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Does the world really need another Zombie Defense game? Hell yeah!
The two man crew from Jacktostudios created a very interesting zombie title which is receiving overhelmingly positive reviews on steam. Considering that this game yet is only in an early access stage – There might be a bright future for this upcoming Zombie Tower Defense game. The game already feels more polished than other games in this genre which have been already published or are in early access since years.
The Night of the Dead video game combines the best aspects of other zombie related survival games and puts them into its own genre. An open world zombie tower defense game with character progression, a complex crafting system and hordes of zombies to smash, shoot, stab, slash, mangle or set on fire. This isn’t enough for you? There is a story mode, you can play in singleplayer or coop mode with up to 4 of your friends and to make it even more interesting: There will be a PVP mode coming soon.
You start to play Night of the Dead as a young woman whose name is Lucy. Equipped with only a knife you are about to enter a dangerous world full of different kinds of zombies. By exploring the map and findind journals you get to know more about the story behind Lucy. But to get to know more of the past you have to stay alive. To do so it is not only necessary to kill every zombie that gets to close to your handsome body.
You will also have to scavenge for loot, gather resources, prepare meals, grow your own vegetables, go hunting and last but not least – Build yourself a base to survive the nights. This is a tower defense game. Aight!
While the gameplay is very calm at daytime where you gather resources and build your base, the nights are getting worse and worse after you managed to fight offthe horde of the previous night. You pretty much can’t survive higher waves without building a secure base or at least a labyrinth of traps that keep the zombiesfrom eating your brain.
But remember nearly all of the traps are able to hurt yourself. While some of them only do so when a zombie is nearby and activates them there are other traps will harm and kill you you no matter if there is some flesheating zed nearby. These traps will hurt you as soon as you get in touch with them, for example the barbed fence traps. You have to carefully place these traps as you might end up in a very unhealthy state by running or falling into them while you are running away from the horde.
Fire is very effective at crowd controlling the zombies but remember that fire is also very dangerous for wood based buildings. Yes, you imagined right. By using fire based weapons or traps you might end up setting your whole base on fire. Imagine the work of days just to be ruined in minutes because you placed your flame thrower turret at the wrong place or by accidentally setting your base on fire by whipping your flamethrower around carelessly.
Night of the Dead gets unforgiving on higher difficulty levels. However, there are plenty difficulty levels to choose from which differ in the amount of zombie health, the damage they deal and the sheer amount of zeds per wave. If you are new to this genre, the lowest difficulty might be appropriate for you to choose.
Experienced players that have played other zombie survival and tower defense games before might choose normal or even hard from the beginning. But don’t expect to survive too long. The zombies might get you sooner than you think. To me the difficulty is moderate and playing on hard is challenging enough for me. For more adrenaline there are
This is one of the most sophisticated aspects of Night of the Dead. Since you can place foundations, stairs, floors and walls up to your liking you might end up with a very sophisticated base if the horde lets you. You can use a snapping grid for proper placement but you also allowed to change coordinates, height and direction by hand. To change from grid to free place mode, just hit the ALT key and you are ready to enter the creative world of tower defense base building done right!
From building basic wooden structures and traps you later are capable of upgrading these to stone and even metal based ones. Once you are able to use cement you can build very solid structures but the sheer amount of zombies in the later hordes and their increasing strenth will take even the strongest structures to their limits.
In Night of the Dead you have to build very intelligently to survive after night 25. The difficulty keeps increasing and you have to repair and reload a lot depending on your building skills. There are many different traps from spinning blades, to guillotines over a swinging pendulum to ranged weapons like ballistas, trebuchets and even a stand alone flamethrower turret. There also are special traps like a bait trap which attracts zombies, landmines or an akle traps which slows down the zombies.
My favorite is the Trap door! By building a base above ground level you are able to let these *****s fall through the trap door right into a basement filled with mangling, stomping and spinning traps. Oh lord, have I mentioned how I love this game?
To make things even more appealing you can craft decorative items and furniture in Night of the Dead. Make your base your home by adding carpets, lamps and even plants to make it more comfy. Im not sure if a game of this genre needs this but at least it’ nice to have. It’s your decision if you sleep in a sleeping bag or a well made bed. They havn’t added a couch yet and there is no video game console to play with your friends but as sophisticated as these devs seem to be, there is a slight chance they might implement such a feature as well. I’m overhelmed!
