The zombies won't...stop...coming.
Android & iOS
# of Players
Zombicide is an action RPG brought to the digital world by Asmodee Digital and Playsoft Games. In the game, players work through a series of scenarios, battling hordes of zombies with dice rolls at every turn. The game ends when all of the scenario objectives have been achieved or all of your characters are dead. The game length varies wildly with the complexity of the scenario, but shorter scenarios can be completed in under ten minutes while some longer ones will take over 30.
Fans of the physical game will want to note that this implementation plays differently on a number of levels. There is limited searching for items, but you are equipped before entering the scenario and only occasional rooms are searchable and the potential loot has changed a bit. There is an extensive upgrade system, paid for by food earned while playing, that occurs between scenarios which allows you to improve your character and weapons. Perhaps the biggest change is in the combat system. In the digital version, the zombies now have hit points which scale with you to provide the difficulty. This means there is partial damage to be dealt. There are other details which have changed, as you will read in the following overview, but the preceding are the headlines.
A scenario begins by selecting your characters. Each scenario will have a set number of characters to use and you may swap out the defaults to use any of your available characters. Each character brings their own weapon(s), stats, and abilities to the table. The characters are dumped into a map with some roads, rooms, and a ton of zombies. On each turn, each character, by default, gets three actions. An action is usually moving one space, making one attack, or collecting/activating/opening an item or door. Characters may use their three actions on any combination of the available actions. Once all characters have exhausted all actions, or they don’t want to take any more, the turn ends. The zombies then proceed to move en mass towards the closest character or noise. Finally, the zombie spawning grounds each produce fresh zombies to add to the fray. Play continues until the player completes the objectives for the scenario. These are usually a sequence of tasks such as “go unlock a door”, “grab some food”, and “escape.” Should the characters all die, the game is lost and ends immediately.
Combat is the main component of Zombicide, as the kill counts pile up from the get-go and never let up. To fight, a character uses an action point and may fight melee on their own space or ranged, depending on what their weapons allow. Dice are rolled based on the weapon and they come up either as hits or misses, the chances for each are generally quite high and are clearly visible for each character during the game. Generally, any single die will have over 67% chance of being successful, which is a major change from the physical game which often relied on fives and sixes. Each hit will cause a variable amount of damage within the character/weapon’s range, with the occasional critical hits providing big boosts. Melee attacks can be targeted to specific enemies while ranged attacks are typically randomly assigned and ranged misses may hit friendly characters.
There are some details in the game such as unlocking doors, collecting cans, how noise works, danger levels, and so on, but those are mostly fairly straightforward so consider them glanced over in this review.
A big piece of Zombicide is the upgrade system. Each character starts with their own stats and weapon. Both the characters and weapons can be upgraded. Weapon upgrades increase the damage ceiling and chances of success, while you can find new weapons in the game to expand your arsenal. Character upgrades can provide more hit points, more damage, or special abilities such as an extra action or ability to reroll an attack. The payment for upgrades comes from in-game loot in the form of canned food which is earned for each kill as well as major bonuses for completing a scenario. The upgrade costs and typical loot rewards scale together nicely so you will usually have plenty of upgrade options after a successful scenario.
Zombicide is a really interesting implementation. I haven’t played the physical game in a while, but from what I remember, the digital version is quite a departure. Combat is the biggest change, the addition of zombie hit points being the headline. This necessitated a drastic change in the success rate for attacks and also the number of dice rolled for most attacks. The results amplify the body count as you can reasonably expect to take out a handful of zombies with each character on each turn. The hit points, as opposed to a pass/fail system, adds some strategy in trying to trim the zombie herd.
The game also takes on a light-RPG feel with the extensive upgrade system. I want to emphasize the “light” part of that, as you simply upgrade a weapon or a character, there isn’t much depth or difficult decision making to be found in this system, but it is a fun way to scale characters to allow for more difficult scenarios as you go. Choosing which weapons to carry and which characters to use does lead to some interesting choices and you will need to make wise decisions on the tougher scenarios if you want to win.
I mostly like what they did with the digital version, providing a linear series of scenarios. There is a loose narrative that you may or may not care about, but the escalating objectives and difficulty as you progress provides a good challenge and gently rolls out new objective types, zombies, and so on.
