✨ One of my faves! ✨
Project Zomboid is an in-depth, detailed, highly customizable zombie apocalypse survival life sim. Loot buildings, fortify your chosen base, kill or avoid zombies, and use your skills in cooking, carpentry, mechanical, electrical, fishing, foraging, first aid, and more to survive long-term.
Project Zomboid is an open-ended zombie-infested sandbox. It asks one simple question – how will you die?
In the towns of Muldraugh and West Point, survivors must loot houses, build defences and do their utmost to delay their inevitable death day by day. No help is coming – their continued survival relies on their own cunning, luck and ability to evade a relentless horde.
I am not good at fighting or sneaking or anything fast-paced. It stresses me out. But the depth and detail and realism looked so cool that I couldn’t resist giving this a try anyway. And it is cool! And the amount of customization—including the ability to weaken or completely remove the zombies—makes it a fun game no matter your skill level.
I feel like I’ve barely started playing this game, and I already love it so much and have 7000 things I want to say about it. I’ll probably shorten my review for Steam, but here on my blog, where people might be hearing about PZ for the first time, I’ll just let myself gush.
I really cannot overstate how cool all the detail in the gameplay is. The ways you can use items, the eventual failing of the power and water, recipes, the effect everything you do has on your health and mood. There’s cooking, farming, foraging, fishing, carpentry, first aid, mechanics, and electrical skills, in addition to the various fighting and sneaking ones. And it’s not just simple “make meal” types of interactions, you have to have the right supplies and skills and steps.
I can’t even scratch the surface in a review, but here are some examples: If you’re bleeding, you need bandages, but if you have no bandages, you can rip up a shirt and use that. If your clothes get bloody or dirty, you can wash them in a washing machine or a sink or a lake. You can get drunk on a bottle of wine (improving your mood but also hampering your ability to fight) and then fill the empty bottle up with water for later. You can improve your cooking skill by watching a cooking show on TV. You don’t even get to know what time it is until you find a watch or alarm clock. Different clothes have higher or lower amounts of scratch/bite protection for whichever specific parts of your body they cover and different amounts of insulation that can keep you warm if it’s cold or overheat you if it’s hot. If you nap in a chair, you might wake with neck pain. There are different types of medications you can find that have different effects (e.g. painkillers, or sleeping pills if your character has no painkillers and is in too much pain to sleep). If you exercise, you can improve speed and strength, but you’ll be sore and have your ability to run and fight decrease for a while. Water has to be boiled if it’s tainted, or you could die, but you’ll need to use a fire if there’s no power, and you’ll need something to burn and a way to start the fire. If you catch a cold, your coughs and sneezes will make zombies notice you, but you can use tissues or toilet paper to muffle the sounds. I could go on and on, but you probably get the point.
And the cooking! I turned off zombies and lost four hours of my life to this game just finding and choosing ingredients for my little guy to make meals with. You have to find the proper cooking equipment (baking pan, sauce pan, bowl, large pot, etc.), then you can choose exactly what to add to your stew or sandwich or pasta or whatever you’re making. You have to have a knife to cut certain things before using them, water in the pot, a can opener if you want to open cans, certain raw foods must be cooked separately first, etc. You can even change the oven temperature and the microwave settings! And the nutrients (e.g. protein, fat, carbs) actually matter. Different foods and variety in meals can affect the happiness of your character too. The cooking in this game is more detailed than in literally any life sim type of game I’ve ever played.
It’s also interesting to note how you can play with a character for months in-game, and all it takes is one little mistake, one moment where you get complacent or trip or don’t see a nearby zombie or drink tainted water for it to all be over. Which is how it would be a real zombie apocalypse.
There’s also a multiplayer option. I don’t do multiplayer anything, but it’s actually tempting in this game. It seems like it could be really cool. With all the crafting and systems in the game, you could actually make a functioning society.
Open World & Freedom
Because of how in-depth the game is, and because of the open world and huge map, there’s so much freedom in how you can play. There are so many different strategies you can have for survival. Build a cabin in the woods and forage, trap, and fish to survive. Fortify a house or building in the city and start farming and collecting rain water. Turn off re-spawning and stay on the move and scavenge until you’ve killed every zombie.
There are so many different ways you can choose to do small things too. Just to get into a building with a locked door, depending on what tools you have, how much time you have, and how quiet you’re trying to be, you can a) break down the door, b) disassemble the door and improve your carpentry skills, c) check if any other doors or windows are unlocked, d) pry open a window, e) smash a window.
There’s no end goal. Survive. As long as you can. That’s the goal. If you get bored, start a new game and make it harder, or use one of the starting scenarios, or try a weird challenge, or do a roleplay game, or make your own goals. I love this kind of freedom.
Details & Stories
Another really cool thing is the detail in the world. There are fancy houses and small houses and trailer parks and restaurants and grocery stores and libraries and schools and police departments and gas stations and ranger’s stations and auto shops and doctor’s offices and barns and churches and movie theaters and malls. It feels like a real city.
