Zombie Estate 2 exists as one of those small Indie Games that you may see promoted by an Indie Store or by any independent developers as a part of a small community. It released with little fanfare, simply being added to the long list of unknowns within the Steam Library.
After spending several hours with the product (several hours is all one needs with the game), the verdict I reached on this title can only be summarised as one of the most average ‘5 minutes of fun’ games that I have played. To be fair, it’s hard to expect anything deep and engaging with a small indie game that is priced relatively cheaply (a game like Undertale exist as a unique and very rare exception). It’s a perfectly acceptable game to blow 10 minutes on if you’re needing to buffer a 4K video on YouTube, or waiting for a download to finish. More than that however, it’s hard to justify the game’s existence as more than mere time fodder.
The game play and mechanics within the game manifest themselves as a very familiar Isometric/2D horde shooter. Many like them exist, and many of them do things well that others do not. It’s part of the games genre type that I feel is directly affecting the games awareness amongst the PC gaming community, because as time goes on, unless your zombie/endless horde shooter does anything different from the norm, then it will most likely sink under the digital waves into obscurity.
The game play is somewhat uninspiring and generic. Starting off by choosing a mode, arena and character (with light customisation options that affect stats slightly), you are then dropped into the middle of said Arena, ready to face the oncoming undead horde. Each character has its own unique weapon, look, and stat combination. Your typical rugged American will rock a 1-shot kill (mostly) revolver, have high health, but be somewhat amiss with melee weapons. This unique personalization aspect does add to the possibility of increased depth and allowing a more thought out approach if the player was to get a team together and run a few rounds. A unique team comp though isn’t a feature that is allowed so easily however, as the rest of the game thereon is lacking in a lot of depth that both can make a game fun and easily replay-able.
After each round, your sum of money is collected and can be spent at the shop for new weapons. A surprising variety of weapons do exist, ranging from a flaming-bullet spewing Assault Rifle, to a Dirt Cannon, an explosive bubble machine etc. you can guess where the creative aspects of the game are funnelled into. You also receive Upgrade Tokens, with weapons requiring 3 tokens in total to reach their maximum potential. Gaining the money, as well as other pickups within the game, is unfortunately never as easy as one would hope, and not in a positive manner. A constant design flaw that exhibits itself through the game is how un-relenting, fast and sometimes unfair the Zombies are as enemies. Most weapons feel under powered against them, and nearly every round will always result in the Zombies being piled up into a group following you, akin to Zombie trains found in the Call of Duty Zombies mode. As bullets have no penetration and splash damage from explosives is relatively low, this results in hordes of Zombies always over-running every pickup that they drop, which makes it nigh impossible to pick any of them up unless you unless your suicidal Rambo impulses and dive right in to collect them.
Sometimes this wouldn’t be an issue, but in Zombie Estate 2’s case, the only real efficient way to gain money is from the money pickups that are frequently dropped. And the gains made from just completing a round are very underwhelming. This very much makes it an annoying issue. The inefficiency of collecting sufficient funds to appropriately buy new weapons ultimately hinders the players progress into later stages of the game, unless they were to dedicate themselves religiously into learning the precise methods in which to run loops around the arena, navigate the zombies individually, and ultimately not get killed. However, as said again, the lack of appropriate depth or replay ability in the game does make this very unlikely. I will give props to the Music production of the game however; each arena has a unique musical track to it and it all resembles a Gothic 80’s/Classical Zombie vibe, and ends up being insanely catchy and remember-able. My favourite the bunch is the Estate soundtrack, with its synthesised notes and strings playing on the traditional horror vibe. The zombies themselves are also very diverse, ranging from Clowns spewing harmful confetti, large Bloaters ripping up vines to tangle you, Hazmats who explode upon contact/death and Skeletons which are extremely fast, whilst being very brittle.
It’s not hard for games on the scale of Zombie Estate 2 to have the depth that I’m very much droning on about. FTL exists as a prime example, being similarly priced, having a similar dev team capacity and a relatively simple concept. However, it still achieves constant replay ability options and new ways to approach the games core goal through clever mechanic design, well-structured procedural systems and an approach to style and tone that sets itself apart from the norm. Whilst it was OK to get away with low-attention span indie games that didn’t require much thought back in the day (Fortress Craft and several other Minecraft clones are a fond memory of mine), the industry itself has progressed to a higher standard and so have gamers themselves. Its way more accessible to reach the right publishing contacts, get the software needed, and in this resurgence of independent game development, there are no shortages of eager and creative minds out there hoping to put their ideas to work in the games industry. While I do believe that the team behind Zombie Estate 2 are made up of such people, it feels like a game designed in the bygone era of throwaway indie titles that were only made to satisfy a very core group of people with little thought into if the game could have ever been more.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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