They Are Billions Review
Do you want to see what would happen if Red Alert, Attack on Titan, and World War Z had a child? Then look no further than Numantian Games’ They Are Billions, a post-apocalyptic steampunk real time strategy game that puts you in charge of one of the last remaining human colonies struggling to survive against billions (just like the title says) of zombies.
They Are Billions is currently in Early Access on Steam; but fear not, it’s already entirely playable. The game currently has a Survival mode, with a Campaign mode planned for later down the line. For now you’ll only be able to play a ‘Skirmish’ game in which you can select from four different map layouts, and modify the zombie density and the duration of the game. They Are Billions is fully real time and pausable; the main goal is to ensure the survival of your colony for a preset duration (e.g. 100 days), starting with just the command center on a randomized map with a few units.
There are no tutorials in They Are Billions; instead, you have to play and read for a bit to get how the resources system work and which buildings to construct first. It’s a little overwhelming at first, but don’t be intimidated. It takes about an hour to get past the learning curve, but after that you can focus wholly on the survival of the colony.
They Are Billions feels like tower defense built on top of colony management; worker or builder units cannot be controlled as they are automatically assigned to whatever you are currently working on, requiring less micromanagement. You just need to focus on building structures and military units. There’s a diverse selection of buildings and units to create, each with their own benefits. It already feels feature complete in the current version.
A lot of RTSes, especially single-player focused ones, are judged by their Artificial Intelligence, but because the enemies are just mindless zombies here, there’s no need for a complex AI system.. The AI doesn’t need to be smart or to cheat in order to beat the player; it just needs to bring in zombies. Lots of zombies. You can literally have thousands of individual units flooding the screen attacking your colony, and it gives me that Dead Rising feel all over again, as I’d never thought it was possible to have that many zombies in a game back then.
They Are Billions is hard and unforgiving, and it’s always on Ironman mode, meaning you can only save your progress if you exit the game – if you lose, your save is gone. And losing is as easy as letting one zombie get past through your defenses. A single zombie infecting a building will spawn more zombies, which in turn will attack and infect nearby buildings as well, causing more zombies to spawn. This snowball effect is very hard if not impossible to stop, as you’ll mostly find it spreading faster than you can dispatch zombies, especially if you have a high population colony and a relatively low military presence. In contrast to most recent games that place you solidly in a ruined post-apocalyptic landscape, They Are Billions instills you with the panic of watching an outbreak unfold right in front of you – a rare feeling.
The graphics are incredibly well-detailed. Zoom in as close as you can and you still won’t see a single bit of pixelation in the 2D graphics; it’s made with 4K resolution in mind after all. I’m playing on a high refresh rate monitor and the movement and animations of the units are on par with the refresh rate – uncommonly fluid for a 2D game. The art style was clearly inspired by popular anime and manga Attack on Titan – even the premise is similar, but with zombies instead of Titans. The soundtrack plays nicely with the atmosphere of the game, creating a dark and intense feeling, and the sound effects – like when zombie hordes are coming to colony, or when a zombie is bashing one of your buildings, or when your units are firing weapons to fend off the zombies – are satisfying. One issue I have though is that, due to the well-detailed graphics, sometimes units, especially small units, can be hard to differentiate from one another, forcing you to look closer to fully identify something. Tall buildings also block the view of other units, there’s no option to make them more transparent.
Unfortunately, They Are Billions doesn’t support cooperative gameplay, although the developers have expressed interest in adding it in the future. This kind of game deserves the co-op treatment; playing with your friends as two or three neighboring colonies trying to help each other survive the zombie would be glorious. I hope they add this in the future with the Campaign mode once the game is officially released.
Disclaimer: PC Aficionado was provided with a code for the purpose of this review. All thought and opinions expressed in the review are the writers own and are not influenced by the developer and/or publisher in anyway.
- Incredibly well detailed
- Beautiful art style
- Feels like a complete game
- Unique experience
- Units can be hard to see
- No tutorials
- No co-op (must-have for this kind of game)