Sunday, June 24, 2012


Cataclysm is a zombie survival rogue-like game - free to download, and lots of fun, but still in alpha and very hardcore.

I thought I'd give it a try yesterday and, not being very hardcore myself, I downloaded the Windows port with Deon's 32x32 graphics tileset. (It's very simple. Unzip the folder somewhere, then click on Cataclysm.exe to start the game. Note that you might need the wiki for the controls.)

You start in an evac center. Unfortunately, you've apparently missed the last shuttle - or maybe no one made it out, I don't know. At any rate, there's only one other person there, and in both of my starts, he wasn't much help at all.

You've got nothing but jeans, sneakers, and a t-shirt, and that won't keep the zombie hordes at bay. If you're very lucky, there will be something in the basement you can scavenge. Unfortunately, you can't carry anything except what you can hold in your hands.

So the first thing you need to do is leave the shelter (which is not a safe house, BTW) and try to find some gear. Top priority is a backpack, or even just cargo pants or a vest, so you can carry items. Look for a military surplus outlet or maybe a sporting goods store. Everyone else is dead - or worse than dead - so you can't be squeamish about looting.

And look for a weapon. Guns are nice, but the noise will bring zombies running. A melee weapon is quieter, but if you're close enough to hit a zombie with one, they'll be close enough to hit you. Of course, you need food and water, too - plus drugs for medical care and morale.

Note that you've got about ten minutes at the start of the game before the zombies show up, though that doesn't mean you're safe until then. My first character was eaten by a pack of wolves before he'd even seen a zombie. I'd found a gun, but no ammunition. And wolves are fast. I could have beaten off one or two, but not a dozen.

The game is turn-based. It's all about smart decisions, rather than quick reflexes. But don't expect your character to last long. It's very tough. Still, if you do last, there's no limit to the world. The gameworld is procedurally generated, so you can explore pretty much forever.

My second character started out in a poor location, I thought. But I was quickly able to find a backpack and a pair of binoculars (when that's in my inventory, I can usually spot zombies before they spot me). I found a sweet little .22 rifle and a box of shells, too, but I hesitated to shoot it, not without a silencer.

Instead, I've just been running away - or trying to. (That graphic at the start of this post, by Sedate Meerkat, is perfect for my character.) I found a baseball bat, and I was able to use that to kill the first zombie that surprised me. Yeah, I was injured a bit in the fight, but not too bad.

The worst thing is that I don't have a safe place to live, and I can't carry very much in my backpack. It just... hurts to leave stuff behind - water purifiers, tools, pots and pans, a hotplate. I even passed up a bow and arrows, because I couldn't stand to leave my rifle behind (but I debated that for a long time).

I was looting a gas station when there was a huge explosion outside. I don't know what caused it, but when I checked, it looked like a zombie convention out there. Not just the ordinary zombies, either, but the really dangerous ones.

So I scooted. There was a pile of batteries there, too - essential for my flashlight, among other things. I just hated to leave them. But if I'd delayed, I would have died.

The candy and potato chips and beef jerky I'd scavenged at the gas station didn't do much but keep me from starving (I did fill up my water jugs at the broken toilet there), so I headed for a grocery store. It was full of good food, and since a thunder storm had moved in, I decided to spend the night in a back room with only one door and no windows.

Note that I've got no way to barricade doors, and my character is a very sound sleeper (one of his bad traits). Nevertheless, a loud noise woke me some time before dawn. When I cautiously looked out the door, I discovered that the whole grocery store was on fire. I'm guessing that lightning struck it.

Luckily, there was still a narrow passage past the fire, though it was filled with smoke. In the front of the store, I grabbed what food I could, then ran out into the pitch-dark night.

My binoculars don't help when it's too dark to see, and I didn't dare risk turning on my flashlight, so I was sure I'd stumble upon a zombie. But I was able to follow the wall north to a building next door, where I waited until it got light.

The next day, I found a crowbar, so I was able to enter locked homes - with some effort, but without needing to smash noisily through the door or windows. (Unfortunately, I had to give up my comforting baseball bat - just not enough room in my pack.) I got tired early, so I tried to sleep in one of those homes, only to be awakened by zombies crashing through windows to the northwest and northeast.

I left to the south, smashing a window myself (and getting cut in the process). It was already getting dark, and zombies were hot on my trail. I tried to loop through some traps to the southwest, then headed northwest again. But a shocker zombie followed me, and sent a bolt of electricity in my direction just as I rounded the corner of a house.

I didn't have a choice, then. I pulled out my .22 rifle and started shooting. It took an embarrassingly large number of shots before I killed the zombie - and it got frighteningly close - but at last, it was dead. And I took off running again.

This time, a strangely-deformed, sinewy zombie caught up to me, loping forward with unbelievable speed. Again, I had to shoot. Again, it took awhile before I was able to kill this very speedy zombie (I'm not the world's best shot), and it got close enough to hit me a couple of times.

Other zombies were starting to catch up by then, so I continued to run north, tired, hungry, and limping. It was pure luck that I managed to lose them, pure luck that they didn't catch me as I slept in a house sometime later. But you need luck to survive a zombie apocalypse.

The next morning, I was very hungry, so I headed north again, towards a distant grocery store. This time, a huge, brutish zombie started following me, and I couldn't seem to shake it. I was afraid my little .22 wouldn't have much effect on such a brute, so I kept running.

I reluctantly passed up a gas station, despite my hunger (and despite my wish to make some Molotov cocktails). It was just too clearly a deathtrap. But I dodged around one building and into a pawnshop, where I found a more powerful pistol, with ammo. (I had to drop some things. I hate to give up useful supplies, but... one must prioritize.)

I expected the zombie to follow me inside, but it must have lost my trail. (I saw a wolf to the east. Do zombies chase animals, too, or just people?) At any rate, I'd entered the back door, but there was also a door to the north, and a grocery store just to the east, so I ran over there and finally satisfied my hunger.

I spent a long time in the grocery store, eating and resting in the back room. I almost decided to spend the night there. But I don't like to spend too much time in any one place. And there was no back door, so no place to run if another horde of zombies broke through the front.

So I'm on the run again. I ate all the produce in the grocery store that hadn't spoiled, so I'm back to living on candy and potato chips. And it's getting late, so I really do need to find a place to sleep. I still need a silencer for my rifle, too - and a million other things, most of which I couldn't carry, even if I found them.

But so far, I've found the things I have to have to survive. So it could be worse. And tomorrow, it probably will be.


Anonymous said...

wow and that whole time you didn't run into a single npc i find them everywhere running up to me and threatening me to get on the with their guns

WCG said...

Maybe you're playing a newer version of the game, Anonymous? I never ran into a single NPC, except for the one who starts with you (and disappears as soon as you save the game), all the times I played it.