Emerge: Cities of the Apocalypse [official site] suffers from a condition that is becoming more and more common. Experts call it Ludorum Malitituli, which is Latin for "Bad Game Titles." It's been spreading so quickly, lately, we don't know how to stop it. There is no cure.
However, if you're one to look beyond appearances, you may find love, or at least a good time, where you least expect it. It's a strategy game that combines turn-based planning à la Civ with real-time tower-defense combat, and it's doing its best to survive on Steam Greenlight. I tried the demo - but it's not safe to talk about that here. Follow me to the safehouse, on the other side of this barricade.
Here we're safe. We don't have to worry about them.
Emerge: CotA is a post-apocalyptic game about surviving the zombie apocalypse together with the few survivors you find along the way. After creating your character - gender, picture, class and starting weapon - the game begins, and it feels almost exactly like a Civ game. You have control over a single district of a city that needs to be scouted out. Immediately a lot of gears start turning: there is a research tree with 3 major branches (science, technology and commerce); there are two currencies as well as various resources that cannot be stacked from one turn to another, like technique and science; each area you control provides some of these resource, as well as space to build improvements and defenses. In short there is quite a bit going on. Most of these systems should at least be familiar from other strategy games, but the tutorial does a good job of going over each of them in turn.
That's the macro level. On the micro level you have to manage your character as well as your allies. You can buy weapons and assign them to each person according to their ability to wield them, which can be improved with experience points. Also, while you'll be directly controlling your character, you can set some guidelines for how the AI of each individual ally should behave. These two parts of the game come together during the fights against the Undead.
Each turn you have a number of Action Points which can be spent on various action, most importantly scouting a new area, or trying to gain control of it. At the end of your turn, the zombie horde will also move. Whenever survivors and zombies clash on the same zone - whether they attacked you or you came to them - a real-time fight begins, which will see your party on the right against the zombie horde on the left, separated by a barricade. At that point it's a matter of clicking on their bodies or on their heads and killing them before they destroy your barricade and overrun you, all the while managing your resources and dealing with the zombies' different abilities.
This seems to be the main gameplay loop. If you want a small recap of all that, this trailer will be your friend.
I actually quite like the aesthetic in the pictures, especially when it comes to humans - the cool and scrappy cyberpunk of a dark future.
Impressively, Emerge is made by one chap, solo dev Emilios Manolidis.
I know what you're thinking: that you've seen some free flash games that do the same thing. And you're not entirely wrong, but I haven't seen one myself that does it this well, or that has this much going on. It doesn't look particularly innovative, but the time I spent with the demo has left me feeling like it's a solid game, one that does old things quite well. Of course, you can always try the demo for yourself.
Just don't come back if you get bitten.