They Are Billions Review – There Are Billions, Metaphorically

They are Billions Review

It’s an exaggeration to say that They Are Billions of zombies surrounding your colony, but when they start rushing to your colony as if you’re having a crazy Black Friday sale, there might be a kernel of truth in that saying.

They Are Billions is one of the most anticipated games coming out from Steam Early Access ever since its debut, and this hybrid of an RTS game, a mixed of tower defence and city builder, may have caused its players to have high expectations for its campaign upon the game official release day. Yet it feels to me that some of the fervent dedicated players of They Are Billions may have set their bar of expectations a bit too high. As it ended with a bag of mixed reviews towards They Are Billions ever since it comes out from Early Access.

Searching for a good RTS game on steam is like crossing the desert. Occasionally, the players would come across to what seems like a decent RTS, but only to turn out to be nothing but a mirage. And then comes along They Are Billions. Thirsty players were in for a surprise as They Are Billions is an oasis and not a mirage. And to set itself apart from other RTS games out there, it is a zombie theme RTS set in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world and it does a great job in combining the zombie and RTS genres together.

They Are billion steampunk world filled with zombies
They Are Billions | Numantian Games

There are two modes to play in They Are Billions and they are survival and campaign. Before the introduction of the campaign, there was only survival for the players to play. Yet despite being the only mode available, it was able to position itself into Steam top 10 best-selling game for a certain period of time. So what did They Are Billions possessed that it allowed itself to reign over Steam top 10 lists at that time?

I will tell you what it possessed, the possibility to stimulate growth and the desire to overcome challenges within yourself. In other words, it is a difficult game.

In survival, the maps are randomly generated while adhering to the theme of the level. With that being said, every level offers a different set of challenges for you to overcome. You may have thought that you have bested the current level and that you are fully prepared for the next, but They Are Billions is more than obliged to beat you back down to your humbling-self as the next level is more challenging than the previous. And this ended up being a vicious cycle of self-improvement.

Even at the default difficulty settings, there are those that find They Are Billions to be a tad too challenging for themselves and there are others that see it as not too challenging enough. To satisfy both sides, They Are Billions has the option to ramp the difficulty as low as 25% of the default difficulty or as high as 500% – it is up to 800% in the campaign.

Does these numbers mean it is a multiplier modifier of the enemies stats or a detriment of your own? No, it is not. What it means is that it affects the number of zombies presence on the map. Playing at nightmare difficulty(500%) is the equivalent of fighting against fivefold of the default zombie presence value.

They Are Billions Swamp
They Are Billions | Numantian Games

I will not deny that there is a certain meta to follow at a higher difficulty; and unorthodox methods such as having only an army without any walls or defensive buildings, or having only the weakest unit available in They Are Billions as your standing army to beat the map may not be a viable strategy at a higher difficulty. But it is still doable or else there would not be an achievement for such theatrics.

They Are Billions requires you to have a good sense of judgement. You are given ample warning on when an impending zombie horde will come to attack your colony; and how you use that time lies the interesting option of different strategic actions. You may choose to decide between the grabbing the fertile lands up north to boost your colony economy or securing a source of iron down south and produce more soldiers instead. Or if you are bold and reckless, split your army and try to secure the north and south at the same time. 

Such choices will arrive with every attack and the survival of your colony against the next wave is dependent on the decision you make. The constant switch between turtling and a counteroffensive for a massive land-grab and back at it again signifies the ever-presence of tension throughout the game.

Regardless of your actions, you must uphold constant vigilance. A lone zombie may slip through your patrol and infect your building. This will result in the people in that building to turn into zombies and will start to infect nearby buildings. This chain reaction can easily be the demise of your colony and it is next to impossible to contain the spreading without enough experience. More often than naught, I would panic and feel a stabbing pain in my gut due to my lapse of vigilance whenever I hear the sudden alarm of infection spreading through my colony.

Unlike survival, the campaign is a gigantic tutorial in my honest opinion. But there is not a great difference in gameplay between them. The noticeable difference between the two is that most of the advanced technological building and units are locked behind a well-structured research tree. The research tree is designed in such a way that it allows new players to get acquainted with the numerous buildings and units while also providing additional stats that are not entirely available in survival.

The campaign felt repetitive and can be a tireless grind. With mission objectives that require ‘have xx population’ or ‘mine xx gold’, the variable of demand increases in value with the succeeding mission. I cannot help but wonder if the campaign is just an obligatory addition for They Are Billions coming out of Early Access.

Yet despite my criticism for the campaign, I admit that there are interesting segments within it. These segments are tactical mission and swarm mission.

Tactical mission offers a nice change of pace from your mundane survival(campaign) mission. It sends your hero to various abandoned derelict buildings to collect artifacts and relics while obtaining snippets of the event that will gradually lead to the destruction of humanity. My only gripe about the tactical mission is its entire gameplay is nothing but a case of ‘point and shoot’. Here’s a zombie, now shoot it. The entire complex is swarming with zombies and you can easily guess that it will take some time to clear it. It is boring, but I like it nevertheless.

Swarm mission, on the other hand, will test your tactical prowess. A predetermined horde will swarm your outpost and you are to use your empire points to form a defence force to repel the horde however you can. There is no one-way solution to this, but having unlocked advanced units will have you fare better and provide a wider range of tactical maneuver. 

Overall, They Are Billions is a glorious singleplayer RTS title, though most of it is credited to its solid sandbox survival experience. And even though one might argue that They Are Billions might not need a campaign at all, it is still a nice addition for you to learn the game. But if you learn through survival first and the campaign next, you will learn that the latter is a giant convoluted process.

Platform: PC(played), PlayStation 4 & Xbox One
Publisher: Numantian Games, Blitworks (PS4 and Xbox One Port)
Developer: Numantian Games
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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