They Are Billions strategises in a steampunk zombie apocalypse

Video games certainly went za-za for zombies a few years back, during a time when we could kinda sorta still daydream that the annihilation of the human race won’t be caused by greed and hubris, but that’s no reason to discount every game with zombies in it. Look at They Are Billions, an interesting-looking real-time strategy game which sends thousands of the shambling devils against you and your steampunk settlements. It launched into early access last week and slammed right into Steam’s top 10, which is quite an accomplishment. Go on, let’s have a peek.

Ooh that’s not bad!

So! It’s the steampunk post-apocalypse, after humanity is almost entirely zombified. We take control of building and defending colonies, building them up to house people, gather resources, and build an army including some big ol’ steampunk mechs. The zombies, ah, they want to make more friends for themselves. The devs boast that the game can have up to 20,000 zombies around at once, roaming and reacting to your actions. There certainly are lots of them.

While it is a real-time strategy game, They Are Billions does let players pause at any times to issue orders and whatnot – handy if your brain or fingers are slower than the undead hordes.

In its initial early access state, They Are Billions only has a Survival Mode. A story-driven Campaign Mode is coming, which developers Numantian Games (who previously made Lords of Xulima, an RPG our John quite enjoyed) expect to add in spring 2018. But of course do remember this is early access, and they say development will go on longer if the game needs it.

They Are Billions £17.54/€20.60/$22.49 on Steam Early Access, which includes a 10% launch discount for the next day. Hit the game’s site for more information.

I’ll have to put this on my ‘to play over Christmas’ list.


  1. MiniMatt says:

    I do appreciate a good alt-text I do. And now I’m stuck back down the same ’90s music rabbit hole again.

    Oh, and zombie game looks good. Visiting the brainless hordes a Christmas tradition at our place, but that’s Uncle Derek’s kids for you.

  2. RuySan says:

    Xulima is fantastic. I’m happy for these guys

  3. DeadCanDance says:

    On the final horde ( when the narrator screams “they are billions” ) the fps struggles a little although I think it was because I had it fully zoomed out.

  4. zulnam says:

    Title is broken.

    “They Are Billions”.
    Steampunk rts
    Steampunk mixes sci fi with 19th century.
    19 th century population was estimates at roughly 800-1000 million in 1840.
    Almos billion != billions

    Ergo title is broken.
    Proposed alternative title: “There certainly are lots of them”.

    • Landiss says:

      The trailer says there are 13 billions of them, to be precise. After thorough investigation I have found out that one of the following 2 explanations is true:
      a) it’s actually set in future in a different version of universe, were electricity as we know it is impossible
      b) zombies multiplicate like rabbits.

    • gunny1993 says:

      If it’s 19th century then the dirty Americans haven’t ruined the language yet so a Billion is still a million million, therefore it should be “They are Milliard”

      Then we can loop back round to your argument

      • RuySan says:

        Billion is not “Million million” but “thousand million”, which is still the accepted nomenclature of those civilised parts of the world who use the metric system.

        • noodlecake says:

          “Milliard” was a thousand million, and “billion” was a million million. For some reason it was changed in the US and then we followed suit in the UK later. No idea why.

          • Landiss says:

            And for the rest of the world it’s still the proper way (billion being thousand milliards).

          • Ghostwise says:

            “Special” relationship, we tell ya.

    • zaygr says:

      If you had watched the trailer instead of just looking at the title, it tells you within 10 seconds that this is set in 2160.
      The aesthetic is steampunk, because that’s how much the survivors of the zombie apocalypse has regressed in terms of technology. 19th century society with bits and pieces of future-tech.

      • Asurmen says:

        You must be fun at parties.

        • zaygr says:

          Only when the facts are wrong and the info that invalidates a complaint is in such an obvious place.

          • Asurmen says:

            Yeah, see, I think you missed the clear humour in the original post. Chill out.

          • Kirasath says:

            A kindred spirit! zaygr, bane of anti-knowledge!

        • skyst says:

          What would an RPS comment section be without someone forcing this line in?

