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The RPS Advent Calendar 2019, Dec 4th

Billionaire's shortdead

Today is day four of the RPS Advent Calendar but to be honest, you should probably keep that door shut. No seriously, you don't want to open a chink in our defences.

It's They Are Billions!

Ollie: Whenever Christmas nears, I feel the urge to play They Are Billions. Partly because I first played it in December two years ago, just as the house was starting to smell of pine and mulled wine and all the other -ines. But I think it's also because, despite everything, despite the subject matter, despite the moody music, and the fact that every moment threatens your demise at the hand of a pasty churning mass of several thousand undead - despite all of that, there's something about the game that's just so warm, so comforting. It's like sitting in front of a fireplace. A groaning, salivating, masticating zombie fireplace.

It's strange that I can feel so comforted by a game that generally imbues such a constant sense of threat and dread into the player. Venture out in any direction from where you begin, and within seconds you'll encounter literally hundreds of zombies lying dormant until they catch a whiff of succulent life nearby. It's no simple matter to survive even the first 20 days out of 100, because a single zombie quietly slipping through the cracks in your ramshackle defences may very quickly spell the end for your entire colony. And that's not to mention the enormous swarms of infected that come charging at you every so often, invariably running right towards the weakest part of your defences.

In a word, They Are Billions is hard. Brutal, even. But in late December 2017, after maybe a dozen failed colonies, I finally managed to defeat the seemingly endless final wave of undead and survive the full 100 days. And after that point, I never lost another game. No matter how high I crank up the difficulty. It seems I've cracked it, found the ideal formula for building an economy and defences so strong that the infected are barely able to even make a dent in the colony's walls. And despite that, I've never grown bored with the game. It's always different, and it's always a challenge. I may have cracked the game, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It doesn't mean I now find the game easy, or unengaging. It's that I can now play it when I want to relax. And that's something I really value about it.

Of course, this is all in reference to the survival mode which has been out on Steam Early Access for the past two years, rather than the campaign which was released (along with the game itself) five months back. I haven't yet been able to play through the campaign of They Are Billions, but perhaps this Christmas I'll finally have the time. I can think of few things so relaxing as sitting back one cold winter's afternoon, a steaming mug of gluehwein by my side, and attempting to protect my colonies from the billions of ravishing, slavering undead approaching from all sides.

Looking for a different door? Head back to the RPS Advent Calendar 2019!

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