is rare not just for the unusual creation that it is (a mostly-text, indie, turn-based strategy survival simulator set in the zombpocalypse) but also for the fact that it makes generous allowance for the player's imagination to engage and enhance the experience. That imagination factor is a feat which the majority of videogames - in striving for linear, accessible stories and/or impressive visuals & audio - leave little or no room for. Screwfly Studio
's work here is admirable considering it was a startup with only two guys. Their next planned project, Deadnaut
is a similar game set in space. If they do carry over and improve upon the mechanics from Zafehouse, I am definitely picking it up. For context, I got Zafehouse on Good Old Games a while back, but over time it's been patched into better shape. My 11 or so hours played as of this writing reflect the time it took me to replay every game mode, grab the achievements for a perfect game and fiddle with the custom content a bit.
Zafehouse has three modes that scale in difficulty from easy to hard:
- Ongoing free survival mode
- Vehicle repair escape scenario
- Helicopter rescue escape scenario
The game randomly generates your survivors and the town map, then you direct them to essential tasks while progressing one hour at a time. The story is as barebones as zombie apocalypse gets but there's decent replayability thanks to the gameplay, at least until such time as you've mastered the mechanics on the standard modes and played out custom scenarios to your satisfaction. Gameplay is a finely tuned balancing act involving staying alive and safe, keeping survivors happy (or at least not at each others' throats) and finding/managing scarce resources while accomplishing objectives within the mission parameters. The relationship system really does add flavor to the experience and I would love to see more along these lines in gaming.
Perhaps it's not so finely tuned as we would like, but as far as I know this game is one of a kind and the formula can only be improved upon over time. I'm willing to overlook some design and balance issues as well as lack of depth & complexity in mechanics. What visual and audio does exist is also limited - serviceable, but not awe inspiring. There are no technical issues or bugs whatsoever and the game is very low resource, which is unsurprising given that it's a small game. What you see in the screenshots on the Steam store page really is what you get.
One thing that I had tons of fun with was the custom content manager which I used to create a group of survivors based on my family & friends. Dropped them into a town with locations based on my own favorite hangouts, and imported pics for all of it. As I said initially, this is a game that encourages the imagination, and that is all the more true when you get to play out the apocalypse scenario with familiar people and places.
I recommend Zafehouse: Diaries
if, as in my case, this game immediately caught your eye as something different in the genre and potentially fun. Normally I make no comment about price or promotions, but I would probably pick this up while it's on sale. The biggest red flag to be aware of however is that the game information is provided to you in diary form
. The journal provides 90% of the information you need to play the game. I realize that's not for everyone, but for those who aren't revved up at the prospect of reading a wall of text, I will just say by the time you're familiar with the mechanics, you'll be skimming through it very quickly and painlessly. In closing my reviews I usually provide a few tips but I'll keep that light here, since the fun of Zafehouse includes learning and mastering aforementioned mechanics.
TIP: Items can be modified multiple times (e.g. Silenced handgun ---> Silenced scoped handgun).
TIP: Items can be scrapped by left clicking them from the Supplies view, which is useful if you're trying to get a survivor to modify a specific item; just scrap the superfluous inventory.
TIP: Traps do
make noise, which attracts zombies to your location.
TIP: Searching a new area once for "anything useful" should be enough to discover mission relevant info/items, if any exist at that location.
TIP: Splitting up survivors instead of keeping them all together is a viable strategy and particularly useful in certain situations, but also comes with higher risk of injuries or deaths from zombie attacks.