Not only do you have to secure an existing building or build your own fortress from scratch. You also have to craft different working benches like the material production table, an equipment table, a crafting table and so on. By using the different production tables you are able to produce planks, lumber and trimmed logs from logs, process animal skins to leather, knot your own ropes from vines or even make metal ingots from ore.
The crafting tree in Night of the Dead is very well thought and you can craft nearly any item that is ingame from scratch by upgrading raw materials from stage to stage. This goes up to electronic devices and auto aiming turrets. With the cooking station build, you are then able to prepare simple meals at first. Improve your cooking station and skills to create more delicious meals and even desserts like donuts. To research new skills you have to process research material by using the research desk. By dooing so you are open to spend your points on leveling your skill tree. This gives you more building / upgrade options for the workbenches (up to 4 upgrades per bench) as well as character based improvement of abilities.
As you have to to supply yourself with food one of the best options is to go hunting. While you can place animal traps as well to catch smaller animals like foxes and rabbits or even medium sized traps to trap some bigger animals there also are big animals roaming around the freeland. To kill boars or bears its best to be equipped with an assault rifle. Though you still can kill these animals with a bow or crossbow or even melee kill them it’s best to stay safe and don’t waste valuable food resources to regain health after a bareknuckel fight with a grizzly gone wrong. If you are more of a pieceful guy or girl, you can also build a birdhouse which attracts bird and lets them lay their eggs within your reach. Lovely!
Besides the ability to hunt, you can also grow your own vegetables. You can use one of the crafting benches to manufacture fertilizer, soil and even pesticides. To prepare complex meals you have to skill your cooking abilities and upgrade your cooking station. This way you will be able to produce bread from Potatoes, bake baguette and prepare meat or veggie stews. You can also make a nice Steak platter and even pizza or pasta ingame. There are a lot of vegetables and even cooking oil is involved to prepare some of the meals. Besides the fact that no real world baguette would consist of sweet potato, potatoes and pear the cooking system is well made. It’s the apocalypse so we have to get creative in terms of ingredients.
You need to upgrade your skills in order to craft the more advanced items in Night of the Dead. These crafting based skills are represented by the Engineer skill tree or the Cooking skill tree. The most important skills to me are porter, which increases the amount of items you can carry and Scavenger which shortens the time you need to loot in Night of the Dead. I would go for them first every time. Another interesting ability is used to soften the Fall damage by 50%. Very useful indeed. There is a total of 47 skills in the Alpha version of Night of the Dead.
The weapons in Night of the dead range from very basic tools like a clawhammer that can be used for both, smashing zombies heads as well as dismantling traps and buildings to real melee weapons like a Katana, a Warhammer and even a throwing axe. In terms of ranged weapons you soon are able to get your hands on more sophisticated technology like Assault Rifles and Flamethrowers. You are even able to craft molotov cocktails or a simple bow which is very effective at the beginning to be honest.
In terms of arrow based weapons, you are able to get back your ammo by simply pulling the arrows out of the zombies bodies. In the case you missed, you are able to retrieve the arrows even when they are stuck in walls, trees and the like. The take all function is very convenient to retrieve large amounts of arrows. However, there is a downside. When you kill a zombie with a headshot, the skull cracks and the brain splatters all over the place your arrows fall down and start rolling away from you. Sometimes its hard to find them rolling around in the grass.
Fighting & shooting system
The fighting system is very basic. There actually is no option for kicks or special melee attacks. You have to use the weapon of your choice. This could be your bare hands or all sorts of melee weapons, rifles, a crossbow and the like. With melee weapons you can attack and swing them without aiming. Just hit the attack button and point the weapon in the direction you want to attack.
You can’t hipfire ranged weapons. So you have to aim by using mouse button 2 as a default. When getting attacked by a zombie or animal, your lose your aiming stance. You have to re-enter aiming mode, which is nice and realistic.
Since you can walk while aiming the best way to kill with low damage ranged weapons is to walk backwards or sidewards to avoid attacks and hit them with your next projectile. Direct hits do slow down or even hit the zombies off their feet if the energy of the projectile is high enough. This can be used to your advantage.
The avoiding tactic is even more important in infights with zombies or animals. Hit them and dodge their attacks. Sometimes you have to run away to get some distance between you and bigger groups of zombies. This way you can refill your energy or condition bar. Since your strenth is limited by the condition bar your attacks will be less powerful if the condition is low.
