Mozg Labs’ Zombie City Defense 2 is a strategy/survival/tower defense hybrid that gets some things right and others wrong.
Throughout my time with the game, there were moments where the mechanics clicked - scouts were searching abandoned houses for supplies while riflemen defended my base from hordes of undead. It felt as if I had played by the game’s rules and was being rewarded for a thorough defense strategy. Then there were moments where the lack of explanations caused me to lose - many, many times. And it rarely felt fair, due to the game ramping up the difficulty almost right from the start with no tutorial on how to deal with certain enemy units and what some of your units actually do.
Controlling units works similarly to any strategy game. You can select groups of units at a time, right-click to send them to different locations, and command them to perform various tasks. Between levels, you can use points earned to research new units, and select which you’d like to be available to you in the next battle. Units like engineers seem to have one job - stand inside a building to increase resource revenue (though the game’s poor interface makes it difficult to see if this is actually happening), while several other units stay focused on combat.
Zombie City Defense 2 does something I generally dislike in strategy games - a few of the units seem to be cheaper, weaker versions of other units.
It’s hard to determine why I would create a militia rather than a rifleman, other than the fact that it saves on resources. If the same unit does the work of two for the cost of two, what’s the point?
“What’s the point?” is a question you’ll ask yourself often. What’s the point of creating an Anti-Tank when they just blow themselves up when a zombie enters the tower they’re in? What’s the point of towers when your units can shoot zombies through the walls of your base? Of multiple zombie units when they all die so easily and with the same strategy? Of a tutorial that doesn’t bother to explain how to kill tougher enemies, the Ultra-Zombie, or that weather affects gameplay, or how to destroy buildings, or how to set units to scavenge on their own?
I would repeatedly get to the 10th day of the first actual level, only for my (up to that point) perfectly effective base to be completely wiped out by Ultra-Zombies. I had to restart over and over again, trying to figure out what unit would somehow counter the Ultra-Zombie. By the time I won, it felt like dumb luck. Several times, zombies would break into a building only for my units to not take any damage, and the zombies seemingly standing still. I wasn’t sure what was happening, but it was a blessing that allowed me to somehow finish the level. The number one problem with this game is the inability to tell what’s going on at a more micro level.
The visuals of this game are pretty cool, too, and feels like a futuristic tactical interface. However, the computerized oranges and blues make it impossible to tell what weather is currently affecting the field of battle. To get any idea of what’s going on beyond the units moving about the map, you need to look at tiny icons on the screen that are never talked about during the game’s tutorial. Basic elements of a tower defense game seem to be lacking, like a timer to see when the next wave of enemies is approaching. Well, it’s there. But it only appears on the point of the map where enemies enter, which means you have to either zoom out all the way or constantly move your camera to that spot to see how much time you have, interrupting any work you’re doing at the base. You’d think the game would operate on a day/night cycle, but there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the game’s zombie waves. Why on earth would zombies decide to attack during the day, when they’re most vulnerable and slow?
Zombie City Defense has its moments though (before the Ultra-zombies kill your progress).
The scavenging mechanic is a cool watch, as scout units will automatically comb abandoned houses searching for survivors. It’s a mechanic that makes perfect sense for the game, and answers where on earth your base is finding the people to keep things running. Keeping track of your lone scouts while managing a base is a fun process that adds a lot of strategic variety to an otherwise lacking game.
Zombie City Defense 2 does a lot of things but doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. It seems trapped between strategy and tower defense, and while a combination of the two sounds enticing, it just doesn’t have the dexterity to do both at the moment. It seems like the developers are working on balancing gameplay with patches, and I hope to see where the game goes from here on out. It’s a fun concept when things make sense, but for now, it's still prone to bursts of enjoyment against waves of frustration.