Let The Horde Win
HIGH The moment when I figured out how most of the controls worked.
LOW The fact that the tutorial didn’t help with that.
WTF Hey, I finally made the dynamite work! And blew myself up with it!
When a player sees the word ‘zombie’ on a product, they have the right to expect certain things — rotting corpses, exploding heads, maybe a little cannibalism. What they’re probably not expecting is a drone’s-eye-view RTS game where everything is a minimalist shape with both heroes and enemies represented by moving dots.
I’m not suggesting Zombie City Defense 2 rises to the level of false advertising, but its developers have made a serious miscalculation — they left the zombies out of their zombie game. Even worse, they’ve produced a title which is incredibly difficult to play, not just because of the excessively high level of challenge, but also because it severely mishandles basic game mechanics.
For an RTS to function properly, the player must have an easy way to access information about their units and enemies, as well as be informed when things are happening offscreen in a non-intrusive fashion. ZCD2 has no such notifications.
When the player’s home base is under attack (it’s the event which precipitates a mission failure) a message pops up to warn them. This was the only message I ever encountered.
Are units finished constructing? Who knows? Is my sniper being slaughtered? Maybe?
The only way to keep any kind of a handle on ZCD2 is to pause the game, zoom in to give orders (the controls are far too imprecise to attempt moving troops around at anything but the highest magnification) and then zoom back out to locate the next fire that needs putting out. It’s a jarring start/stop experience that alienates players from the action even more than the ‘military operations readout’ graphical style.
Combat itself is nearly unplayable because of an incredibly strange design choice — much of it involves invading infested buildings and defending barricaded structures, as one would expect from a zombie-themed experience. However, this is hard to do because the game allows enemy units to stack on top of one another onscreen, making it impossible to easily tell how many units are involved in a given battle.
In a traditional RTS I’d be able to glance at my building, see that it was surrounded, and realize that my lone defender was in a world of trouble. In ZCD2, unless I pause the game, zoom in close, and start cycling through enemies by clicking on visible flag over and over again, I’ll have no idea anything has gone wrong until my troops have been slaughtered.
There’s a hint of a good idea in ZCD2 — because it’s themed around soldiers retaking a zombie-infested world, resources need to be gathered by scavenging. This could lead to some interesting gameplay, with the player gradually moving their way through buildings, picking them clean, and building up an army. That isn’t the game the developers have made, though — instead of players searching areas and extending their sphere of influence in order to battle an enemy based in a specific location, every level asked me to defend against a ceaseless onslaught of foes for a certain period of time.
The developers call this an RTS/Tower Defense hybrid, which is a fancy way of saying ‘disastrously bad idea’. They don’t seem to understand that the resource collection and base-building of an RTS are completely impossible when constantly strengthening waves of foes are breathing down a player’s neck. How am I supposed to scavenge a single building when the 30 seconds it takes to do so is all the enemy requires to send another horde of zombies after me?
At its core, Zombie City Defense 2 is just fundamentally wrongheaded. If the developers had wanted to make either an RTS or Tower Defense game with the concept, I might have found something of value. By trying to do both, they’re left with nothing.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Mozg. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: This game is not rated by the ESRB, but is approximately a T rating, as it contains Violence. There’s nothing seriously violent or intense about the game, but it is fundamentally about an army slaughtering zombies, and players can use nuclear weapons, so this is certainly shifted out of the Everyone category.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game doesn’t have any audio cues of note.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. While players can supposedly chose between using keyboard and mouse or controller, the controller isn’t up to the fine movements needed to select and move units.
Colorblind Modes: There are colorblind modes available in the options.