While I am a fan of the whole “zombie survival” subgenre of post-apocalyptic fiction, and a casual admirer of The Walking Dead in particular, I am hopelessly behind on the show. Being so far behind, I had hoped that Road to Survival, the latest addition to the Walking Dead canon, would stand on its own rather than a piece of show-specific merchandise. Sadly, anyone but diehard fans of TWD will be disappointed.
The sound and visuals are slick, I’ll give them that. The style is very much in the theme of a graphic novel. But I didn’t come to this game just to read a comic book. I came ready to bash in zombie skulls, and the combat is underwhelming. Some fuss is made in the tutorial about selecting enemies based on character abilities, but the much-hyped fight for “survival” involves simply tapping a character’s icon. And after all of my characters have had a chance to attack, each of the zombies gets a turn, which is a little more civilized than one might expect from a horde of undead abominations or ruthless murderers. Eventually characters get to charge up special moves, complete with unique animations, but the fighting is so repetitive that even those soon feel tedious.
The “RPG” aspect of this title is also unimpressive. The player character can choose a name, and is occasionally referred to by other characters, but never takes part in combat. Confusingly, though, everyone suddenly turns to you to be the sole decider when it’s time to make some sort of important, morally questionable decision, (like whether or not to shoot a complete stranger). Other than those calls, your character contributes little to the story missions.
It seems odd, then, that the maintenance of the town is left to the player. You decide how resources are distributed, which structures are built and upgraded, how many people are trained for battle, and even when to raid other towns. This is an interesting feature, but it’s inconsistent with the main plot. A great deal of dialogue is devoted to talking about who’s in charge of your community (with options to support different leaders). If the player character is the one really running the town, then the character choices, our one contribution to the “role playing” aspect of this RPG, feel a little hollow. The most difficult choice, in fact, is whether or not to add this title to the Android RPG cannon.
To make matters worse, maintaining the town is even less interesting than the combat. It’s handled in a top-down, omniscient view, skewing more toward Farmville than any zombie game I’ve ever played. I’m not suggesting a zombie game needs to be all combat, or that games shouldn’t mix up different features or modes of play. But the introduction promised me I was going to “Obliterate Walkers and other survivors with a deadly arsenal of weapons,” and “kill or be killed” in a fight for survival. This, combined with TWD’s gritty aesthetic, gave me the impression that there would be less city planning and more fighting for my life with a blunt object.
Even if building up the town was more fun, at its core, this game is a money making device. Advancing your town or upgrading characters costs resources, and if you don’t have those, it costs coins. Of course, once you burn through your initial free coins, the only way to move your town (or even the plot) forward is to pay actual money. When a game reminds me that my own real life, hard-earned currency still exists, and has the gall to repeatedly ask me for it, I find it harder to immerse myself in their stylized vision of the end of the world.
Fans of TWD will probably get far more out of this game than the average person, presumably being able to identify with the characters and feel more connected to the show’s universe. The rest of us can wait for the next zombie game to come along, since the craze doesn’t appear to be going anywhere any time soon.
Is it Hardcore?
If you’re not a fan of the graphic novels or TV show, the repetitive combat and freemium leveling won’t hold your attention.