March of the Living

I consider myself well equipped to handle a zombie apocalypse – both mentally and physically. I have spent years preparing myself for the inevitability by reading great history books such as World War Z, playing long hours of zombie related shooters (Left 4 Dead one AND two!), keep to a good fitness routine, and have experimented with other simulators such as Resident Evil (games and movies),  and more realistic ones such as Project Zomboid. I am fully prepared for this eventuality. So when Psycochild recommended I pick up a copy of a new game on Steam, March of the Living, I was compelled. I had a free afternoon and figured this little title would consume about an hour of my time and just be another notch in my belt to prove my worthiness to face the impending apocalypse. Would hardly be worth my time, but hey, it’s not like pro Zombie killers like me would be the only ones playing the game.

10 days.

That’s all I can survive. That is actually my best. On average I think I am lasting 5 or 6 days.

I can’t stop playing.

This is Greg. Pretty handy to have all of those gun skills for an apocalypse, but it hardly has done me well.

March of the living gives an instant classic feeling. It feels familiar and comfortable as a side scrolling resource game with fun (yet simple) combat and is far more complex under the hood. The basic of the game is that you need to traverse a map to complete objectives. The main one is set when you start (find your girl and child) and new ones pop up as you go. Here is the map:

Pretty simple to follow, and as you can see in the top right there are three screens of this spider web. The fun part is it is randomly generated (so there is no learning the best route). Each of those lines is a true representative of distance – so the longer the line, the longer you will walk in that area. Players walk at (napkin math) of about 6km per hour, which is relatively fair according to Google. When you pick a new area you walk towards it and there are events that can happen mid travel (zombie fights, random encounters) but you are always guaranteed to have some sort of special event by the time you get to the end. I don’t want to use any spoilers but they are fitting of the setting and they do not always repeat. A choice one way one time may not have the same result the next. This is fitting of keeping it interesting and the random elements make sure you just can’t play out every scenario and know the best choices.

I will use one example of a text choice and how the environment does change. I won’t show the outcome so it’s not really a spoiler. When walking along…

The choices I often make (that sometimes really, really hurts) is because I am just so curious on what could happen. I play way too nice and am not nearly paranoid enough. The Traits are if you have the proper partner (you can meet people to travel with you) and I have had a few pop up for me advantageously.

After my choice (and outcome) the background changed to be appropriate for the encounter.

The heart of the game is resource management. If you get too hungry, you get fatigued faster, have temporary health loss and have combat penalties. If you get too fatigued, you get in game penalties and lose health faster. If you run out of health you die. Sleep is the fun one – because you rarely find safe places to sleep (unless you are in a city) and that becomes a mini game of watching the growl meter and deciding when to wake up (which does not happen instantly). It’s unsettling and uncomfortable and just one more minute of sleep… I found that you can push that meter pretty far but at the ‘S’ it is ALWAYS safe. So far.

My experience so far has lead me to these tips:

  • Health is the hardest thing to replenish. Meds are few and far between. I try to avoid getting hit at all costs
  • I rarely have run out of ammo on my play throughs (it has happened, but hasn’t been the main issue for me dying) so until you are dying consistently from lack of ammo I’d focus on keeping health high.
  • If you are low on health you cannot let hunger get to red – the temporary HP decrease will kill you
  • Food is scarce. Really scarce. I run out of food before all else for the most part. I have prioritized it.
  • I have lasted longer alone. With food being so scarce, the more bodies you have with you the more you have to feed. It makes fights way safer (and sleeping in dangerous areas as well because you can leave a lookout) but it really drains the resources.
  • On long journeys plan to be close to cities – they are very dangerous places but the best place to find supplies. So if you don’t get fortunate to find things you need on your normal travels, go to the city and take the necessary risks
  • If you are very hungry or very tired but near the end of a travel encounter, get there first. Sometimes the encounter is a safe place to rest, or a barter stand. Frustrating burning through my hunger meter to get sleep only to take 10 more steps and be in a safe town.

At the end (death) there is a short synopsis of your journey. My only negative on the game so far is that this scrolls very, very slow and you can’t scroll back and forth. I’d fix that with a mousewheel control.

I recommend this as a buy if you love zombies and aren’t turned off by the indie nature and graphics. It really is a very fun game. It is $15 right now so you have to judge if you think that is worth it, but I appreciate well designed efforts like this and it has proved a true challenge with excellent replay-ability. It is a challenge so don’t expect a cake walk. It is the zombie apocalypse, after all.

4 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Interesting! I appreciate the review — I took a glance at it earlier, but wasn’t sure about it. Now, I think I’ll stick this on my wishlist! 🙂

  2. Thanks for posting this. After checking it out I wasn’t sure I would like it, but the comparisons I’ve seen between this game and FTL makes me want it. It also feels a bit like The Banner Saga (of which the sequel just released and I’m enjoying the hell out of) with the elements of “choice.” I will definitely be picking this one up after payday!

    1. I’ll have a secondary post up soon. The combat can get a bit tedious and there are a few other, minor gripes but I am starting to figure it out (and still having fun!)

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