    • geldonyetich says:

      If you want to quibble over realism in a game about a zombie apocalypse that badly, it’s perfectly reasonable to assert that technology would have suffered a setback, so we could very much end up with 19th century technology in an alternate future.

      Personally, I’d have titled it, “Why do zombies want to eat us if they apparently don’t need to eat to sustain an unreasonable population?” But then, I am rather longwinded.

  5. Vaughan says:

    Fuck your pop-up re. ad-blockers.

    • taosaur says:

      I rather enjoyed declaring myself a bad person :)

      • Tiax says:

        TBH, having to click on this made sure that I would never, ever disable ad-block.

        • Hypocee says:

          I haven’t had AdBlock installed for years and years. I just use NoScript, and I have no idea what you guys are talking about.

          I actually sorta miss the ads – the real ones off to the side, not the assault at the bottom. Sometimes they were relevant. I just see these dead black squares. If only there were some way to put an image that a human had approved on a web server for a day without running 64 JIT nanoauctions through five layers of XSS networks that Whoops Fullscreen Video How’d That Get There.

    • SavannaJeff says:

      I keep getting logged out of my account, which is a bit frustrating since even though I’m a premium user, I still get the pop up and have to say I’m a bad person.

  6. DeadlyAvenger says:

    I picked this up over the weekend – had some troubles launching it due to over-zealous AV software but it ran fine after I figured that out.

    The game is hard. If even just one zombie gets through your static defences it can mean complete annihilation – if a zed reaches a housing building, that causes a handful more to spawn causing a chain reaction! The waves get increasingly harder with additional zombie types joining on the waves. The base-building is much more interesting than your standard RTS as you have to manage resources, build lots of static defence and then expand as you need to (clear zombies, build new defences, build up your base) – great for those that enjoy turtling, usually frowned upon in other RTSes!

    I suggest beginners increase the game duration (e.g. to 150/120 days) – you still get the same number of zombies, but have more time to build between waves.

    • taosaur says:

      I put in 20 hours over the weekend (when I should have been doing holiday stuff) and managed to get to day 72/100. On map one >_< Most of my colonies still die by the second wave.

    • Tobberoth says:

      Another tip for beginners is to use space to pause the game liberally. You can still order units around and build stuff while paused which lets you be as efficient as possible without having to be insanely quick. It’s important since any resources you collect while your warehouses are full are just lost until you build a market.

  7. Horg says:

    Premise looks good, the art assets need work. Some of those buildings are suffering from ”just glue some gears on it and call it steampunk”. Will be interested to hear more about this as it develops.

    • taosaur says:

      I picked it up Saturday, and while the there’s nothing standout about the artwork, it does have a unified aesthetic and doesn’t detract from the game. You won’t look at any particular building or unit and say, “Whoa, cool!” but it all pulls together nicely.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      You mean like this? : link to

  8. Jerppa says:

    Looks like Christmas shopping.

  9. Vasily R says:

    I think it did so well due to all the Youtubers covering it. If you want to see some good gameplay, one of my favorite Youtubers, Splattercat, has an awesome series link to

  10. Hypocee says:

    Thanks for getting an eye on this, Alice – you’ve saved me writing up the pitch email I had half put together in my head. Like most, probably, I became aware of TAB when it blew up on YouTube after its Halloween alpha launch, and I’m so so excited. Glad it’s on RPS now.

    Some additional condensed notes that I can do publicly without segues now!

    Some say it’s a city builder – not really. It’s an RTS in the Age of Empires vein, about expanding and filling food and housing caps for the worker population that produces your wealth, and teching up through ages.

    Some say it’s a turtler’s paradise – not really. It’s about striking a cunning balance between turtling and booming; like most survival strategy games, compound interest rears its tense, satisfying/terrifying head. But the turtle side will certainly appeal, yes. My first thought on encountering TAB was of my brother who used to make impenetrable bases in Total Annihilation and watch increasing bot armies crash against them.

    Outside the economics it’s fairly comparable to playing Protoss v Zerg.

