This past weekend, I spent a good few hours playing Steam Workshop levels for They Are Billions.
The reason? I spent the weekend before that playing the They Are Billions campaign, and my soul had been crushed.
If you are not familiar with this game, you can read all about it here.
Following my previous review of the RTS’s free-play modes, I started the campaign, which is a story about reclaiming all the lost land and colonies taken by the zombie hordes in the year 2150 (or somewhere around then).
The campaign is divided into three game types:
- Base building/”normal” gameplay – Missions where you must build a base, resist swarms, and defeat the zombie populous.
- Swarms – Missions where you defend a central point of a crossroad, using small barriers and soldiers to defeat an incoming attack.
- Hero levels – You control a single hero and walk around an area and collect items while killing zombies.
Where I went wrong
The Hero levels in They Are Billions are decent and necessary to progress, but do not elicit much excitement from me.
The Swarm levels are a bit better, and bring joy or sadness depending on how you position your barriers and soldiers and their success in fending off the thousands of infected.
The mechanics and details of these game types are not of concern, however. The standard base-building levels is where the real action is.
Unlike the survival gameplay, you do not have access to all the “technology” in the game at the start of the campaign.
To access upgrades likes stone walls and towers, snipers, gun turrets, and warehouses, you must progress through a research tree and unlock elements along the way by spending points you earn during missions.
Research trees are not new in games – and as a big fan of RPG and RTS titles, I have run through my fair share of upgrade branches.
With They Are Billions, though, there are multiple paths – and once you allocate research points to a building or unit, you cannot undo that decision.
This resulted in me reaching the Cape Storm level in the campaign, after 20 hours of gameplay, and having to defend my base with only wooden walls and towers, and soldiers and rangers.
In simple terms, this is like trying to build a bath out of tissue paper.
After three attempts and three failures, I did something I consider “cheating” – I Googled my gaming problem.
It turns out there are a few not-so-sharp players like myself who are in the same predicament and the only option is to – and I warn you to brace yourselves – “start again from the beginning”.
My research tree has an incredibly strong trunk, as I researched all elements at its base – but this has come at the expense of tall branches covered in leaves which eat the sun’s delicious energy.
Okay, enough tree metaphors.
I have spent all my research points on stuff like “buildings are 10% stronger” and “fishing huts catch 15% more food”, instead of skipping many of the low-level elements and progressing rapidly to stronger units and stone walls.
Is this my fault? Yes.
Is the game “too hard” for not allowing research points to be reallocated? I think the game’s developers made the game the way they wanted it.
Where does this leave me? Stuck.
And so my They Are Billions campaign, 33% of the way after 20 hours, is now worth nothing.
I play custom levels to try and forget about the failure – but it will not go away.
The Rugby World Cup is here and I want to watch all the games – but it will not go away.
I will start the campaign again, plan better, build faster, and I will finish it. Until then, don’t take your tech trees for granted.