A step by step guide, this is not…
505 Games and developer EKO Software have taken it upon themselves to guide gamers through the pitfalls of surviving a Zombie apocalypse. It is a lofty quest that hopes to ensure the continuation of our species. However, they are not the first to offer advice on overcoming the shambling dead with our brains intact. So, with How To Survive making an appearance on XBLA, PSN and PC, can it offer anything new?
Well, first of all, How To Survive puts the player as a survivor washed up on a glorious tropical island, the best place to be if you have to survive a Zombie apocalypse surely. So far, so Dead Island, you may think. But when you transform the gameplay into something more akin to Diablo, then that’s something a bit different. An isometric perspective, an abundance of loot and some RPG elements can certainly raise the game.
The player begins by choosing from three different characters to play as, each with their own strengths. While each has their own skill on the required skill tree, the rest of the skills available as the player levels up are the same for each. Unfortunately, the new skills available in the game are not especially interesting, or make that much difference to the game. Leveling up and gaining new skills is just something that happens in How To Survive, rather than something to work towards.
So yeah, How To Survive is more about simply surviving than following any storyline. To help with this survival, there is stuff lying around absolutely everywhere that can be used to improve the players chances. The combat is simplicity itself, with close combat or ranged attacks available, and the player will find themselves crafting various items to not only make the wholesale slaughter of Zombies easier, but also to reduce damage or heal.
Would it be a Zombie game without a chainsaw? How To Survive manages to tick that box. The player will find blueprints or recipes on their journey that will allow, with the appropriate items, the construction of a makeshift chainsaw. Other weapons can be constructed or upgraded, and flowers can be used for either enhancing potions or healing items. The crafting mechanic is quite substantial and, thanks to the abundance of items that become available, easy to get involved with.
As with all good Zombie games, night brings even more terror. In How To Survive, the horrors of the night are counteracted with light, in the form of a torch that thankfully gives the player an advantage over the dead, and campfires. Lighting a campfire not only gives the player some protection against the Zombies, but also provides a place to cook.
There are also safe houses to be found which, once cleared out, give the player somewhere safe to sleep. But clearing them out is a mission in itself, as they are over run with Zombies and will require some work to make them usable. Of missions, the game is relatively light, but players will be able to find other survivors on the islands that will either have requests or even provide aid in certain circumstances. There are four islands in total to work through, but they don’t really differ that much in appearance or the style of gameplay required.
The main game will probably last the experienced Zombie survivalist around five or six hours, which is not too bad. There are also a bunch of Challenge maps to play through, offering a simple objective with challenging limitations, and co-op play. Playing with a friend certainly raises the fun factor of the game, but doesn’t offer much by way of variety. Still, it is available both online and locally in split-screen.
How To Survive may not offer much by way of variety, but the simple gameplay and robust crafting system is enough to keep any player who still has time for Zombies entertained.