Title: They Are Billions
Developer: Numantian Games
Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Platform: PlayStation 4
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 18/06/2019
Price: £19.99 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
They Are Few, and Far Between
When you think of real-time strategy games, the last thing to come to mind is console gaming. When I found out that Numantion Games had released an RTS on PlayStation 4, I was cautiously optimistic to see how they would pull off such an experience – especially one so catered to a mouse and keyboard on the Dualshock 4. I have since come to find out, Numantion Games has created an experience that is uniquely enticing and challenging, not only for the player but the console itself.
The Odds are Stacked Against You
They Are Billions’ challenge is–at its core–a numbers game. There are “billions” of infected, and very few of you. While literal billions of zombies is unpractical to expect from a video game, you are always vastly outnumbered and are required to take down massive hoards of zombies with limited units and resources.
You start every playthrough with only 5 units, 4 scouts and 1 soldier as well as a command centre. You’ll use these units to create your initial defences against the roaming zombies that populate the outskirts of your colony. Days will pass as you expand your colony and supply of resources.
Eventually, a hoard of zombies will descend upon your colony truly testing your development within the game. Depending on the modifiers you choose before the start of every game, the overall population of zombies and how long you have until the end of the game changes. This latter option has the added modifier of changing how often the hoard comes to attack your base.
A Hands-Off Approach
While some RTS games require very careful management of multiple units types to handle resource gathering, building, and fighting; They Are Billions only uses fighting units, leaving the latter to use workers and energy as resources themselves. Once you place a building from the Command Center, it removes the need to micromanage units to ensure they function correctly.
Eventually, you’ll see workers walking around the colony to give you a sense of population; however, you and the zombies cannot interact with them as they go about a simulated path. This can cause strange glitches as space becomes limited and you bolster your defences. Workers can become trapped behind a perimeter wall or between buildings and simply walk into a wall forever.
This approach of removing mundane features also extends to the Developer as Numantion Games have decided not to include a tutorial to help the player learn the basics of the game. While They Are Billions has had much of the fat trimmed off its edges, you’ll find yourself overwhelmed with the lack of information, forcing you to find your own strategies, taught by trial and error. It is more than likely that you’ll find yourself frequently losing your first few days with the game to simple oversights or ignorance.
A Moment to Think
The most significant hurdle They Are Billions has on the PS4 is the difficulty of navigating menus and the overworld quickly and efficiently using a gamepad instead of keyboard and mouse. Conveniently, the developers use the touchpad to pause the game, giving you time to plan your next actions. As a result, any action you take while paused holds until you hit the touchpad again, allowing the completion of multiple buildings simultaneously.
All it Takes is One
They Are Billions requires each player to learn how to efficiently gather resources and fortify their colony in a procedurally generated world populated with hordes of the undead. This uncertainty in each playthrough can cause scenarios where you can start off effectively with one hand tied behind your back. The zombie hoard can and will take advantage of every weakness you may or may not know of when a zombie attacks a building, instead of the building crumbling to the ground. The building instead becomes infected itself, turning those inside into members of the attacking force of zombies. This can cause a chain reaction where even one zombie unchecked, can suddenly turn into hundreds making their way to your command centre. These weaknesses are amplified tenfold when faced with the already massive numbers when the hoard attacks your colony.
This power dynamic, where even a single zombie could instantly ruin a playthrough even deep in the game, forces you to focus heavily on defensive measures to prevent any zombie from entering your colony. Most of the best strategies involve stacking walls in front of walls and loading them with units and turrets. The variety of military units, especially in late game is rather unimpressive, with some of the best units coming at the cost of permanent loss of vital resources. The late-game also comes with the ability to produce legendary buildings that give significant bonuses to production, resources, and defence.
Slow to a Crawl
With such an emphasis on truly massive zombie hoards and the ever-growing population of your colony, the limitations of the hardware start to show. (Writers Note: I should probably mention I’m reviewing this on a launch PS4, and do not have access to a PS4 Pro nor a PS4 Slim. As a result, your performance may differ from my own.)
During the opening of the game, I would encounter a few performance drops as my colony was limited to a small area with only a handful of units and workers on the screen. As the game progressed, the fog of war was lifted, and my population grew; I found framerate drops to become a common occurrence. Zooming out to get a complete view of my colony or quickly panning across the screen caused small, noticeable dips. During hoard attacks, however, my PS4 struggled to keep up and would painfully drop to sub-par framerates until the hoard was dealt with. Effectively, replacing the stress of the hoard with the strain on my eyes.
Only the Bold Survive
Numantion Games have created an experience on the PS4 that shows RTS can find a footing in the console space. Without sacrificing too much of the core experience, they’ve created one that stands out on its own. Unfortunately, the struggle of surviving such an unforgiving world is sometimes marred by the struggle of the PS4 to keep up, but not enough to ruin the experience. They Are Billions allows for endless replayability that fills a gap left by so little of the genre on PlayStation.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase They Are Billions from the PlayStation Store on the following link, https://store.playstation.com/en-gb/product/EP0958-CUSA13330_00-THEYAREBILLIONS0
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.