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About the Story
It's officially hit the fan! Cause, unknown. There's no time to worry about that now anyways...there's a zombie horde approaching! Your job...gather as many survivors as you can and hold out for as long as possible. You'd be the hero if you can find a cure, but digging an escape tunnel might be a good insurance policy.
49th Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)
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In this game, you have a brief introduction explaining how zombies have caused an apocalypse, and then you become the commander of a base that needs to defend from zombies.
As commander, you have people you can assign to tasks. In the Easy Mode I played in, there were 6 roles (farmer, builder, etc.) each with several subtasks. It was overwhelming at first, especially when different bars started counting down in real time, but once I realized how slow it was I realized there was tons of time to make decisions.
Maybe too much time; the game got a little repetitive pretty quickly. I focused on farming and finding more survivors until those maxed out, then built a research base and focused on finding a cure.
Overall, the writing was goofy, but descriptive and vivid, and the simulation held together surprisingly well. I think it could have used a bit more variety though; I spent most of the game with the game in a side window just running, waiting for it to be done.
Me and all caps don't get along so good all the time. Well, almost none of the time, to be honest, if I'm not the one typing 'em. And when an author puts their name in ALL CAPS, that's a bold move that could BACKFIRE! The author furthermore doubles down with a zombie game. Many of you may not remember IFComp back in 2010, but there were a lot of zombies in the entries back then. It was a weird coincidence, but then, each year there's sort of bound to be one of them. I'll cut the birthday paradox-related calculations here. And I was sort of tentative looking at this game. The introduction seemed like it was going for humor, which seemed odd for a zombie game, and I wasn't sure what to expect. Bluntly, I wasn't optimistic.
As it turns out, I played AH three times before even starting on a review for the authors' forum, and it turned out to be one of those gapper entries I play before more serious IFComp stuff (Anything too complex and I, uh, turn into a zombie and procrastinate.) It's really not a text adventure, and it may not be a great fit for IFComp, but it gives great fun for relatively little investment. It's more a real-time resource game where you can, if you want, just plug things in and let them run. It takes twenty minutes, under the half-hour it says it does in IFComp, and it's almost all big-picture stuff. You are in charge of a fortress the zombies will eventually break through, but until then, you can maybe build tunnels are research a cure for the zombie infestation or try to kill the zombies. I tried killing them. It failed.
There was a lot to digest at first. You assign people to jobs: Farmers, Guards, Builders, Researchers, Hunters, Scavengers. You can recruit more people with hunters and scavengers, or you can go out and kill zombies. Farming is necessary for food, and there's also a morale component. It's pretty relaxing, for a zombie apocalypse, with the main problem being clicking the pluses and minuses to switch people from one task to another. At the end, you are the star of a newspaper article, for better or worse, and you get a notebook log of your time in the bunker. The first time I read this, a few things at the start of the story clicked. I suppose I wasn't quite ready for the humor the author threw at me, so I'm glad I backtracked. Things made more sense the second time through, and I knew what to expect. I realized I was supposed to be laughing a bit more than I did
I confess I went in for easy mode (there are normal and hard,) but the in-game help (a note on the wall) points out that you can actually lose survivors who find your compound because, you know, it's risky hunting out there at the higher levels! It also contains mechanics for roughly how often hunters find supplies, and so forth. And I simply watched as the progress bars filled up–they start once you assign people to groups. Each one can have up to four tasks, and when they're filled, improvements happen. For instance, farmers can either create food or increase production. Research can increase maximum food production. So it's multi-layered. Recent events are presented in a sort of ticker-tape display, where you allocate resources but above the game-hint and general ground observation parts.
I never had food or happiness bottom out, but I had survivors not join because I seemed low on food. Now I've played through a few times, I wonder if I missed a funny ending based on losing all my survivors or food. At least on easy mode, it's not hard to win. I indeed got the cure the first time, and I escaped with 30 of my 50 companions on the second, trying to build a tunnel. Trying to shoot down the zombie hordes by building up crazy firepower failed. As I played through I also realized some allocations were wasted on easy mode (e.g. the radio tower, since I wasn't losing survivors) and also that I could get away with skimping on food or happiness, and I saw ways to help keep my troops lean and mean. I bet there are more.
Horde! definitely falls on the game side of the game/story continuum, and I'm glad it did. It's good enough that the author has earned the right for sure to present his name in all caps. It fits in well with the unsubtle, confident humor. I could see myself replaying on medium or hard. I like how I was able to get up and walk away for a few minutes, or switch tabs. Maybe zombie apocalypse simulators shouldn't be so stress-free, but I enjoyed being able to poke around, and it certainly put me in a more welcoming mood for the more serious zombie entries that might be ahead. It's legitimately replayable, too. So, Mr. CRAIG RUDELL, well done. Oops. WELL DONE.
