Project Zomboid is Indie Stone’s foray into the open-world survival genre. The game pits players against the hordes of the undead and the cruel realities of survival, offering a harshly realistic take on the problems one might face during a zombie apocalypse. As someone who’s ventured into Indie Stone’s cruel wasteland, I feel like I’m qualified to give a fair review on this nightmarishly fun apocalyptic simulator.
Project Zomboid: 11 Years in the Making
To fully appreciate Project Zomboid, you have to understand the dedication it’s developers have put into it. Zomboid’s developers Indie Stone have been working on the game since 2011, setting aside a full decade of their lives to the project. Even after being subjected to the theft of their original source code, something that would kill most projects, Indie Stone never quit on their game and continue to develop it to this day.
Their dedication really shows in the intricacy of the game. Project Zomboid is complicated, featuring such meticulous detail that sometimes performing a simple task can involve hours of dedication and/or a steep learning curve.
For example, when playing the game myself with a few friends, we found the simple act of sewing some patches into our clothing to be an art in of itself. Aside from the sewing skill, which our dedicated tailor would need to improve to protect us from zombie bites and scratches, we also found that we needed a needle, thread and cloth. Each of these items were individual from each other and scattered across the game’s randomly generated loot pool, and it took us quite some time to acquire them.
The game’s complexity can be both tedious, and the reason for playing. While I can admit that scouring the wasteland for sewing fit can literally feel like finding a needle in a haystack, we didn’t play Zomboid because the pacing looked fast. The amount of complexity present in the game and the dedication you need to survive the harsh wasteland really sells the experience of being in a zombie apocalypse; Never in a survival game have I felt survive to be as important as in Project Zomboid.
Another thing Project Zomboid does that sells the zombie apocalypse so well is in the title; It’s Zombies.
The Walking and / or Running Dead
There are a few zombie survival games on the market, and one I’ve played quite a bit of is 7 Days To Die. While initially scary, The zombies in 7 Days To Die are, at the end of the day, nothing more than lines of code. Like any video game NPC, eventually you can and will learn their patterns, and when you do their behavior is less intimidating and more predictable. Zomboid’s zombies are nothing like that.
While they are, of course, nothing more than lines of code themselves, the zombies in Project Zomboid feel real, threatening, and impossible to really get the handle on. The zombies in PZ are attracted to sight, sound and smell, and the ability they have to sense these things is so sharp that it can be incredibly hard to hide all three from them.
After sneaking past a few hordes and slaying your fair share of zombies, you may begin to feel like you understand their behavior just fine. However, this confidence is your downfall. Just like a good episode of The Walking Dead, you’ll think you have all your bases covered, when the tiniest mistake goes unchecked. Suddenly, your scavenging party is surrounded by the hordes of undead, and you’ll find yourself making a new character.
My party and I were searching an old church for supplies; We felt fairly confident, armed with a baseball bat, hatchet and shotgun — The best gear we’d found yet. We’d killed plenty of zombies before, and clearing out the church was no harder. At this point, we had finally felt like we had got a handle on the game.
That’s when I opened the church door, and an alarm went off. Before we knew it, the church was swarming with zombies, pouring in from every escape route we had. I looked on in horror as my best friend was torn apart by the horde, unable to load my shotgun fast enough to save her. I managed to escape, my supposed foolproof plan to loot the church losing us a group member and a ton of gear.
Getting a handle on the zombies in PZ can feel impossible, and I love it for that. Very few games in the zombie apocalypse survival genre feel like a genuine zombie apocalypse. PZ scratches an itch that i’ve needed in video games since I first saw The Walking Dead as a terrified 11-year-old.
This game is certainly not for everyone. The top-down camera angle and the slow pace of the game can put people off severely, but if you’re looking for a game that perfectly encapsulates a zombie apocalypse you can’t get much better. For an incredibly niche group of gamers like myself who have always wanted to feel like they were in a filler episode of The Walking Dead, Project Zomboid is the perfect game.
The Final Word
It’s a game of highs and lows. Its lows can be incredibly boring, like sleeping off an infection or taking a real-life half an hour to read a book for a 1% increase to skill xp. Its highs, however, are incredibly high. There is nothing quite like getting your first car running, fighting off a horde of undead with your friends, or building up the perfect base for the zombies to destroy in some way you never imagined.
Our Project Zomboid review was written based on the PC version of the game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!