Any grizzled greenskins among you long enough in the tooth to recall Warcraft sans World might remember desperately defending the hamlet of Hearthglen against the undead scourge. Surrounded on all sides by a thick fog of war, a 30 minute timer heralded your salvation from an unending tide of peckish flesh-munchers. March of the Scourge stood out because it altered Warcraft‘s fundamentals; with no way of diminishing the undead’s assault capabilities, focus was shifted to arrow towers, choke-points, and – if you were feeling cheap – spamming farms to create barricades. They are Billions follows a similar concept, though try blocking zombies with buildings here, and you’ll quickly find your villagers interested in a different kind of harvest.*
* It’s brains, by the way. They will be interested in harvesting brains.
Drop Dead Gorgeous
The first thing you’ll probably notice about They Are Billions is how attractive it is for a corpse infested hell hole. A coquettish carcass, if you will. One. Sexy. Cadaver. Sitting somewhere between cel-shading and indie comics, each unit and building feels hand-drawn, with deep shadows offsetting a vibrantly murky color pallet. Punky enough to spit in your eye, and steamy enough to polish your monocle, They are Billions painterly post-apocalypse will still look great a few years from now.
While the title’s top-down perspective might suggest a traditional RTS, developer Numantian have taken pity on players by allowing them to pause at any time. Every decision you make in They are Billions comes with the knowledge that a metric mall-load of zombies are gathering in preparation for a bloody buffet, and the ability to make measured descions puts emphasis on the tactical layer over twitch reactions. Careful use of the environment will pay dividends here, as will creating well-defended choke points; any building you lose also means losing villagers to the undead, and chain reactions can engulf a poorly designed settlement in minutes. There’s no saving during missions either. Did I mention that? I probably should have mentioned that. Not that it’s not strangely enjoyable to watch everything go to hell though. Numantian promise ‘up to 20,000 of the infected’ on screen at any one time, each with individual AI. I am both intrigued and terrified.
They are Billions is set to receive a narrative campaign involving the defense of a railway at some point down the line (hoho). At the time of writing, the game consists of four survival maps, each one unlockable upon completion of the last. Although this might seem like a scant offering, each map represents a complicated puzzle to be solved – the first alone will take multiple hours. This one really is all about the build, the vital first decisions made upon starting a map, and the careful responses to a constant crisis. It’s skilled at delivering a sense of rising triumph as your settlement starts to run like clockwork, and equally good at dashing your hopes as it all falls to pieces in an instant. You can take a look at They are Billions here