portrait here and there, visual designs are consistently created using a particular style of pixel art, featuring some very nicely detailed visuals. The artistic style allows Survivors to stand out among other games of the oversaturated genre of zombie games. There’s also a number of references to online culture, mostly in the form of cameo characters. While the novelty of these references quickly wears off, they do take a backseat to the rest of the game.
Breaking from previous Infectonator tradition, where players are in control of the undead hordes to bring about the world’s end, players instead take control of the humans trapped in a city after the apocalypse has occurred. Survivors comes with two game modes: Campaign and Survival. Campaign mode is clearly the focus, having the most fleshed out gameplay that tasks players with escaping a overrun city within fifteen days. Survival on the other hand, is clearly just small section of the campaign converted to an endless, wave based defense.
The majority of Survivors’ gameplay is real time squad based strategy, with some base management to break up the action. Players take control of a squad of up to four members, equipping them with various weapons and gear and guiding them through a randomly generated city. Players don’t actually have that much control of the combat in Survivors as your squad automatically target the undead, attacking them once in weapon range.The only direct attack players can make is to call in a supporting mortar strike, however these are limited and rare.
Survivors doesn’t involve its players to the degree I was expecting. During combat encounters, control of your team is limited to movement, interactions with the environment and NPCs and reloading, although even that can be done automatically. Movement is grid based, with characters traversing tile floors, giving the game a fairly decent pace, assuming your characters aren’t suffering from movement debuffs. Enemy spawning is almost always wave based, with a timer counting down the next wave. The game offers a risk/reward system in the form of summoning the next wave early for a minor currency reward. The currency system in Survivors is interesting, with “@mmo” being consumed to reload, build temporary defense turrets and for buying items from merchants.
Exploration of the city takes place during each night. Moving your squad around is done via a grid based map. There are multiple different types of locations, ranging from simple housing to desolate cemeteries. Each location can hold different types of resources: warehouses can contain building materials for base upgrades, while weapons can be found in abandoned gunshops. Each night, you have until 6am to go out, explore, scavenge and treasure hunt rare parts for the car. Exploration is also limited by characters’ stamina, improvable through base upgrades, though can be pretty limiting at first.
While only having direct of characters’ movement, Survivors still manages to create a fair amount of tension at times. Characters tend to have low health, while the army of undead often lurk in dark corridors, hidden by a fog of war that’s only reveal by short range line of sight. This can be a lethal combination, it takes mere seconds for a character to be overwhelmed, leaving precious little time to revive them before their permanent demise. While this certainly adds a great deal of suspense, it’s heartbreaking to watch an unavoidable chain reaction once one character falls, especially during the early game.
Base management takes place between the exploration/combat segments of Survivors. Here, the goal is to maintain your supplies, upgrade gear and workstations, craft gear and weapons and manage your group’s health and stamina. Survivors can be assigned to various tasks such as farming and crafting. These projects all use your limited daytime, while progress is determined by skill levels and whether or not a your character is tired. Careful management is required in order maximise productivity, necessary as you only have fifteen to explore and escape the city.
Survivors difficulty curve is weird, it definitely started harder, characters had miniscule health pools, bugger all weapons or supplies, and extremely limited exploration capabilities. While the undead threat does gradually increase, after a while, I was so well equipped with weapons and armor, not even the special infected mutants posed much of a threat and the hordes themselves were pushovers.
Supplies weren’t exactly dwindling either, I was drowning in them by the end of my campaign. I don’t know why the game warns you about a finite amount of supplies (and they are called “SUPPLIES”, I’m not trying to be vague) but you have access to an infinite supply, time being the only cost. Throughout over eight hours of playtime, I have only ever once had a resource issue. These balancing issues were the biggest problem I had, making the end game monotonous, there was almost no challenge,
Thats pretty much it for the gameplay in Survivors, the main gameplay loop consisting of managing your base, then sending a team out to scavenge for parts to repair a vehicle and ultimately escape the city. Overall, the gameplay is very shallow, making for a casual experience. This is not a negative point however, as Toge Productions seem quite capable of delivering compelling experiences, defining their brand behind “casual games” (their words, not mine). Their experience definitely shows in Survivors, as i found the gameplay to be quite compelling, even addictive at times despite the late balance issues.
Infectonator: Survivors takes the already successful formula of its browser based predecessors, reverses the roles and ups production value for a welcome release on the steam storefront. While it is arguably a “casual” experience, I definitely had fun with its real time squad focussed strategy and base building, even if its mechanics are considerably shallow. While it lost some steam during the late campaign due to balancing issues, I found the overall experience quite enjoyable. Toge Productions have definitely created another early access success, as well as a compelling zombie game, an impressive feat these days.