survival games are all good and fun, but I only enjoy them when they present a decent challenge. RimWorld is a brilliant colony sim, for example, that pits players against increasing odds until they escape the planet they crashed on or a raid of mechs wipes them away. Mount & Blade: Bannerlord keeps players busy with random events that can throw their carefully managed kingdom into disarray. But there is no more brutal, story-driven sim game than Project Zomboid.

Project Zomboid was launched back in 2011 and has effectively been in development for a decade at this point. However, the game has been gaining popularity lately, mostly due to an update that added stable multiplayer. Are there still some bugs and latency issues that need to be fixed? Absolutely. but Project Zomboid is now playable with a decent group of friends, all of whom you have to die or kill yourself.

I know that last sentence sounds grim, but that’s the reality Project Zomboid. It’s not a game where you build something the first time and use it to survive the apocalypse. The game begins with the words “There is no hope” and “That’s how you died”. Let me tell you right away, it’s no joke.

when you play Project Zomboid, your character will die. It happens eventually, but unlike other survival crafting sims, death occurs Project Zomboid comes at high cost. Any progress made with that character, especially in terms of skill learning, is gone once they die, as players will then have to create an entirely new character. Project Zomboid is a game in which death is final and occurs quite often.

But everything that led to this death is spectacular. In its current gameplay Project Zomboid is a tale of scrappy survival. There’s no place to thrive in the game just to escape otherwise deadly situations with the skin of your teeth. And telling the life of that character after he’s likely risen again as a member of the living dead is one of those Project Zomboidgreatest joy, right next to finding that zombified corpse and banging in its head to claim all your old loot.

Few highs, many lows

While Project Zomboid If you want to believe that there are two main players – yourself and the zombies – there really isn’t. Comedy and tragedy dominate the game, and players will encounter both on a regular basis.

In one of my last friends’ sessions, one of my buddies and I decided to venture out of our safe house to find another of our friends. We ended up finding him and celebrating for a second by sipping some soda before realizing he was leading a trail of several zombies behind us. At that point we didn’t have very good gear and the friend we just found got bitten.

basic injuries Project Zomboid come in three flavors: scrapes, cuts, and bites. If a zombie scratches you, there is a 7% chance that you will turn around. A laceration is more dangerous, increasing this chance to 25%. But if you get bitten, it’s a death sentence. You have anywhere from hours to a few days before you join the walking dead.

A character sitting in front of a television in Project Zomboid
You’re never really sure Project Zomboid.

We all had hearty laughs knowing that our bitten friend was dead and there was nothing we could do about it except one thing. “Well Steve, I’ve got this bleach here if you want one last drink before you turn around,” I said before being told to shut up. My friend instead decided to go out in a blaze of glory and set up a safe house to respawn nearby before running east and setting off a car alarm to lure the undead hordes away from our safe house.

learn from death

Playing with friends can make these stories a little more fun than they normally would be. When I played alone, I died from the simplest things. I once climbed through a window and suffered a deep gash that eventually caused my character to just bleed to death. It wasn’t a dignified death, but one I learned from.

And that is the value of the stories told in it Project Zomboid. Every story players experience has a moral. Each character’s death is a learning experience. With their brutality and all the combat that comes with dying in the game, players experience the stories within Project Zomboid are unlike anything else. They show that something small like a cut or scratch can become huge and leave an impression on players that won’t go away anytime soon.

Compared to other sim games or even other zombie titles, Project Zomboid‘s use of death as the end of every story is virtually unknown. Few zombie titles actually put players at a disadvantage — Previous 4 blood and left 4 Dead‘s survivors turn the undead into minced meat and Dead Rising’s protagonists can fight back Zeds with countless wacky weapons – but for project zomboid, that the power dynamic is integral. If players could fend off hordes of undead, they wouldn’t die, and without death they don’t get the full gameplay experience.

Project Zomboid is like those boss fights where players are supposed to lose and then immediately rejoin the game. Progressing and learning the game requires death, players must let a character die and learn from their mistakes. Project ZomboidThe gameplay of is one in a million because without outside influence there is only one way for players to learn and that is through the stories they remember.

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