Part tower defense, part city builder, They Are Billions is a real-time strategy game whose flow swings between cautious turtling as you hunker down to fend off the zombie hordes and well-considered dashes to expand your territory and exploit vital new resources. Introduced into Steam Early Access last year with a survival mode that challenged you to endure a certain number of days on a randomly-generated map, the game now features a hand-crafted campaign mode as part of its Version 1.0 release. The result is a hybrid RTS that shines when it plays to its strengths even if several of its new additions feel like unnecessary distractions.

When you first start a new map and see your isolated base surrounded by zombies, the game's title will feel accurate, if an understandable exaggeration. Stray zombies take refuge in the fog of war, milling around in small groups until you alert them and occasionally shambling towards your settlement. There aren't really billions, but it looks like there could be. Fifteen days later, the klaxon blares to signal the arrival of the horde and soon, as a seemingly relentless river of undead lay siege to your defenses, you start to suspect billions may well be an understatement.

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The survival mode and the majority of maps in the campaign offer a similar experience. First, you establish a perimeter with patrol routes to pick off encroaching zombies, scout the immediate area to identify chokepoints and nearby resource deposits, build structures around your base to grow the economy, and secure it all with enough troops and fortifications to fend off the first wave of attack. Survive that, and the second step is an expeditious land-grab to claim whole swathes of fertile new ground, clearing away the errant undead and managing your production to generate all the resources required to populate and work your expanded colony.

The ebb and flow at play here is lovely. The arrival of each new wave of zombies is clearly signposted, so you always know precisely how many days you have to prepare for the attack. How you use that time is where the interesting strategic choices arise. Weighing up whether it's wise to expand northward towards the iron that will let you build soldiers or eastward, where there's a large forest that provides natural cover and wood required to repair fencing and guard towers; such choices arrive with every wave and your prospects for surviving the next one hinge on the decisions you make.

It's incredibly tense, too. Outside of the horde attacks, a single zombie that manages to elude your patrols and wander into your settlement can mean game over. If just one manages to attack a dwelling, everyone inside will become infected and proceed to join the assault, multiplying the danger to unmanageable levels in an instant. Death is swift. I lost entire colonies thanks to my failure to spot a gap in my defensive setup. Next thing I know, death is spreading across the camp and weeks of desperate survival count for nothing.

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Survival mode is based around permadeath, as you'd expect. But the campaign, too, incorporates various degrees of permadeath and iron-man elements in an effort to force you to accept the consequences of your choices. If you get overrun and fail a campaign mission, for example, you have to restart that mission from the beginning rather than reload a save from mid-mission before it all started to go wrong. There's even a penalty applied to the mission reward for each time you fail. Somewhat ironically, an option to back up your campaigRead More – Source

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