They Are Billions
I’ve played dozens and dozens of real-time strategy titles throughout the years, everything from cyberpunk games like Satellite Reign, to old classics such as the entire Age of Empires series. But throughout all of my gaming life, I’ve noticed that strategy games, in general, seem to stick to the same clichés over and over. In other words, you basically have fantasy, science fiction, and historical strategy games to play, but not much else.
Back in December of 2017, Numantian Games sought to buck this calcified trend by offering their version of an RTS game called They Are Billions. They Are Billions was unique in that not only was it set on a single, zombie-infested planet, it blended its brand of post-apocalyptic horror with a steampunk aesthetic. As a sidebar, the steampunk subgenre seems to be gaining in popularity, with indie juggernauts like Frostpunk likewise receiving all manner of accolades and high praise.
Another factor that sets They Are Billions apart from the rest of the herd is that gameplay-wise, it follows the classic Age of Empires kind of base-building. For instance, you have to construct houses in order to produce workers, fishing huts and hunting lodges for food, mines for collecting ores, lumber mills for wood, and so on. This makes the game instantly accessible for gamers who have played any of the classic RTS titles of yore.
In an interesting twist of genres, you’ll soon discover that They Are Billions is also a roguelike, survival horror experience as well. But instead of playing a protagonist with an actual human body, your entire colony functions as a single organism that is fighting to survive. That’s because right from the get-go, your meager start-up colony is surrounded on all sides by deadly hordes of zombies.
Make no mistake about it, They Are Billions is a brutal game. You could be micromanaging your scouts in order to reveal parts of the randomized map (all maps are procedurally generated), or trying to direct some fiddly workers, when a single zombie staggers into your base unnoticed.
A single zombie can shuffle into one of your worker’s homes and infect the family there in mere seconds, touching off a tidal wave of undead as they spread like wildfire throughout your colony. Therefore, bolstering up your colony’s defenses is of paramount concern.
Luckily, you have all manner of defensive options at your command—everything from grizzled snipers and soldiers to lumbering steampunk mechs who can obliterate large mobs of shambling flesh-eaters. However, the devs have just released an update which could very well change all of that.
Update 0.9 introduces gigantic, bloated zombies called Infected Giants. These creatures are described as “…a mutated infected that has grown without limit for years and years. It is so huge that the earth trembles under its passage.” Indeed, these new threats are so large that you can see them at all times on your mini-map.
Since Infected Giants start off wandering around on a particular fringe of each map, at least you know where not to expand your colony towards. “Giants are huge and powerful but with a tiny brain. They cannot hear so they are not attracted by nearby activity. Also, they are almost blind, they react slowly to your actions, but be careful, once it detects a target it will chase it with terrifying speed and there are no walls in the world that can stop them!” the devs warn.
These undead giants will pretty much ignore you at first, unless of course one of your pesky scouts or soldiers starts shooting at it. Once these humongous monstrosities detect a threat, they’ll begin marching in that direction and won’t stop until everything in its path is destroyed.
Inevitably, near the end of each game, a huge swarm of zombies will attack the player’s colony. That includes any giants on the map as well. Whether you fight them during the final undead assault, or sooner, you’ll want to really build up your army into a powerful force before doing so.
Personally, I’ve already experienced the mighty wrath of a single infected Giant. I had built up a pretty sizable military force and wanted to seize some valuable land situated within a certain corner of the map. However, that parcel of terra firma happened to be the stomping grounds of a particularly ornery giant.
I attacked the huge creature, using all of my formidable (at least I thought so at the time) forces. What happened next was pretty amusing. The rest of my rather short game resembled a large ox swatting gnats away with its tail. The Infected Giant obliterated my forces and then proceeded to attack my base, leveling it in short order.
Fortunately, Infected Giants don’t appear in every game. They are only present if you set the infected population at “Challenging” or above. Since They Are Billions is already an absurdly difficult game to begin with, playing at higher difficulties is only for the most expert of players, or, apparent masochists such as myself. It’s worth a try, though.
They Are Billions features great graphics that make its post-apocalyptic theme come alive. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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