March of the Living puts you against an insane amount of scenarios and choices, all tied up in a zombie apocalypse setting where one man starts his personal mission of finding his child. Working alone, or with other characters, you must help him cross the world.
Zombies seem to be a big thing, everyone seems to love them, and the Z’s always end up being blamed for the upcoming apocalypse. There are many portrayals of the creatures, slow, fast, bubbling, smoking, deformed, etc; but It’s the survival aspect I think people like. I mean, zombies are scary. One bite, or scratch and you become infected and turn into one, but the whole aspect of the world becoming decayed. busy streets becoming bare, silence turning to fear, and the sight of another person leading to paranoia sounds…oddly appealing. If you’re a zombie fan you’ll probably agree, but otherwise I probably sound a touch crazy.
March of the Living a FTL graphically inspired game, puts you in the shoes of a survivor named Greg, who sets himself a mission; to reach his ex’s house to see to his child. When he gets there he learns certain information that I’m no going to disclose in case it’s a spoiler for you, but basically, there’s hope that his child may have reached the docks on the other side of the game world, so that understandably becomes his main priority.
“…this game boasts a stylised, almost 8bit graphical face, and underneath the rugged landscapes, and the dark colours, we know there’s a huge spider web of formulas and cards with the choices and consequences crawling over one another, but yet, you become so immersed.”
Along the way Greg can come across various other characters that are able to join his group. There are three available slots and some characters may be worse than others, but it’s always best to have a small group to allow for the group to rest with one lookout, but sadly this means struggling to split scarce rations with everyone. Your priority though is Greg, if he dies then it’s game over. As the game progresses you do unlock three other characters to play as.
When you first boot March of the Living up, you are not given any control options, and no tutorial. It took me a while of clicking randomly on anything to try and get my character to move, it wasn’t until I realised that by clicking on Greg’s avatar or on Greg himself, highlights him and from there you can tell him to move around. You can only move around in the bottom lower thirds, everything else is a background and not explorable.
The way the game plays out is a fashion similar to Rogue, in this case, the game is heavily text based and anything story related, or cut-scene worthy is done through the use of textual, over visual storytelling. It makes a change to see a zombie game using such descriptive literature to paint a picture in your head without having to actually show you graphic scenes.
Your character has three bars to his name, Health, Fatigue, and Hunger. Standard stuff then for a zombie survival. Trouble is, rations are incredibly hard to come by and you’ll most likely find yourself running a red, empty bar before you find some food; unless of course you get lucky. Your fatigue is also troublesome as you grow very tired after just two sets of travelling, although it can vary depending on how long it takes to travel to the next area or on the type of weather at the time, rain makes it drain quicker. It’s safe to say though, from my experience, that it’s far easier to come across ammo than it is food.
Travelling is the main system that shines out to me about March of the Living though. There are three pages to the map. Each page contains at least over forty areas to venture to, and each area has within it, a part of the story. It’s also randomised each play through, so although you may get the same scenarios playing back to you, they’re in different orders and feel different…even though they aren’t. When you mouse over an area it will show a spider web of where it is possible to venture to next, and sometimes you can’t just make a straight route to your quest because sometimes an area may be too dangerous to progress through, or you’ll end up fleeing an area and ending up a few areas away from where you wanted to be.
“It makes a change to see a zombie game using such descriptive literature to paint a picture in your head without having to actually show you graphic scenes.”
It’s a really clever system, and I like how choices effect your end game scenario. You find yourself keeping an eye on the “Growls” which is basically an indicator to how many zombies are nearby whilst travelling. If it’s getting too much for you, hit, “Stop” and you can prepare or rethink your situation. There is also a scavenge element, which you’d expect to see anyway, and it works by allowing you to choose how long you scavenge a place for, the longer you take, the more you risk making noise and attracting more Z’s. Noise is also a factor in battles near a zombie horde, if you’re using guns, you can expect to attract more unwanted attention. It’s a game that makes you think, it gets you planning ahead and speculating on whatever might happen, even if it doesn’t happen.
The game may be text driven in many areas, but the combat brings a sense of interactive strategy to the table, and I for one, think it’s executed really rather well. Each combat scene will start of in a paused state. From here you can click each of your characters and tell them to use one of two attack methods (depending on what weapon they wield) or to stop and wait. You can also direct them on where to move, and you can choose specific targets to focus on. When you get more people in your group, the pause screen will become a godsend for you, allowing you to strategically manage a team of four with patience before watching the action unfold.
It’s not all doom and gloom, you’ll come across some memorable characters that bring a sense of normality to the apocalypse. You’ll come across a girl and her dog who will remind you that not everything has turned to evil, and you’ll come across suited gang members, looking for baseball bobble-head memorabilia leaving you chuckling at the pure randomness of their desire despite being amongst a zombie ridden country.
In terms of graphics and music though, this game boasts a stylised, almost 8bit graphical face, and underneath the rugged landscapes, and the dark colours, we know there’s a huge spider web of formulas and cards with the choices and consequences crawling over one another, but yet, you become so immersed. The simplicity draws your attention to the character, you’re not distracted by the background, yet you’re aware it’s there, the only thing that distracts you eventually is the dramatic soundtrack. It seems to drone on for quite a while and eventually just becomes noise.
I also feel that there could have been a lot more interaction with the current screens environment, for example, each area you go to, you’ll be faced with a wall of text detailing a situation, you’ll then be able to choose whether or not to rest or eat or organise yourself, There’ll be decoration going on within the mise-en-scene, and yet it won’t be interactive. I saw a backpack, it wasn’t interactive, it was just placed there and I’d have liked the option to have searched the bag, otherwise hanging around an area just becomes pointless and boring unless you’re topping up your bars.
In conclusion, I like this game, I actually do. Sure it could have benefited from perhaps a, “Secret of Monkey Island” point-and-click system, but otherwise the systems currently in place are very nicely done, and it’s a freaking zombie game, you can’t get enough of zombies! Go and grab it, you’ll struggle to survive and if you last longer than 15 days on your first few plays, then you’re clearly better than me.