I do have a few complaints about the scenarios. I have run into some which are downright impossible when I first reached them and necessitated a lot of grinding and food collecting in order to level up enough to make them possible. That’s not strictly a bad thing, but I feel it has the potential to be divisive. Along similar lines, quite a few scenarios end up as a single gigantic zombie-kill fest fight. This is, of course, cool, but there is a big drawback when your characters are strong enough that you are clearly not going to succumb to the horde. You will end up spending a large chunk of your scenario time trying to break through a zombie wall. This occurs mostly when you are in a room because there is a limit on the number of zombies which can enter with you. It is a low, manageable number so you will likely easily defeat the new entries while taking out a handful waiting in the next room each turn. Killing 20 or 30 zombies this way is a great way to mine food for upgrades, and it is honestly good fun the first one or two times, but eventually it gets a little tiring. Again, if there was a legitimate chance of losing the fight, this would be an entirely different story.
Barrier to Entry
There is no explicit tutorial in Zombicide, but the first scenario certainly acts like one and new features are introduced to you as you go. The game is a very simple one with only a few different actions and the game is fairly obvious at all times about what you are doing and how to do it. There is no separate rulebook or reference guide, but the game does a good enough job teaching itself, that I didn’t find myself wanting any more in terms of rulebook.
Nit picks here are in the finer details. When using a rifle, you generally get to pick the targets of your attacks, but that doesn’t appear to be the case on your last attack of a turn. I have no idea why. There are some other small quirks that go unexplained which is a bit annoying but not game-changing.
Starting a scenario
Just fighting some zombies
Look and Feel
Zombicide looks great. The screen is bright and vibrant at all times, the animations for attacks and deaths are well made. Outside of the game, the menus carry over the art style very well, including some very cool story-driven comic book art. Everything in this game looks really nice.
The controls are simple. Click a space to move your character (valid spaces are nicely indicated with green squares) or click a weapon to attack. You swipe the screen to roll which is fine, but I’m not sure why that couldn’t just be another click. There are two complaints about the controls. First, no undo button. Sometimes I move and immediately realize I missed something, and undo button on an action like that would be great. The second, and bigger, issue comes when you are choosing the targets for your successful attacks. Each zombie in the space you’ve attacked is covered with a target crosshair, you simply have to click on the one you want and the damage will be dealt. Easy enough, except the hit boxes for your taps are terrible and some of the outside spaces can get absolutely packed with zombies. I’ve frequently applied damage to the wrong zombie which can be an absolutely brutal mistake to make in a game where your characters can often only survive three or four attacks, at least early on. I feel like a click-and-confirm would do well here if those click boxes can’t be touched up significantly.
Zombicide, as an app, is a solo game. You do use multiple characters, so there is potential to play it as a pass-and-play co-op, but the app moves so quickly, often requiring you to switch between characters for strategic reasons, that it feels a little impractical to actually play this way.
This is a solo game, so everything described applies. The game plays out over eight different zones, each of which contain five scenarios. The game really eases you into things over the first zone and into the second. However, it does ramp up quickly and some of the scenarios become quite difficult. You may reset your progress at any time to start from scratch.
The scenarios pack a variety of challenges and often require some trial-and-error to determine what a decent group composition looks like if you want a chance to win. There is one early scenario, for example, which is fairly difficult due to the sheer volume of zombies, you can’t possibly defeat them all as they will get bunched up quickly. You need to unlock some doors and grab the objectives quickly, or explore an alternate strategy such as luring the zombies in another direction, if you want to win. It is these strategic twists they are able to add to scenarios which will keep players coming back.
One complaint here is that you can’t save your progress and return on a scenario. This is fine for the quicker scenarios, but once you are fighting through a 30+ minute scenario it is a huge pain not to be able to exit and come back later to finish. You do, however, get to keep any food you have collected should you exit a scenario early.
Nice looking comic-style art
Phil might be in trouble
Zombicide offers additional characters as in-app purchases. There are nine total, one of which you are given for free if you log in with your Asmodee account. Each character runs $2.99 at launch time, with the option to buy pairs at $4.99 to save some money. Characters bring their own abilities and guns to the fight, adding some variety to the game but are hardly necessary to enjoy the game.
The Wrap Up
Zombicide is a digital game set in the physical game’s universe, and even inspired by it, but has a lot of differences. The things is does well is give you a ton of content, let you jump right in to start racking up those zombie kills, and provide a fun light RPG feel with character and weapon upgrade options.
There are a few things it doesn’t do so well. The lack of an undo button, the poor zombie selection controls, and the lack of an option to save a scenario and return later are the biggest implementation issues I have. The occasionally necessary grinding and the long, drawn-out fights you have no chance of losing are the other real downsides here. I feel like the grinding will be more of a personal preference, but I feel those twenty minute fights are bound to get old for most players.
Zombicide is recommended if you want a long solo campaign wrapped around a fun zombie killer. The app looks great and, mostly, controls very simply and effectively, and there is enough content to keep you mowing down fresh zombies for a long time.