Atom Zombie Smasher is a new RTS-like released by Blendo Games. It is not a wargame in the more classical sense, but it does involved the armed conflict between the human inhabitants of Nuevos Aires and the walking dead. In each mission, you begin with a screen showing a procedurally generated city, its inhabitants, and the location where zombies will enter. Before the mission starts, you can choose where to place your mercenaries (which can include infantry, snipers, artillery pieces, elite zombie-bait squads, and more) and where to place your rescue helicopter. Your goal is then to rescue as many uninfected humans as possible, or to destroy all the zombies.
When you start the mission, the zombies come into the map, shambling after your civilians. Once night falls, they shamble quite quickly. Your rescue helicopter comes equipped with an airhorn, which brings civilians running to the landing zone. You then load up civilians, trying to stay ahead of the zombies. Herding civilians away from the zombies with the helicopter is an art, which takes some time to learn (at least it did for me). At the end of each mission, you are rated based on how many civilians you save. That is added to your score for the campaign. The Zombies get points for each citizen converted.
The game can be paused with the space bar, allowing you to give orders to your units and change you helicopters landing zone without having to worry about quick reflexes. That being said, I tend to run on full speed, which can result in some errors. The controls are about as simple as possible, however, using the mouse to point and click to move your units. You can also use the number keys on the keyboard to select, which correspond with the units position on the bottom bar.
I have some first impressions of the game, which I may update later, depending on how long it holds me interests:
- The missions are very short, which is nice. It is reasonable to play a full campaign in an hour, which will involve a significant number of individual missions. This is great if you are looking for something to fill a few minutes, rather than something particularly involved.
- I enjoy the theme, even though zombies have been used in a ton of games over the last year or so. The theme here (placing you in command of an orbital station, attempting to evacuate a city) puts you in a different relation to the problem than games like Left 4 Dead, which place you in the role of a survivor. The zombies are still threatening, but the player is more detached from the threat.
- Speaking of detachment, the game does mirror a real world tactical problem. As Tom Chick discussed over at Quarter to Three, the situation in Zombie Atom Smasher can be compared with the situation faced in the war on terror. Zombie Atom Smasher places you in a role that is somewhat similar to a commander ordering drone strikes, as you are attempting to minimize collateral damage, deal with the delay between the order and its implementation, and identify the area where your weapons systems will be best deployed. Further, the zombies infect the civilians that they reach, which turns them into new zombies. The metaphor for the jihadist ideology (or the communist ideology, for those still fighting the cold war) is pretty clear.
- I am a little concerned about the game’s staying power. I realize that it is not War in the East (for example), either in price or in likely staying power. I’ll have to see if it can hold my interest for a long time. Unlike the big turn based wargames (or even some puzzle games, such as the excellent and highly recommended Space Chem), I don’t find myself thinking about Zombie Atom Smasher while I am not playing it. That cuts down on its value to me.
- Overall, I’m happy with my purchase for now. The short missions are a valuable break from trying to conquer the entire Soviet Union, or when I don’t have enough time to play through a Field of Glory scenario.
I purchased my copy of Zombie Atom Smasher direct from Blendo games. I’ve spent between 3 and 4 hours playing around with it. I have lost a few campaigns, but have yet to win. I am close in my current campaign, for those who are interested.