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They Are Billions

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Strategy
Developer: BlitWorks
Release Date: July 9, 2019

About Joseph Doyle

Joe has been known to have two hands with which to both play games and write reviews. When his hands are not doing those, he will put books, musical instruments, and other fun things in them.


PS4 Review - 'They Are Billions'

by Joseph Doyle on Oct. 14, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

They Are Billions is a strategy game where you build human colonies to survive in a post-apocalyptic planet where billions of the infected try to annihilate the few remaining living humans.

I've done it. You've done it. We've all done it. With all the media putting out fare like Left 4 Dead, "The Walking Dead," World War Z, and "Zombieland," it's a natural impulse to conjure up different ways to protect myself against the bloodthirsty hordes. Numantian's They Are Billions puts you in the driver's seat to test how strong of a community you can create and how long it can go without being decimated by the masses of undead. By planning out the appropriate breakdown of energy, housing, hunting, soldiers, walls and more, you too can live to see another day.

They Are Billions starts you off with a rudimentary menu and gives you the typical layout. You can either start or continue survival mode, continue, play through some challenges, or root through the options. After deciding how difficult you want the game to be, you're thrust into the fray with a few fighters to control, and you're expected to start raising buildings, citizens and troops — the whole shebang while zombies wait in the areas surrounding your burgeoning civilization. You direct your characters to patrol the dull isometric landscape, which is filled to the brim with mountains, stones, trees and water as you figure out where to place homes and prepare for the worst.

The game systems are set up well. You need enough resources (energy, food, stone, wood, workers, etc.) to build or upgrade buildings and more. All the while, you're constantly making sure that zombies haven't breached the walls and you have enough units to take them on, while likewise trying to upgrade everything to be more efficient, powerful, and quick. If you don't, you'll scramble to defend your people and the Command Center, which is key to your existence, from being overwhelmed by the zombie masses. If the Command Center falls, your construction and production will stall. Achieving the delicate balance between all of these different investments is fine, and working around each new hindrance is fun enough if you have the patience to figure out how to reach each submenu.

On the PS4 version, the menus are unwieldy. The UI in this port hasn't changed, making the process of navigating each selection more confusing than it needs to be. While strides were made to make navigating the different systems easier (e.g., button shortcuts to enter certain menus), it's still too laborious to rely on the joystick to act as a cursor. At points, the gameplay is too fast for the cursor speed, so while you may want to send your soldiers to the west wall, you can't easily collect everyone.

They Are Billions is a zombie title that breeds terror from the sudden onslaught of droves of uncaring humanoids, but you're unable to react in time not because you don't want to but due to the restrictions of the controls. While other games, such as Civilization VI, have figured out how to remap the controls for consoles in a functional and effective way, Numantianseems like it has done very little to port They Are Billions to systems. When it is so difficult to enjoy the game, it makes it tough to recommend.

The game sports quite the glum color palette, with blacks, browns, dark greens and grays spanning the screen most of the time. The bleakness of the barren wasteland is largely due to the impending crises surrounding the outbreak of mind-melting illness, but it's likewise highlighted by the shadowy appearance of both the landscape and the game menus. These emulate the menus in the Fallout games in hue, with a similar sort of tone with pessimism for the future. The art style otherwise embraces a cartoony feel, combining Victorian/steampunk inspiration behind the buildings you construct with a somewhat cel-shaded execution. While this is a pretty interesting mix of influences, it ends up looking like a generic mobile game, but more importantly, it kind of clashes with the title's dreary look and feel. At the end of the day, however, this isn't distracting — only after careful viewing does this become apparent — and the visuals convey the desperation of the situation.

The music in They Are Billions is rather sparse but functional. The most notable aspects are the driving brass sections rooting the pieces, the accompanying strings as support, and the emulation of collected sounds (hammer strikes against metal, slamming doors, typewriter-sounding high hats, etc.) used for percussion in many of the songs. These support the aforementioned steampunk/Victorian aesthetic, focusing on the industrial revolution ideals of building up society with the sweat of your brow. It's an intriguing way to portray this aspect of the game, cementing the way the developers want you to see They Are Billions creating a consistency of tone. A lot of the game doesn't use this music but relies on the sounds of construction, people murmuring, and more — the soundscape of a busy lifestyle — to lull the player into continuing to build up their society for the better. The audio isn't anything spectacular on its own, but it largely supports the vision of the game.

They Are Billions boasts strong central ideas about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps to industrialize in the face of grave danger. This is done incredibly well, from the aesthetics to the music and especially the upgrade trees. All of these work in tandem so well that it's cool to see, but unfortunately, the follow-through for the console version isn't done well enough. This on its own is pretty damning, and coupled with the strange aesthetics makes the game considerably less enjoyable. The PC version may run better with the controls, interface and menus.

Score: 7.0/10

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