There are also little stories everywhere, like an abandoned car with blood all over the hood, or houses where someone was clearly in the middle of preparing a sandwich. I killed two underwear-clad zombies in a bedroom who were clearly having sex when they got zombified. I’ve read about some of the other things people have found, some funny, some sad. Looking through homes and finding these little stories or clues about the people who lived there humanizes them and reminds you that your character isn’t the only one who was affected. And the world is huge. You could spend so much time just exploring.
Settings & Customization
What’s also great is that there are TONS of difficulty options and settings you can adjust to make the game just right for you.
If you’re like me and suck at combat and sneaking and anything fast-paced and are thinking, “Wow, this game looks really cool, but I don’t wanna kill zombies,” I have good news: You can turn off the zombies and make this into a really cool post-apoc survival life sim and live your best hermit life! Or you can drastically weaken the zombies so that it’s easier, and you might find (like I have) that it’s actually fun, once you get more used to it. (You can even use a cheat menu mod or debug to turn on God or Ghost mode and practice killing zombies without dying first.) Or you can leave the zombie settings as they are. Or you can make the zombies even stronger and smarter and more populous.
There are tons of non-zombies settings that can change the difficulty of the game too. The amount of loot, how often houses and cars are locked and/or alarmed, how soon the water and power shut off, and more.
There are also tons of mods, which can make things easier or harder or more realistic, including things that affect the environment and non-combat stuff. (And the dev team seems really supportive of modders, which is nice!)
The only thing you can’t adjust in the settings is permadeath. You can, however, back up your save files every so often. In fact, I’d recommend doing that anyway, in case you die for a ridiculous, glitchy sorta reason.
Depending on how you play, this can be a zombie killing game or more of a survival game where there just happens to be zombies (or not). And the fun thing is figuring out and trying different ways of surviving and really exploring what this game has to offer.
The game isn’t even finished yet (it’s in early access at the time of this review), there are still more things to come that I’m super excited for (NPCs, farm animals, dogs), so I might update my review as I find more to love. But it’s already so much fun as it is now, and I just couldn’t wait to tell people about it!
*Update (3/24/23): Over 200 hours of play time, and I’m still loving this game!
*Source/Cost: I purchased this for $19.99 on Steam.*
– In-depth gameplay for short and long-term survival
– So much detail in the gameplay and the world
– Little stories to find everywhere
– Open world with huge map
– So much freedom to decide your goals or survival strategy
– Tons of difficulty customization, including no zombies
– Overall, a fantastic game that’s fun no matter how you choose to play!
(May not include everything)
– Not accessible for blind / visually impaired players and screen reader users.
– Can be played with keyboard and mouse/trackpad or controller.
– Can change key bindings.
– Lots of options/settings/customization available, including game difficulty, sound, visual, and more.
Fanart of one of my characters and some tweets! (I tweet about this game a lot.)
— Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight) (@KitTheNameless) August 22, 2022
I just accidentally added maple syrup to my character's ground beef stir fry ? Ah, well, he doesn't seem to mind. I guess beggars can't be choosers in the apocalypse.
— Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight) (@KitTheNameless) September 24, 2022
Aww there's a little hand warming animation when you have your character sit by a fire ? pic.twitter.com/FtxavxInFz
— Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight) (@KitTheNameless) October 5, 2022
Grass started growing through his driveway, so he cleared it, but the cracks in the concrete are still there. How cool is this game?? pic.twitter.com/TpYVU9WSWZ
— Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight) (@KitTheNameless) November 17, 2022
This is the most realistic run I've had yet. My guy has only survived a week cuz he's hardly left the house. He's only killed 8 zombies, and still managed to get injured. He spends most of his time huddled in a corner, eating canned food, reading, and listening to the radio.
— Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight) (@KitTheNameless) November 3, 2022
Kendall has a fanny pack for first aid and a fanny pack for snacks, and I love that for him.
— Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight) (@KitTheNameless) March 17, 2023
Things I say while playing Zomboid:
"Here, read magazine. I don't think it'll make you happier, but it'll distract you from the horror of eating a tub of margarine."
— Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight) (@KitTheNameless) November 9, 2022
Two of the most brilliant things about Project Zomboid are:
1) The way you can place or drop little items anywhere. Not even on a grid, just anywhere on the floor or surfaces. It makes places look so organically messy and lived in. pic.twitter.com/PpwGbzvkGV
— Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight) (@KitTheNameless) August 3, 2023
2) The change in your character's appearance. They start all clean & fresh-faced. A week later, they're unshaven, covered in dirt & blood, wearing mismatched clothes with rips & holes in them, knives & hammers hanging from their belt.
Little details really add to the immersion. pic.twitter.com/cFVgq0WSIG
— Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight) (@KitTheNameless) August 3, 2023
I also love watching videos of other people play this game! There really is no one way to play, which makes every video so different.