They are Billions is an upcoming game by Numantian Games best known for Lords of Xulima. It is currently in closed beta and will soon be coming to Steam early access on 13th December. It is a strategy game set in a steampunk future about building up a colony and then defending it from a massive swarm of zombies. The game is eventually going to have a campaign but at the moment will be launching with a survival mode.
In survival mode, you pick a different biome and your difficulty settings including how many days you will have to survive and then a map is randomly generated.
The game plays very similar to a lot of strategies in that you must manage your resources to maintain a positive supply of manpower, food, power, wood, stone, iron and oil. All buildings require a certain amount of resources to be built and while production may be turned off once they are built you have to have the workers to staff them before they are built. This is all fairly standard stuff what makes this game really interesting is the zombies. Now to say zombies in an early access game on steam make it interesting is not something you would normally say these days but unlike FPS or Horror, strategy games as a genre have mainly avoided the saturation of quick asset flip zombie games.
The zombies on the map start off seeming to be not much of a threat you start with a few rangers and a soldier and these can handle the small mobs which can block your base expansion to useful resources, but you soon work out that if you use any units other than the rangers (who use bows) the sound of gunfire will attract more and more zombies from the surrounding area, this is a mechanic which I have seen in plenty of FPS zombie games and is a great fit for this type of strategy game adding a risk and reward to the more powerful units and making your early units still usefull even in the late game. Just as you think that the game is going a bit easy on you the first notification that a zombie horde has been sighted pops up on your screen. The first time you see the zombies swarm over your defenses is very tense. These hordes increase in difficulty as the game goes on and you have to make sure your defences and tech is constantly increasing to keep pace with them.
The game can get away from you surprisingly quickly you think everything is under control and suddenly the wall is breached and a few zombies get to the houses and suddenly their numbers swell dramatically as they take over your colonists and infect the houses. I lost my first game by not getting my defences in place quickly and not taking advantage of one of the most useful features to defeating the zombie horde the ability to pause the game and then give orders to your units, this is invaluable in the later stages when you are running extra forces to different points to shore up your defences. The enemy also features a number of different zombie types which add a lot more flavour to the battles and make the defences you thought formidable crumble all the faster.
After a few failed attempts I lowered the difficulty and gave it another go making it all the way to the end where you get informed that a zombie horde in the billions will be soon attacking from all sides. I have to be honest when they said all sides I was not expecting it to be every side simultaneously and not by the ridiculous amount of zombies that attacked (the steam page boasts it can handle 20,000 units in real time). I was utterly crushed and could do nothing but zoom out and watch the zombies feed.
For a game in beta it is very nicely done with the UI feeling very polished and is shaping out to be the kind of zombie strategy game I have been wanting to be made for a while and with a beautiful looking art style I did not know I wanted. Hopefully, it gets a decent campaign and some more modifier options for its survival mode and I can see this being a great time sink that I will be playing for “just ten more minutes” into the early hours of the morning.
The game will be availabe for purchase on Steam 13th December.