Nancy Becker was a burger flipper. She wakes up in an empty house with only a spatula and two cans of corned beef in the cupboard. There were snarling zombies outside, a cooking show on TV, and a priest preaching on the radio while being eaten alive by zombies. July 9, 1993, rural Kentucky. This is the frame, canvas, and arena courtesy of Project Zomboid. The rest is entirely up to you. Whether you’re playing Indie Stone’s zombie apocalypse simulator alone, on an RP server, or with a friend, there’s nothing like Project Zomboid’s brilliant organic storytelling.
Nancy rushed out of the house with a spatula. She smashed a couple of zombies over her head, and she got a feel for it. Then she started breaking her next door neighbor’s windows and stealing things from her cupboards. It’s the apocalypse and everyone is a zombie, so you can do whatever you want. Thankfully, her neighbor upstairs had a crowbar and nice leather gloves, so she got hold of both. She found her child’s bag in her bedroom, and although it made her feel pretty morbid, she carried it on her back.
Then the scale of the event is revealed to her. Everyone in Knox County, Kentucky is a zombie. There are no other survivors (no NPCs have been added to the game yet, but will be in a future update). That means survival rests entirely on her shoulders. Water and power will eventually go out, and abundant supplies of fresh merchandise will rot in refrigerators and freezers. Even buckets of canned food will eventually run out. But Indie Stone’s detailed simulation of labor of love gives you everything you need to survive. You can find a generator to power your home, steal industrial cookers and freezers, heat up your heated car, change engines and decorate your home with anything you can pick up. Find groups of guns in police stations and military outposts.
And you’re going to be in a catastrophe for three weeks. Just start preparing, most of the nearby zombies are dead and rotting in the streets. The weather starts to change and you gain confidence. Behind a bush, or door, is a lone zombie, ending its run with one well-timed bite to the neck. it’s over. Your life is over. Turning into a zombie takes two or three days, so Nancy goes home, she cries loudly, drinks a bottle of bourbon, then takes her shotgun and a backpack full of shells and goes out into the street, shattering as many zombies as she has. She is able to do so before eventually succumbing to her infection in the comforts of an apocalyptic paradise.
But the story doesn’t end there. Nancy will be roaming the world as a zombie for the rest of the time, or at least until the next character arrives on the scene and smashes her zombie brain to get the keys to her awesome Dodge Ram and the rest of the shotgun shells. Each instance of Project Zomboid will continue to run. This means you can have as many characters as you want in the world, one after the other, until every zombie in Knox County is a version of their former self. There’s Officer Drew waking up at the police station, or Kelly, the lumberjack outside, waking up in a forest cabin with the keys to a nice truck and a heavy axe.
Expect to die in Project Zomboid. The game even starts with a terse message. “You died like this.” You are living the story of an apocalypse survivor and no other game has done what Project Zomboid does. Even the most successful characters succumb to a false sense of security. One of them ate a mushroom he found while foraging and died in contorting agony in the bathroom. One of my earliest characters seems to have completely forgotten that putting metal in a microwave causes a massive fire. It’s a pretty accurate representation of my own apocalypse survival skills. I won’t even last 8 hours.
Next: The Best Early Access Games You Forgot