There is some “bullet drop” in Night of the Dead with arrow based weapons. I haven’t noticed anything similar with bullets yet. To hit moving targets you have to predict their next move. This isn’t that difficult in case of most zombies, though some of them start to run, charge or jump very high. Most of them are not that fast and easy targets for bow or fire weapons users. However, when it comes to hunting animals you have aim more carefully. Especially with the bow or crossbow because of the lower travel speed of their projectiles. This even counts for killing zombies with these kind of weapons to some point. As soon as you get your hands on an assault rifle like the AK or M16 you are able to hunt with less efforts in terms of ambushing animals or following their trails. Two to three shots are enough to kill mostly all animals except Boars and Bears.
The management of items in is very well thought. The inventory screen is very well organized and the handling is very smooth. You can drag and drop items by using your mouse, put them into the quick slot. Split up amounts of an item by using the shift key. Drop items by right clicking or put them in a chest when you have opened the chest. Items do stack automatically, which is very conveniant. The only thing that is missing is an inventory list for objects that surround you. It might be difficult to pick up a specific item when there are several items laying around. I’m sure the devs will add a feature like this to Night of the Dead in an upcoming release as a lot of players will request this I guess.
To keep everything tidy, cou can craft and upgrade different kinds of storage items from the build menu. By using multiple storage solutions, you might end up with a perfectly sorted stash of items. Autists may love the game just for this reason!
Since you can chop down trees or mine for ore, there is some kind of world destruction involved in Night of the Dead. You see chunks flying out of the wood by felling trees and even the mining process is visually illustrated by removing pieces of stone from the rocks while hitting them with your pickaxe. You can destroy your own base with weapons and like I said even set it on fire but its not possible to destroy the prebuilt houses or industrial buildings. Neither are you allowed to blast holes into the ground and act as a landscape gardener. But you can recycle some of the produced goods at the workbenches and regenerate the raw materials used to produce them which is a very practical feature. No need to say, we are here to smash zombies in a tower defense game and this where the game really shines.
Graphics & Engine
Night of the Dead was made using the Unreal Engine 4. The graphics aren’t next gen stuff but the visual appearance of the game is solid. Night of the Dead doesn’t live up to AAA titles made with the Unreal Engine four and to be honest, it looks a bit outdated. But there never might be a Triple A Zombie Tower defense game with next gen graphics. Correct me if im wrong or maybe Night of the Dead is gooing to be that game in the future but in its actual state, the game looks okay at least. In the current version there is only a third person view available. However, the korean developers plan to implement a FPS mode soon. I’m good with that. The 3rd person mode is nice for building and if there will be a first person view soon im ready to fight off the zombies at eye level.
The art design is neat. I like it a lot. Decent icons, a nice color palette and the world design are in harmony witch each other. Everyhing seems a bit blurry even the icons. But I like this look and it fits the game very well since this isn’t a Scifi title where everything has to be super crisp with neon colored outlines. The art design of Night of the Dead just feels right.
The action takes place on a remote island therefore you are surrounded by water in every direction. There is a living environment around you and a lot of animals will cross your way. Different kinds of plants and Trees will give some kind of realistic feeling to the world in rural areas. But there is more than mother nature. In more urban environments there are plenty of cars, busses, trucks and colourful adboards. Within the City there are big buildings and shops included. There also are industrial complexes on the island but I didn’t like their design very much. They seem a bit dull. There actually are no NPC’s in the game and I didn’t miss them either. I’m bored of stupid NPS’s who want me to do stupid quests they should complete theirselves in the first place.
I won’t go into detail about the Story of Night of the Dead here as I don’t want to spoiler anything. As you keep progressing you get to know more of the story behind Lucy and the outbreak in general. There are no visually impressing and breathtaking cutscenes that introduce a lot of drama to the game. But if you are here for a stunning story, maybe tower defense games in general are not what you are looking for. It’s up to the devs if they improve story telling within the early access version but to me the story and progression is fine as it is.
The overall performance of Night of the Dead on my machine is great. I can play the game on very high settings and even use 4k resolution on a 1070. However, older systems or even some newer hardware systems may have some struggle to reach over 60fps continously when the horde size increases. Some people get frame drops on higher waves but this problem seems to affect the minority of gamers. If this happens to you, try to disable fog. For most people, even on older systems the performance seems to be good in general.
