They Are Billions is a hybrid RTS and tower defense game that quickly managed to impress when it debuted on Steam and consoles this year. Now the campaign mode is finally here on consoles and it’s on par with the PC version.
THE HORDES ARE COMING
Unlike some RTS games, the goal here is not to conquer other cities, but to protect your colony from a massive onslaught of zombies hordes. Your primary goal here is to build fortifications that will prevent hordes from penetrating your base.
The game is broken down into three distinct play modes – Campaign, Survival, and Challenge Of The Week.
The campaign has you control your hero as you take part in a series of increasingly difficult chapters with mostly the same objectives. The voice acting here feels uninspired, and the campaign sort of feels pointless. Sure the narrative adds a sense of progression to the game and the initial missions feel easier than survival mode, but it feels like a stripped-down experience. Most of the constraints feel artificial and the objectives feel copy paste.
The survival mode is the real star of the game. It has permadeath, which means any mistake can cause you to lose hours worth of progress. You start your colony on a randomly generated map by building walls, obtaining resources as fast as you can and recruiting troops and improving defenses to try to deal with the zombie threat.
Logistically speaking, the game doesn’t have a lot of resources to manage. Which is a good thing, because the game can get quite stressful already without a dozen resources to manage. Gold, iron, wood, stone, food, and manpower are all that you need to keep an eye at.
You have access to a large variety of combat units and defensive structures to keep the zombie threat at bay. You have to be quick on your thumbs about it too, as they will keep attacking you in waves with the occasional boss types appearing to make your day a whole lot worse.
If defending hordes of Zombies wasn’t hard enough for you, you also have to deal with infections. Any building attacked by a zombie soon becomes completely infected, generating four more zombies and progressively increasing the size of the horde. This makes the game quite complex since a tiny gap in your defenses can cause everything to come crashing. And losing your colony means going back to the start.
I have mixed feelings about this, on one hand, this forces you to accept the consequences of your decision on the other this completely kills any desire to experiment.
It’s imperative that you plan your colony’s expansion as every action is interwoven with another. For example, an automatic machine gun requires a greater amount of electricity. Consequently, another generator will be needed, which increases the need for manpower. To get manpower, you need to increase the number of houses in the colony and so on. Each building and activity is intrinsically linked to another, so if you don’t plan ahead and cover your weak spots you will find yourself in a lot of trouble when the zombies come knocking.
But the Zombies aren’t the biggest challenge you face in They Are Billions, it’s the PS4 controller. I cannot stress what a nightmare it is to play They Are Billions using your controller, the controls are an absolute mess. If it wasn’t for the ability to pause the game, I would have left the game in my first two hours of survival mode. I don’t really blame the developer for this, this is after all an RTS and RTS’s are meant for the mouse and keyboard, I just wish I could rebind the controls. The touchpad is also a wasted potential here.
The game is stunning visually. The steam-punk look is done in near perfection. From your soldiers to the armor-clad units, the game impresses thanks to the excellent art design that makes every playthrough a delight to view. Units and buildings are well designed and animated, and the star of the show – the zombies themselves look good.
They Are Billions is a brutally difficult and challenging game. It nails the RTS and TD elements and manages to make Zombies feel fresh again. Unfortunately, the campaign mode disappoints, and the controls scheme can get quite clunky. The survival mode and perfect core gameplay loop guarantee hours of enjoyment for anyone willing to overcome these shortcomings.