Each Monday, Chris Livingston visits an early access game and reports back with stories about whatever he finds inside. This week, being a terrible apocalypse pal with top-down zombie ARPG I Shall Remain.
I like to think of myself as a selfless person. I donate to charity, I pick up litter in parks, and help my elderly neighbor with her chores. If I come across a stray dog I’ll work tirelessly to find its owner, and if I find a spider in our home I’ll carefully carry it outside, find a nice bush for it to live in, give it a bag lunch and a tender kiss on the forehead, and check on it periodically to make sure it’s getting on okay. In a zombie apocalypse, however, all that seems to goes out the window from zed one. There’s no I in TEAM, but there is one in I Shall Remain. Actually, there’s two. They both stand for ME. Everyone else can get stuffed.
In the waning days of World War II, there are zombies, because of course there are. The Nazis have unleashed a zombie virus on New York, and now I run (somewhat sluggishly) through the darkened, rubble-strewn streets of this action-RPG, looking for my missing brother and fighting off zeds. I bash a zombie with my fists, then find a wooden plank, and start bashing zombies with that. After a few minutes spent following arrows helpfully painted on the sidewalk, I hear the sound of distant gunshots.
A moment later I meet Juan Pajota, another survivor on a reconnaissance mission. He offers to help me find my brother and put his own mission on the back-burner for the time being. It’s the least an NPC can do for someone he’s never met, and I agree with his assessments: my needs are far more important than his. He’s very agreeable as he joins me, even allowing me to paw through his personal inventory and take anything I think might help us, and by us I mean me. I decide, without consulting him, that I should probably carry his revolver. In exchange, I reluctantly give him my piece of wood, even though that leaves me with no back-up weapon. I hope Juan appreciates the sacrifice I’m making for him.
Juan’s revolver isn’t that much better than the stick, really, tending to completely miss unless the zombie is within a few paces. Even shooting at the explosive barrels that inexplicably litter the city doesn’t cause them to catch fire unless I’m within arm’s reach, leaving me exposed to the blast if I don’t scamper away quickly enough, which I don’t. Badly injured, I rifle through Juan’s pockets again, finding his last health kit and using it to heal myself. I also find three bottles of stamina-restoring water while looting abandoned automobiles, so I drink two and save the third for myself. Selfishness? Perhaps. Or is it leadership? Yeah. Let’s go with that.
There are a lot of zombies. A lot. I kill a ton of them and Juan kills as many as he can, though it’s hard not to notice that I’m killing considerably more. Eventually, I find a second gun. It seems to be a bit better than the one I’ve got, so I stuff Juan’s original gun back into his pants. He doesn’t even thank me! It turns out to be a good move, though, as an enormous monster called a Gobber is suddenly lurching after us, swinging its meaty arms like twin wrecking balls. We empty round after round into it, Juan from point blank range, me from a considerably safer distance, as I’ve cleverly positioned myself so that Juan is between the monster and me. It’s called tactics, and it’s what leaders do. Eventually the monster flops to the ground, spilling his inventory of ammo and health kits.
We eventually find my brother, who is hurt and can’t walk on his own, meaning I have to carry him in my arms. While carrying him, I’m putting myself at risk because I can only move very slowly and can’t fight. You’re right, that is pretty heroic of me. Also, you’re right, I did try to force my brother into Juan’s inventory so he could carry him, thus selflessly attempting to let Juan the hero, but that didn’t work. So, I’m a hero. Let’s go with that.
I lay my brother down on a bed in a room with no door on it inside a hospital with no doors on it. Shockingly, this does not turn out to be a safe spot and approximately 1 million zombies immediately flood in. I throw a grenade, which bounces off something and rolls back to stop at my feet. I squeak (heroically!) and sprint away, leaving the crowd of zombies to perish in the blast. Also, Juan. Juan perishes in the blast, because he was standing next to me, something he really should have known was a terrible idea. Even in death, he refuses to be useful: I can’t retrieve all the great stuff I reluctantly gave him earlier.
I run around New York some more on my own, not sure what I’m supposed to be doing now that I’ve rescued my brother by leaving him unconscious and helpless in Zombie General. I kill a zombie called a Berserker who, really, seems pretty calm. I explore every last inch of the city, looting autos and killing any straggling zeds. I eventually return to the hospital, where I notice Juan’s corpse is marked on my minimap. I also notice, while standing near Juan and sneering down at his stupid inert body, that there’s a teeny, tiny little icon on my screen that says “Revive.” Whoops! Sorry, pal. Didn’t mean to leave you face down on the blood-soaked hospital floor for twenty minutes. Or was I selflessly letting you rest while I secured the city on my own? Let’s go with that.
We run around for a while longer, but having rescued Juan from the coma I caused doesn’t seem to have accomplished much. No more quests are triggered and I don’t see a way to escape the map or anything else. I don’t know if it’s a glitch or I’m just missing something. Maybe I won the game? I mean, I’ve remained on this map. Is that not the goal of a game called I Shall Remain? Yeah, I won. Let’s go with that.
I Shall Remain is fun-ish, though for a game that is 95% shooting, the shooting currently feels like the weakest part. There are apparently 19 maps currently available, though like I said, I could never get off the first one for some reason.
For this column I played version 0.8.4.0, dated September 30, 2014. I Shall Remain is available on Steam for £11/$15.