    The game is about thinking about your surroundings, in a wonderful way I haven’t seen before. It’s largely about chokepoints, almost exclusively so on the starting Moorlands map. This means that sometimes, with some thought and scouting, a huge territory or resource gain can be cheaper than a small one. That sounds like a small change but the chance is deeply exciting.

    The barks are well acted, but the writing rages from Perfectly Fine on the Soldier through I’m Sorry on the Titan to Just The Worst Long, Irrelevant Sarcasm on the Ranger – the unit you’ll use the longest and micro the most. Sigh. They can be turned off.

    For all intents and purposes, the later waves are a liquid with the Special Infected moving within it. This is fine by me, I’m open to more Vs. Fluid RTS. I’ve completed all three Creeper Worlds and really should play the Perimeter games sometime. It does mean that a (damage rate / population) – (wall hitpoints / population) mindset comes in handy.

    The design incorporates a few arbitrary restrictions. Most notably you can’t build a wall more than two squares thick. Why? Because it would solve every single one of your problems, that’s why, shut up. It’s fine, videogames have rules, this one has those rules.

    Watching on YouTube can get infuriating pretty fast if you’re of a certain age. Bad decisions don’t bother me – they’re fun! – and I’ve never been a competitive/optimizing RTSer but failure through bad interface use, I’ve been surprised to discover, is a different matter. Having just casually played through ten years of _Crafts and C&Cs these kids don’t know they’re born. Half of them don’t know there’s an attack/move-to-contact command which has been in the genre since Warcraft II I think. The other half came up on RTS but can’t deal with the concept of hitting the biggest key on the keyboard in an active pause game. Rrrrrrrrrrr

    Tip: Pause to build, if you mess up or change your mind you get 100% resources back because construction never actually happened. If you let construction tick, you only get back some fraction.

    Tip: Farms, your later food source, as well as Hunter Cottages use grassland so you’ll see people learn to put everything else on dead land as much as possible.

    You can be dice humped. The map generation’s beta, and this whole awesome mode isn’t or at least wasn’t the primary design focus of the game. Choosing which situations you’re willing to play out is currently part of the game. I’m fine with this. I sort of even like the idea that sometimes things can just be hopeless? I dunno! It’s weird!

    It’s very much a matter of the Bungie ‘Thirty seconds of fun over and over’ type of game. One wall build, one clearing op, one surgical valley seizure, one entire run is likely to be pretty much like the next at least within a map type. So far in a month of watching and a week of play since its wide release, it hasn’t gotten old. That thirty seconds, or ten minutes or thereabouts, is just guh rate, satisfying, tense, proprietary, narratively coherent.

    The actual primary design is intended to be a campaign where maps are connected by rails with rad trains – yay! – and you’re colonising territories and sending home resources for the Emperor of the last human city – Yay! – and also doing puzzle (Red Alert Spy stylee?) and VIP escort missions – hmm! One assumes that they wouldn’t have written a procgen module if the missions in the campaign weren’t generated, but you know what happens when you assume. Are they? The non-conquest missions too? If so, that’s especially daring and interesting. I haven’t seen any word on it and if the campaign’s intended for release in four or five months presumably the design’s fairly nailed down. It’d be a neat thing to find out.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      The thing where the zombies are less of a swarm and more of a tidal wave reminds me a lot of Infested Planet, except on a more traditional RTS scale compared to IP’s squad scale. (Infested Plaent is great, BTW.)

  11. Joote says:

    Best game I have played this century. It’s so much like those classic RTS that robbed your youth.
    You just can’t get enough of it.

  12. DantronLesotho says:

    This looks right up my alley; definitely checking it out.

  13. cpl_kindel says:

    Hello everyone:

    I’ve been addicted to this game since purchasing it a week ago, absolutely love it! I created a new youTube gameplay / tutorial playlist (just episode #1 at this point) especially aimed at new players of this game, so that I can pass on the tips & tricks, pitfalls, and everything else I learned in the past week. I hope everyone enjoys it!! take it easy & here’s the link