They are Billions is all about survival. It's an RTS (real-time strategy) game that lets you build your community and live off the land… until a horde of undead attacks your (hopefully) well-equipped society and you must then fend off the swarm, as the flesh-eaters are capable of wiping out what you've built in just seconds. I played the PS4 version of They are Billions and loved what the folks at Numantian Games created, but feel the console version is not the best way to properly appreciate this zombie apocalypse.
The meat of the game revolves around Survival Mode, where players create their campaign based around certain parameters, such as the frequency of zombie horde attacks, or how many days a player must survive to win the game. You'll start with a Command Center, 4 archers, and a soldier. From there, you'll build your community, clear zombie stragglers, and expand while building appropriate defenses once the waves of zombies come knocking at your door.
Blink and all is lost
It can be difficult to manage it all, as a single crack in your defense will be enough to spread the disease within your community. Playing They are Billions is like having your colony be in the midst of the now-typical zombie movie we've all seen before. In one hour-long game, everything was going great, but because of one small passageway through the forest that was not sealed off properly, my thriving city became overrun. A single zombie slipped through and destroyed a radio tower; that tower spawned 4 more zombies after its destruction, then those new zombies took out a farm, creating even more walkers, and so on.
The domino effect was in full swing, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. It was depressing, but fantastic at the same time. That gripping fear of being overrun never leaves your mind, as the pressure of the horde is the true villain you need to fend off as long as you can. The zombie hordes come in waves and get stronger the longer your colony lasts. You are given a warning that an attack is imminent and from which direction. The music ramps up during this point, and I always get anxious whenever it happens, as I find myself shifting all my resources to prevent the inevitable. Later in the game, mindless zombies will be accompanied by different types of undead to match the available upgrades, requiring you to not slack off in improving your colony. It's a race against time, and through both failure and success, I never lost the urge to keep on playing.
Create humanity’s haven your way
I've experienced a variety of ways to make a defense against the undead. I've successfully built a colony protected by an army, and have succeeded in defending a colony with just stationary defenses. I've also tried to funnel the zombie attacks by treating They are Billions as a tower defense game.
The game makes you think ahead on how to properly plan your colony. A copy of the same building cannot be built beside another, and some structures benefit more if built near certain other ones. For instance, a bank will provide more help if built near houses. There's room for play, and enough obstacles to keep you thinking each time you start a new game. The fun really lies in how you build your colony, and reacting on the fly.
The PS4 port of They are Billions features mouse and keyboard support, which is the ideal way to play the game, since the controller layout is too difficult to recommend at the moment, especially when you have to micromanage a large colony in the later stages of a game. It's possible, but the learning curve to take on the most difficult scenarios in They are Billions can be too steep for some. Playing this RTS with a controller reminded me of the day the N64 got a port of the famous StarCraft, which was equally awkward in execution.
Aside from Survival Mode, you have the Challenge of the Week, a game mode updated weekly with grueling sets of parameters. It's meant to test the best players on the PS4. The catch is, you've only got one try. Failing will result in being locked out from that type of challenge until next week's gauntlet comes about. There are also leader boards, for the sake of competition.
While this version of They are Billions - which was ported by Blitworks, not the original developers - provides a similar experience as compared to the PC iteration, that’s pretty much all there is to recommend it.
The PS4's They are Billions (as of this writing) does not feature the game's campaign mode, which fleshes out the world with a 40-hour-long campaign and launched the moment the PC version left Steam’s Early Access program. The exclusion of the main campaign in this port is unusual, and makes this version inferior to the original.
Survival mode has a few legs in it as more maps are unlocked if you've survived (won) the first map, and you can easily spend hours on end playing different scenarios, since the contents of the map are randomly generated, so how you build/manage your colony will be different with each new skirmish.
This version tends to have a few FPS drops when there are too many elements on the screen, but for the most part, it’s a decent port that translates to PS4 owners just why everybody loved They are Billions the moment it was released as an Early Access title. Once you’ve played multiple scenarios, won a few of them, and tinkered with ways to creatively defend against the undead, you'll wish for more, and you can get more; like a zombie in an empty mall, you'll just need to go elsewhere to satisfy that craving.
+ Mouse and keyboard support (oh, the scarcity of this feature!)
+ A great RTS survival game that can hook you in
+ Randomly generated map elements encourage creative design concepts for your colony
+ There are a variety of ways to properly defend your colony from the undead
- FPS drops at the later stages of the game
- The controller layout isn’t ideal for the game
+/- No campaign at the moment (will come at a later date)
What I’ve Played
Spend around 20 hours surviving
Unlocked two maps
Played the Challenge of the Week at least 3 times
Approach the game differently in each campaign (units, defenses, etc)
Played on: standard PS4
[This review is based on a review code provided by Evolve PR]