Numantian Games’ most recent publication, They Are Billions, has challenged, exhilarated, and frustrated thousands of gamers since its release with its careful blend of strategic management and maddening action.
If you asked me what one of my strengths was in strategy games when I was younger and dumber, I would have puffed out my chest, and proclaimed proudly, “Turtling!“, causing all of my gamer friends to grumble in well-deserved frustration at my “irritatingly cheap tactics”. I don’t blame them at all (it was an annoying play style), but turtling still works as a viable tactic, and it is one that I could proudly say was part of my arsenal and one of the best tools I had. I felt unstoppable
Then I played They Are Billions…there goes THAT hard-earned point of pride.
On paper, They Are Billions sounds like it should be easy: You upgrade your colony of human survivors with impressive steampunk technology to survive in the zombie apocalypse for a set number of days. Okay, maybe not easy, but still manageable and easily comprehended.
Then you notice that you have eight resources to worry about on a procedurally generated map with limited land resources, and of course a metric TON of zombies (up to 20,000 on screen at once, an impressive feat in and of itself) of different shapes, sizes, and health bar lengths all around you.
And then you cry. Because it’s hard…very hard.
I bought They Are Billions when it was early-access, so I cut my teeth on the Survival mode. Basic setup is: Command Center, four Rangers, and a Soldier, go. A fine start, excepting the fact that if you could see the entire map, you would just see a literal OCEAN of red with a tiny piece of green in the middle (A bit too daunting for me, I think).
It won’t take long to learn that balancing your resources is critical, and sadly there are a few moments of getting bad placements that can be frustrating to impatient players. However you can just start another round if you’re feeling cheated, so the random map generation is not as problematic as I thought it would be.
Numantian Games created something special. I really wish I was better at it. I still have no idea if the developers actually intended the game to be beatable, but the time-sink still feels worth it for an experience that few, if any, RTS games have ever delivered, and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.