Medieval Zombies ($1.00) brings forth yet another FPS game built on the time-tested practice of slaughtering legions of undead. Well, it’s more a first-person hack & slasher than shooter, but you get the idea. You better get the idea by now. This is the part where I blah blah blah, filler filler filler, and it’s like every wave-based zombie game you’ve ever heard of or played. No need to rehash or explain away the plot, because none of that matters once the zombies shuffle onscreen.
The game’s name implies a retro hook, and to some extent, it does feature some of that ‘ye olde design’. There are no traditional firearms in Medieval Zombies. (Semi-)true to the time period1, your roster of weapons includes things like swords, dual daggers, a lance, or a very-slow-firing crossbow. It’s also involves thousands… nay, millions, of the blockiest, schlockiest, barely-animated zombies you’ve ever laid eyes on. Looks aren’t everything, right? Right? Of course.
Thankfully, the zombie AI is well done in its place, with enemies reacting not just to your presence, but also to things like noise and player taunts, allowing you to wrangle together dozens of walkers for a massive kill-off and / or to lure them away from chests and other potential treasure-seeking moments. And looting items and weapons is the key component here, giving you extra food (to maintain energy) and bandages (to heal yourself or fallen allies2), or the potential to snag a better damage-dealing armament.
Better weapons means you clear out stages quicker… at the cost of durability. This game subscribes to Silent Hill‘s school of hard knocks, meaning its melee weapons dull and eventually break over time / repeated use. There’s plenty of chests to open on each map, but the limited space in your bag (6 slots) means you’ll have choose wisely between healing items and weapons, as well as stat-boosting passive upgrades to your armor, which allow for certain perks like decreased energy drain, or faster chest-searching.
That careful trade-off in item management is interesting and requires thought (as well as the zombie-free space to think), but the action itself is cookie-cutter and monotonous. With swarms regularly reaching into the hundreds of zombies, you can see why. And if you should die, the game places you at the start of the ‘day’ you fell on, taking away all your progress and inventory… and any desire to rebuild your arsenal. The promise of a million zombies on a single map is a nice thought, but the banal gameplay leading up to that means you’ll have hacked and slashed your way through your fill of cloned zombies long before you reach that promised land.
For better or worse, the Undead are a genre all on their own, but at the end of the day, Medieval Zombies is just another entry in that category. There’s no real draw or hook, and it’s not really a viable substitute or alternative for something like the recently-reviewed Deadburg, which balances its zombies with exploration and crafting. By comparison, Medieval Zombies is ultra repetitive, visually unkempt, and unfortunately… not very fun.
- King Arthur never dealt with any zombies that I was aware of, and I actually paid attention in school. ↩
- Each round you get a handful of faithful knights that will randomly go around slaying zombies in your stead, cutting down on the high enemy counts over time. You’ll still be doing most of the heavy lifting— i.e. slaughtering— yourself. Natch. ↩