Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fort Zombie

As I noted previously, I've gotten hooked on computer game play-throughs on YouTube. Not only can I waste a lot of time that way, I'm always tempted to buy the games, myself (so I can really waste a lot of time).

Well, last fall I started watching a Fort Zombie play-through by Revocane, and it really looked like fun. (I can't find the original series, but he's started a new one here.) I'm pretty bad at games like that, but heck, for less than $10 from GamersGate, why not give it a try?

As it turned out, the controls were terrible, at least for someone as inept as I am at action games. Some games, I just can't play at all, and this one was more frustrating than fun. So I set it aside and moved on.

Then, last week, I started watching another Fort Zombie play-through, this time with a melee character. And you know? That looked like it might work out better for me. And yesterday, I was really looking for some mindless fun.

Sunday, I went out to net one of my fruit trees, an Asian pear, and I discovered that I was too late. The birds had destroyed the whole crop. There were maybe four pears left on the whole tree that weren't bird-pecked and rotting.

So I decided I needed a day off. Yesterday, I decided to do nothing productive. Hey, I don't normally do much that's productive anyway, but yesterday, I did nothing. In fact, I spent most of the day playing Fort Zombie. And it was, indeed, a lot of fun.

On YouTube, Lethal Feline - thedeathcat - was playing a crowbar-only character. He vowed to use no other weapon, no matter what. Well, Fort Zombie characters always start with a crowbar, and it's supposed to be the best club in the game. So he could design a character to specialize in that.

For me, I wanted to play a melee character in general, but not to restrict myself to anything in particular. I don't need to make the game even harder on myself!

In fact, I wanted to use a bladed weapon, which tend to be more powerful than clubs, but you have to find one of them first. So I made a character with some club skill, some blade skill, and some firearm skills - a jack-of-all-trades who would start off using that crowbar, but switch to a better weapon when he could.

And that worked. Admittedly, I was lucky enough to find a broadsword, the best bladed weapon in the game, on my second day. But I find melee weapons easier to handle than firearms. And you don't run out of ammunition!

Ben Riley, your character, starts out in front of three chests containing food, some medical supplies, a crowbar, and a crappy handgun, with ammunition. His first goal is to get across town to the police station, where he can safely spend the night.

Note that you can't save the game except in the police station (or in one of the other locations, depending on which difficulty level you chose at the start of the game). But you don't want to hurry there. You need to scavenge for supplies as you go, not heading for home until your inventory is full.

That first day, I almost died at the police station. It was absolutely packed with zombies, far more than on any of my previous attempts, last fall. And they all came rushing out the front door as I approached.

I survived, but barely. And it's been a narrow thing ever since. I was down to 11% health at one point. I'm only on Day 4, but I lost health every day until this last one, when I finally had a few survivors backing me up.

At any rate, as a melee character, I learned from that video to walk everywhere, conserving my stamina. I play deliberately, taking my time. There are dangers in that, since time is always short, but it's been working for me.

In this game, zombies can carry weapons, and it's the policeman zombies, with pistols, and - especially - the army zombies, with assault rifles, which have been the big threat. My character has been shot and killed a few times (requiring me to restore a saved game).

Note that they're not very good shots - well, they're zombies, after all - but they never run out of ammunition. (And they never drop anything useful, either. You can't get loot from dead zombies.)

I do use guns myself, when necessary, but I'm not very good at it. I mean, my character isn't too bad at it, but I'm not very good at it as a player. For other zombies, my broadsword works very well, but when I get a mixed group - melee zombies plus police or army zombies - it's tough.

Well, as I say, I'm very, very bad at games like this. I hate the controls, too. But most people probably wouldn't have as much problem with them as I do. And it is fun. At least I can play the game this way - so far.

Each day, Ben Riley goes out looking for food and tools, weapons, or other survivors, depending on what's available that day. I usually take a survivor with me, for backup and to use as a pack mule. The other survivors stay busy at the police station, building barricades and/or traps.

We have a deadline. After 13 days, zombies will attack the fort en masse, and we have to be able to fight them off.

The town - Piety, Indiana - is procedurally generated. Every play is different, and every location is different, although built with the same buildings - businesses, homes, churches, etc., which become quite familiar.  Most everything is trashed, to a greater or lesser extent, but there's still loot to be found, if you search for it.

And zombies - lots and lots of zombies.

As I say, my character has been badly injured almost from the beginning. For the first three days, every day found me worse off than the day before. And part of that is because I've had trouble finding survivors. (Survivors with medical skills will heal me a bit every night.)

On the other hand, I've found an abundance of food. And as I say, I found a broadsword on Day 2. We still use guns, but relying on a melee weapon means that I don't run out of ammo. If I have a survivor with me, I equip her with a pistol, but restrict her to short range attacks. So she only shoots if I let a zombie get past me.

Again, I learned that from watching those YouTube videos. Who says YouTube isn't educational?

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