They Are Billions - Zombies Meet AOE

I did not see a topic for this and it deserves one. I was lucky enough to squeeze into the testing for They Are Billions. To be sure, I paid for the privilege but due to overwhelming demand they have told more recent buyers they will not get keys until Steam launch early next year. In case anyone wants to get their hackles up over it, this is disclosed on their website.

They Are Billions is simply a new take on an old formula. The game play is similar to that classic Age of Empires formula with many of the same conventions of the RTS genre. However TAB really takes a specific approach and focuses on it. It is a turtler’s dream. You build up your base against waves of zombies that are ever-increasing in size. It has a Steampunk look and feel which is quite different and interesting, though it can be tough for a newer player to differentiate between the various buildings.

Make no mistake, this game is difficult because any mistake is exploited and magnified. That is the real joy of it. In AoE you could get away with letting a lone swordsman wander loose in your base. Not here. If you miss just one zombie this game turns on you in a heartbeat. That lone zombie will quickly infect a building like a tent and out spills four more zombies. Those four will infect a couple of more buildings and now you are facing 15 zombies. At that point it is probably over for your base. You have failed your people with your carelessness. This ever present danger is what gives the game the tension and energy that is present in all great strategy games.

There is a balance between the need to expand for territory and resources (you claim new lands by building Tesla Coils) and the need to be vigilant about defending what you have already built. There is a nice balance between food, gold, energy and other resources that require you to constantly balance the output of your base. Want to build more soldiers? You need free colonists which means more houses. That means more energy, gold, food, wood and stone so you may need to build one or more other structures first. The resources regenerate very quickly so you are not forced to wait for minutes to build something but you also spend them quickly. Again it seems to be a nice balance of resource scarcity combined with keeping the game moving forward.

Scouting and clearing zombies from unclaimed land can be scary enough. The base attacks however are quite another matter. Dozens, hundreds and even thousands of zombies can descend upon you. You get notified that there is an attack coming from the East. You start scanning the map in a near panic. Which gate? Which wall? Then you see them. Spitters, jumpers, fast ones, slow ones, fat ones and others crashing down on your SE gate like a tsunami. You muster your forces and wonder if they are enough to hold back this tide. It is too late to build new troops for this fight. Your thank the Gods that you have a couple of Lucifer flamethrower units even though they cost 600 gold each. And then the battle commences. Will your colony survive?

That right there is the crux of the game and it is quite the ride. I have played about 10 hours of this so far and I could see myself playing it for many months as the maps are random, much higher difficulty options await me and the game is still being developed.

Woo - wishlisted :)

This looks like a good one. I came across it a couple of days ago and have since watched a number of YT videos done by SplatterCatGaming. He’s got an 8 or so episode playthrough that encompasses a number of games. The videos do a good job of showing just how quickly things can go to s**t. In addition, the videos do good job of showing how a person’s playstyle evolves once they gets more familiar with the game.

This game is an RTS crossed with a roguelike - when you start the game you choose a map, a game duration (i.e., how many days you want to try to survive) and the density of the enemy hordes. This results in some sort of modifier to your score. Achieving certain scores unlocks things like more maps, which offers more challenges, etc (not sure what else unlocks).

As with a roguelike, the maps are randomly generated and one of the big challenges seems to be evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the maps, and making use of what you have. If you make good use of the terrain you can survive a while. But make no mistake about it, it seems like you’ll be dying early more often than not.

Splattercat talked to someone familiar with the game development and it was said the AI has a decent amount of smarts - he talked about one game where he had some defenses set up that (as it turns out) had a small blind spot in coverage - a zombie ran up to his base and worked through the blind spot to get in without getting mowed down. And took down his base. Other behaviors include the zombie hordes probing different places in the defense and making for the weak spot. So the game is unforgiving (which I know a lot of people like).

I love the trailer.

This is true but you can use this to your advantage. I did so accidentally in my current game.

I had a group of soldiers backed by a couple of titans. These fire automatic weapons and make a lot of noise. They approached an infected village from the north and started clearing zombies outside of the village. The noise drew more and more zombies to the north. Meanwhile, I had a group of rangers backed by a couple of lucifers coming from the south. Due to all of the noise from the northern battle, this group was able to arrive to the infected village almost unopposed. We burned down the village with no substantial opposition.