Since you are not bound to killing hordes alone the coop mode with up to 4 players offers a lot of fun. You can roam around at day, group up to loot together or split up by following different roles. Be the gardener, the hunter, the scavenger or the one who is actually building the base. The game doesn’t limit you by forcing you to choose a role. Every player has the ability to do everything he wants. You can as well use the crafting tables build by other players or destroy/dismantle the traps they’ve build.
As great as this flexibility is by playing with your friends on a password protected self hosted game – On the other hand when playing with strangers this might end up in a mess. Especially if there are people involved who suffer from mental problems. They might waste resources by improper placement of traps or in the worst case even rage quit and destroy your setup before leaving your server. Since you can save multiplayer games as long as you are the host (yes!!) this isn’t a total letdown by the devs but im sure an option to turn off the building ability for other players would be very very pleasing for the player base. Playing with friends is already very very pleasing and I’m curious how the PVP mode will develop in terms of gameplay and competition wise.
You are able to smash heads and dismember the zombies in Night of the Dead. They might end up in flames and of course they bleed when you puncture them with bullets or slash them with sharp blades. So there is gore and it might not be the best game for young children. It is not rated by PEGI & co yet but it might get a mature or R rating as soon as is released. We will see. However, compared to real slasher games like Left 4 Dead 2, Dead Rising or Dead Island the violence shown in Night of the Dead is moderate.
In my opinion it is just enough to give this game a realistic touch and not as much splattering blood and intestines that your whole screen goes red when the horde arrives. They have found the right amount of gore. I’m sure some gamers will disagree on this because they want more splatter effects but time will tell if the developers will add an adjustment slider for blood and gore. This might be a feature many gamers want and which might also make this game more appropriate for a younger audience as well as more appealing to gore fetishists on the other side. In it’s current state this game isn’t gooing to get banned in most of the countries, which is good for the sales.
Besides all the positive feedback there are some minor things that I dislike and have to criticise about Night of the Dead. Sometimes I can’t jump over some small obstacles or even low walls. And I can’t leap over them too. I’m sure this will get fixed with upcoming patches. You can’t get into all of the existing buildings. Some just don’t have an entrance yet. I hope the devs will open up all buildings to be entered by the player. Technically most of the buildings are open to explore but there have been some buildings that really made me curious what could be found inside.
I’ve tried this game on different hardware platforms. Even old processors seem to do fine. The minimum amount of RAM needed isn’t as high as stated by the devs. You are able to play well with 12GB. A friend of mine is capable of playing with decent fps on a 8 GB machine. However, he has a fast SSD which might compensate well for the lack of RAM.
The dev’s haven’t optimized Night of the Dead yet for really high waves and their massive zombie hordes. So in multiplayer games where the amount of zombies gets multiplied by the player count there might become some lag involved.
The Alpha version of Night of the Dead was released on August, 28th 2020 through steams early access program. The final release date is set to be late 2021. Considering the great progress Jacktostudios has made until now, this doesn’t seem unrealistic. However, they are planning to add a lot of content including a PVP mode which may need a lot of fine tuning and the implementation of a good anti cheat routine.
I wish the developers all the luck in the world on their way to finalize Night of the Dead. This game has got me gooing for hours and there will be countless hours I will have to invest just to satisfy my needs. I got addicted from the very first beginning. Thanks go out to JackTO Studios.
Requested features by the author
- Fast Forward mode (at least 4x) to complete lower waves faster or at least an option to end the day by user action
- Inventory Screen for surrounding items in reach to be able to choose which item to pick up after creating a mess of dropped items.
- Option to disable base destruction or trap building for other players except the host.
- Iron Sights would be awesome though I don’t miss em that much
- Gore Adjustment slider
- Zoomable Mini Map
- Free Look Mode
- An additional option to repair & reload traps
Windows 7/8/10 64-bit only
DirectX: Version 11
CPU: 3.2 GHz Quad Core
RAM: 16 GB RAM (I can play the game with 12 GB of RAM just fine)
GPU: GeForceÂ® GTX 960 or better
HDD: 16 GB available space
Windows 7/8/10 64-bit only
DirectX: Version 11
CPU: IntelÂ® Coreâ„¢ i5-9600K / AMD Ryzenâ„¢ 5 3600X
RAM: 16 GB RAM (I can play the game with 12 GB of RAM just fine)
GPU: NVIDIAÂ® GeForceÂ® GTX 1660 TI
HDD: 16 GB available space