Zombies, Zombies Everywhere!
HIGH Having a mother/son relationship in a post apocalyptic world is a neat idea…
LOW … that Undying seems to do nothing much with.
WTF Why do I have to keep telling him to be strong?
Sometimes I miss the good old days when zombies were just shambling pieces of meat that required no strong emotions be tied to them. What Romero did with the ‘human’ zombie Bub in Day of the Dead was neat, but that one exploration on film was all I needed. Since then The Walking Dead paved the way for more and UNDYING wants to follow — we play as Anling, a mother bitten by a zombie, who must now teach her young son Cody the ways of the world before she succumbs.
While this sounds like an intriguing idea on paper, UNDYING doesn’t do much with it. The overall gameplay is seen from an isometric angle and revolves around exploring and scavenging for resources — food, wood, scraps, etc. — to avoid starving and to build weapons, along with repairing stuff in their house. The course of each day is typically to go on a run while avoiding zombies (or fighting them!) and then going back home.
In terms of the mother/son relationship, it revolves mainly around teaching Cody how to do things, and this is accomplished by pressing a button to make him pay attention to what Anling is doing, like searching for items or repairing stuff. In this way, both mom and son gain experience points, which can then be used to improve abilities like scavenging or fighting, along with creating more items (weapons, tools) and cooking more nutritious food to restore health.
Interaction with Cody also involves a few dialogue choices, where the correct reply is always telling him to stay strong — any other replies that sound softer or harder will always be wrong. Like the teaching, this is not a particularly deep or interesting mechanic that leaves much potential untapped.
Interestingly, Anling can gain ‘zombie powers’ as the days drag on and her infection grows, but these only add a few meager upgrades to abilities, and nothing much changes in the gameplay or her characterization.
Unfortunately, these weak gameplay elements might have been shored up by a strong narrative, but UNDYING stumbles here as well. There is little story to speak of, except for the mystery of where the missing husband/father ended up, and these minimal story bits are accompanied by mediocre, lifeless voice acting and spelling errors in the text, both of which further undercut the experience.
With each day built around the repetition of exploration, scavenging and fighting — a cycle that many other zombie-themed games have already covered in greater depth — there wasn’t much to keep me coming back. Granted, the concept of gaining zombie powers is interesting, but like most of UNDYING, there’s not enough done with it to make the experience stand out.
While UNDYING offers a compelling premise, it’s not supported by flavorless, repetitive gameplay, a weak relationship element, and a story that has no emotional stakes. Hardcore fans of the ‘scavenging’ genre (if that’s even a thing?) might want to take a look, but everyone else can give this one a pass — hopefully more time in the current Early Access period will do it good.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Vanimals and published by Skystone Games. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PC. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: The game is not rated by the ESRB, but it contains Blood, Violence and Horror. Recommended for, at least, a teen audience.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All spoken dialogue is subtitled, and audio cues are sometimes used to communicate the enemies’ positions. There are no visual cues associated with these. Text cannot be altered or resized. In my view, the game is not fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: The game is controlled via the mouse and keyboard, it is also possible to use a controller to move the character with the left analogue stick and interact with the environment (see diagram). It is possible to remap the controls.
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