I did this entirely by accident but you can be sure I will use that tactic again because it worked beautifully.

Haha, I like this.

However, fighting against endless waves of zombies again is kinda depressing, thematically and gameplay-wise.

Most importantly, you can pause and issue orders while paused.

I was excited.

What a shame (for me) that there’s no co-op! I would love to play a game like this with my nephew. Still, a looks like it could be pretty fun.

I understand that some zombie games are quite bleak (Project Zomboid for example) but I do not get that feeling in this game. For me, the base building and expansion signifies hope. I am not holding out against Zombies, I am reclaiming the world from them.

The final battle is amazingly fun. Thousands of zombies come out of woodwork for an attack on all sides of your base. In my first full game they breached in three different spots and the colony was quickly overrun. It did not look dissimilar to the trailer where the hordes of zombies were packed around my city center.

In my second game, at an absurdly low difficulty level, I managed to hold out and win. They breached only in one spot and by the time they did there were only a handful left. My Titans responded and pushed them back with ease.

The final attack is a great payoff for building your base. You get to see what works and what does not.

Does this have a tower defense type of feel (kind of like AI War)? I usually do not like RTS games but love TD games where I can try different things without it being a clickfest.

I have not played AI war so I cannot comment on that one.

I do not like many RTS games myself because of the constant clicking but TAB is not as frantic as many in the genre. It is a bit like someone combined the turtle strategy from Age of Empires with a bit of a tower defense game. You build, you scout, you slowly expand, you fortify and you pray that you have not let any stray zombies in the base. The ability to slap the space bar and issue orders allows the player to keep things from being overwhelming.

So this may very well appeal to you.

Thanks, @Granath

I read somewhere that the maps are randomly generated? Can we save a map to try over or do we have to make a save game right at the beginning to go back to (to try different layouts etc).

If they want to annihilate and infect humanity how come the zombies walk past the ground units? Am I missing something? Seems like they care more about attacking building than the meaty human flesh right in front of 'em

My guess is that it is done in the interest of game play. A Ranger is fairly fast and it could be possible to manipulate a swarm so lead the swarm in another direction. There are a few zombies that could catch a Ranger but it is something that a player could use to defeat the purpose of the game. Now when you encounter individual groups (non-swarms) they will chase you for a bit. But the swarms are programmed to go directly after the city buildings which is far more devastating to the player than losing military units.

Perhaps bases have giant MOTHER BRAINS in them that zombies must bee-line toward at all times? :)

So is this the campaign mode you are talking about or the game. In other words, is it like other Tower Defense games where you can play it in a mode without a campaign, just having subsequent waves getting worse until you die?

Maps are randomly generated from what I’ve seen.

As far as saving, it’s a little fuzzy to me - there’s some sort of ironman thing in play (sort of paralleling what roguelikes do?). The game puts up a “saving” dialog on some sort of interval, so it’s unclear if you can manually save. I also heard in one of the videos that the when an undead hits one of your buildings(?) that the game automatically saves right then, so it’s not possible to roll back and replay part of a game to see what different choices would have brought about.

That said, the game is in early development so maybe the save system will change.

When you play a map, you choose how long you intend to survive. At the end of your “survival time” I believe all the zombies that are still alive assault your base. If you survive, you get a big bonus (I hope!). That’s one reason it’s a good strategy to keep probing the zombies and wipe out any small clusters you can, since every one you kill is one less attacking you at the end.

I also heard there is some sort of anti side-of-the-map mechanism in the game, making it impossible to build/wall off right to the edge of the map. I think it starts spawning tough zombies if you get too close (when it was described it reminded me of the mechanism in Kingdom where, if you get too close to the monster portals, it just starts spawning monsters non-stop).

What you described above mirrors my experience. I have not found any way to go back to a prior save. I suppose someone could manually copy the save to a different location and restore it but otherwise there are no prior saves.

Maps are random. The map generator could use some tweaking because starting positions can be quite variable and I have restarted a number of times because the starting position was unfavorable. Currently there are no map seeds you can enter but I hope this feature is forthcoming. You cannot build close to the very edges of the map - the game simply does not allow it. It does not seem to spawn any extra enemies by building close to the edge but the enemies that are spawned are more difficult at the edges of the map.

Currently the only part of the game is the Survival mode. The Campaign mode is not in as of yet.