Let's pretend, just for a minute, that a zombie apocalypse had indeed occurred. Months have passed. Almost everyone you know is dead. You've spent countless weeks with your back to the door, afraid to sleep, afraid to even close your eyes. The only person you have left is someone you love, someone you trust; a wife, a husband, a sister, a brother. It could be anyone. It's also not much, not in the wake of everything else that has happened but still enough to keep you sane. You don't know what you would do without them.

One day, something happens.

Project Zomboid doesn't hold any punches. From the word 'go', it makes it clear that you're not here to survive, that you won't succeed against overwhelming odds. As the introduction flickers onto your screen, the game tells you in no uncertain terms that this is where you die. More than anything, though, Project Zomboid is frightening in the way zombies were supposed to be. There are no cheap scares, no heavily mutated specimens, no boss fights. Instead, it touches on the understanding that zombies, while slow and stupid, are also an inexorable force.

Things will not get better. Problems will only be compounded. With each person taken down, there will be another zombie. With each day that passes, there will be less food. Less water. Less everything. Eventually, the zombies will win.

Though the developers have had a catastrophic run with everything from PayPal right down the opportunistic pirates at 4chan, it doesn't look like the quality of Project Zomboid has suffered at all. In a word? It's glorious. Project Zomboid is, in a nutshell, almost if not everything we've ever wanted in a sandbox RPG set within the bleak reality of a zombie apocalypse. Sure, we've only seen an alpha tech demo but that's what makes it so ridiculously amazing. People are talking about the pirating the demo itself. It's that good.

But, we're getting ahead of ourselves. Impressive as all that might sound, the alpha tech demo really is just that; a paper-thin slice of what the game has to offer. Customization has yet to be implemented.There's no multiplayer. Survivors are few and far between, zombies come manufactured straight from an assembly line. Instead of an enormous, sprawling world filled with endless possibilities, we have a small, intimate story and one that works almost achingly well as an introduction to the game.

The demo opens with a conversation between a man and his wife. He, from what we can tell, is the quintessential Average Joe complete with receding hairline. She, the hapless yet practical damsel. Somehow, the two have managed to find their way to the bedroom of an abandoned house. She apologizes for her injuries, he brushes them off and promises her that everything will be fine. Soon, he'll have to figure out a way to make good on that vow. The dialogue is simple yet evocative. There's no excessive back story and we're left to concoct our own theories based on what little is shared. The tension and the forced cheer is almost palpable. They both know the truth. We do as well.

There's a moment within the first two minutes of gameplay that will sink a hook into your heart and tug. I wasn't really sure what I thought of the game up till that point as I led my character outside. The music swelled and I found my self looking out of a window, trying my best to divine what the developers had in store for me. Night was coming. Things had to be done. As much as I wanted to stay barricaded inside the house, I had to venture out. This wouldn't end well. I was sure of it.


A lot happened afterward. There were surreptitious explorations. There were zombies. Bad things, in general, made copious appearances. I know I'm being ambiguous but trust me, you want to see it for yourself. It's not the ending that matters, after all. It's the journey and this one, if you're not careful, might just make you cry.

Well, maybe not cry, but certainly leave you extremely stricken for about fifteen minutes at least.

If there's anything on the technical front that I do want to talk about, however, it's really the music. Project Zomboid features one of the most haunting sound tracks I've ever had the pleasure of encountering. I physically cringed when I stepped outside of the house and when the zombies began pounding, slowly and surely, on the door, a chill ran down my spine. In fact, the music is so exquisite, it actually caught me by surprise. Played from an isometric perspective, Project Zomboid's graphics don't quite match my preconceptions of a zombie game. For one, there's no gore. Blood, yes, and buckets of it but neither gore nor graphic death scenes have made an appearance as of yet. The colors, in spite of the oppressive atmosphere, are actually kind of bright and cheerful. Faced with such visuals, I had been expecting chiptunes of some variety, not the eerie orchestral melodies that flood the game.

Assuming you enjoy sandbox environments and have a thing for zombies, there's no reason not to pick up a copy of Project Zomboid. In fact, even if you're not, you still probably should have done it yesterday. Amidst the chaos that has ruled the development phase so far, Indie Stone has somehow managed to stay on course. Project Zomboid, in spite of its deceptively simple presentation, has the kind of depth that entire franchises sometimes dream of having but fail to ever achieve. I don't care what anyone else has to say but if this keeps up, Project Zomboid is likely going to be my game of the century.

What are you waiting for? Go pick up a free copy along with one of Indie Stone's older games now.