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Zafehouse Diaries 2: The battle of Cleveland, part 1

A zombie survival diary

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Seven streets, five survivors, one zombie apocalypse (and, therefore, infinite zombies). What’s the worst that could happen? No, scratch that – what’s the best that could happen? I don’t include “just this once, everybody lives!” as a realistic possibility here, but perhaps one or two of them could make it out alive? On Cleveland Rd they will make their stand, as they skirmish against an army of undead, raid houses and bicker endlessly in our Zafehouse Diaries 2 [official site] diary.

Zafehouse Diaries 2, to clarify, is a grab-bag of strategy, simulation, management and roleplaying, in which you have only indirect control of your group of randomly-assigned survivors. You can order them to pursue particular tasks, and select what tools they will use to do them with, but outside of that you have effectively zero control over how your choices play out. Your survivors are all loose cannons in their way too – each with prejudices (some extremely ugly) and aptitudes that will dramatically effect their ability to cope both with their situation and with their companions. So, without further ado, let’s meet the gang I’ve been saddled with:

Police officer Stephanie Young looks set to be our combat hotshot, a very specific set of skills that should not be hampered by an education that stopped at high school. She’s clearly going to be invaluable to our survival effort. *5 seconds later* We regret to inform you the duck is racist. Ah, yes. That’s Zafehouse Diaries for you. Stephanie has for some reason taken against…

Amy Green

… A well-educated musician who boasts impressive maintenance and medical abilities, but, alas, she too is a mess of prejudices, in this case making frowny faces at the less affluent. Which puts her at particular odds with…

Brian Roberts

A retired nurse whose university degree has not lifted him out of poverty. He’ll be our chief medic, but he’s a mean trap-builder too. Oddly, despite his limited means, he is hostile towards uneducated folks, which alas makes him deeply sneery towards …

Deborah Edwards

…A priest with no education and, in terms of Zafehouse skills, a bit of an all-rounder. She is hostile towards the highly-educated, which means she hates Brian as much as he hates her. But someone who hates her even more is…

Joshua Baker

…An upper-class cook and victim of nominative determinism who looks set to keep our team’s bellies full but, miserably, is “uncomfortable around women.” The majority of our team is female, so I immediately peg Joshua as our most likely Problem Member.

That’s likely to be a longer-term issue, however, but more pressing is the open animosity between Brian and Deborah. I’m not Zafehouse veteran, but a connective line between them made of blood-red crosses (as opposed to the yellow, orange and green arrows between the others) suggests a powder keg to me.

So, the very first thing I do, before scouting out the next house in the street, preparing weapons or meals or clearing the immediate area of zombos, is start up some scuttlebutt.

Would you Adam and Eve it, it turns out that Debs and Bri are related? Distant cousins, in fact, barely aware of each other due to a family feud (presumably related to a mutual propensity to despise anyone who isn’t exactly the same as them, blood ties or not). Clearly, it’s absolute bollocks, but any rate of light in this endless night is apparently welcome. The pair settle down a bit, and as a whole our team is now at the level of ‘distrust across the board’ rather than ‘war in the making.’ Joshua still worries me – apparently he’s having trouble fitting in. Oh, Josh. Maybe if you’d spent less time raging on certain subReddits and more time preparing for the end of the world then you wouldn’t be stuck waiting for death on Cleveland Road.

Speaking of which, this is where we find ourselves. Cleveland Rd, in an Anywheresville named Unadilla Park. Salvation is just a street away, in the incongruously sweetly-named Buttercup Avenue (which creates unfortunate visions of John Goodman waiting in a locked basement). It’s only five houses away from us, but each of those five houses will be filled with and surrounded by deadheads. They are legion, and we are but five. Plus, they don’t even hate each other, so far as I know.

The real problem is that our salvation is a broken down car. Simply reaching it will not be enough – we must also find the parts to repair it, and they could anywhere in the seven streets of this district. Ranging far and wide is a brutal inevitability. But first, let’s meet the neighbours.

I send Amy and Stephanie to scope out the house next door, hoping that sending them on an important excursion together might defuse the tension. If Stephanie has to depend on Amy, maybe her prejudices might start to crumble. Alas, there’s no marked improvement in their relations, but they do report that the house has only a handful of zombos in, which leaves me feeling comfortable that we could shift the whole group over there.

Something must have happened during Steph and Amy’s first foray, as they team up for the breaching effort and, for reasons unknown, it’s the rest of the group that turn upon the pair of them, rather than that they fight each other. The group splits upon these lines for the duration of the incursion, but it’s clear that Joshua is the weak link.

He fails to achieve anything in the resultant zomb-battle and is, I strongly suspect, responsible for Amy and Stephanie deciding to split off from the rest of the group to fight alone. The gang reunites once the house is clear but, without the support of the others, both Amy and Steph have been injured. It’s not serious – and painkillers help – but it’s a first sign that Joshua’s attitudes are quite literally dangerous.

I task him and Deborah with cleaning the new house of rot and corpses together and, whaddaya know, things between them improve. Maybe being knee-deep in horror put things in perspective a little.

There’s no reason to stay here so, after treating wounds, raiding anything useful and improving a few weapons, we press on to Main Street. We haven’t had much trouble so far and it’s the middle of the day so ambushes are unlikely. I’m not worried. 16 Main Street will surely be ours, and from there it’s a short hop to Buttercup Avenue.

Aaargh. Why couldn’t it have been Joshua? Sure, Brian’s anti-poor attitude was ugly, but he wasn’t causing arguments and, most importantly, he was a shit-hot medic. Not shit-hot enough to fix his own injuries, however. The team left his corpse behind when they fled from their unsuccessful assault upon 16 Main Street. Only three zombies were killed, so things won’t be much easier if we try again. Presumably Brian will replace one of the fallen deadheads in no short order, too.

This is bleak. Only our second housebreaking, but now we are but four. Including one racist and one misogynist. Maybe I should just open the door and let the zombies in?

Joshua decides to take a bath. Thanks for your help, man.

In the exciting conclusion: more people take baths! What waits at Buttercup Avenue! And the Springfield calamity!

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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