The onset of the zombie apocalypse begins right as you are watching TV. With the world thrown into chaos, fellow neighbors become fellow zombie survivors. A house is transformed into a survival base, and you are nominated as leader. But, in the distance there is a whole horde of zombies coming your way. You will have to prepare.
This is a stat/resource management game where you assign tasks to other characters. After a short intro you are given ten survivors to order about. It was intimidating at first to see all the elements that you need to manage, but the implementation becomes nicely streamlined.
In the center of the screen is a big grey chart. The first left hand chunk of the chart organizes survivors into six groups: Farmers, Guards, Builders, Researchers, Hunters, and Scavengers. You choose how many survivors are in each group and specify their task. Statistics for each group are on the right side of the chart along with additional stats such as the group's happiness levels. Seeing all that was the overwhelming part for me. Numbers, percentages, the whole thing. But this soon changed.
The left side of the screen has a column of status bars that show the completion of the tasks assigned to each group, providing a nice visual indicator of your progress. Interestingly enough, the gameplay also takes place in real time. The game conveniently lists updates in timestamped orange text below the chart to summarize the impacts of your choices. It did not take long for me to familiarize myself with everything. Then things became fun.
I like how the author adds a little touch of atmosphere. There is a section of text at the bottom of the screen that lets you “visit” each area of your base, such as a radio tower or underground tunnel. There is not much to do in them. For the most part, they are just cosmetic. But being able to lightly interact with them as you expand your hideout was a nice detail. The author seems to have a lot of creative ideas.
A challenge, perhaps?
This game has adjustable difficulty. Easy mode, normal mode, hard mode.
Hard mode is considerably trickier because it is challenging to recruit survivors. In the first two modes if you send out a party to look for them you always manage to find at least one. But in hard mode they are more likely to come back empty handed. Survivors are critical to getting things done. The more survivors assigned to a task, the faster the task is completed. What should you do? Use your current survivors to find recruits at the expense of completing immediate tasks, or devote them to immediate tasks without increasing population size? You can try both but at the end of the day, those zombies seem outpace you. It took forever to beat hard mode, but I eventually did.
Approaching Horde! is not a particularly grim zombie game. Its tone maintains a light heartedness that presents the zombie apocalypse in a more comic light without sacrificing the urgency of the situation. You go from channel surfing on your couch to commanding a group of zombie survivors. At the end of the game, (Spoiler - click to show) you are presented with a journal that the PC wrote about the experience with surprisingly cheerful entries. Even the bad endings, where you get zombified, are meant to be a bit humorous. I thought that the intro was especially funny and starts the game off on a strong note.
Your spouse has ran towards you so quickly, that you're knocked to the ground and your spouse is literally on top of you!
Normally this would be a good thing, but in this case your spouse has already turned and joined the ranks of the undead.
I feel that most interactive fiction games about zombies try to add a dash of humor. In this case, I do not mean games that take play in an apocalypse setting where people are turned into zombie-like beings by a fictious pathogen designed by an author. Those games are also awesome. I highly recommend playing Alone, another IFComp game that came out in 2020 (but made with Inform, not Twine). Some argue that Alone is a zombie game, and with solid reasoning. I can see why. Agreed. But it does not quite fit with what I have in mind here.
When I say zombie games, I mean games that blatantly advertise the fact that it is a zombie story where everything in the gameplay screams, we-are-living-in-a-zombie-apocalypse apocalypse. Out of every game that I have played that fits this category they all seem to instill some underlying humor or irony rather than 110% doomsday destruction. This is not a bad thing. Just something I did not realize until I played Approaching Horde! Then again, I am only basing this off the games I have seen so far. Feel free to share recommendations.
There are hardly any specific characters. There is Phil, your former neighbor, but he only gets a small mention. But no complaints. That works just fine with this storyline and format.
This is one of those stories where every survivor possesses the skills to become a biomedical researcher or farmer at the drop of the hat. Realistic? Probably not, it is a management game where you do not need to look too closely.
I already gave an overview of some of the visuals, so here is a deeper analysis. The design is not flashy, but simple and functional. Basic colours are used for drop-down menus, numbers, and other details while the status bars have some bright colours that change as they increase or decrease. All of this is set against a black background. Basic but attractive. Most importantly though, above all else, the text is large and easy to read.
Fancy effects are fun and encouraged, but detailed management games that go wild with visual effects can make it difficult to read and, you know, manage the content. This game keeps it easy to look at, and simple to use. There are some spelling errors that were noticeable but ultimately it has a polished and clear-cut look.
This game has already roped me into playing about a dozen times. The gameplay is moderate in length, and it is fun to experiment. You may like this game if you are into zombies or resource management, or both. I suggest giving it a test run in easy mode to get acquainted to the gameplay mechanics, but there is a good chance that you will be reaching to play it again, perhaps in other modes. And if you feel otherwise, that is fine. It is just worth a try.
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