There are plenty of zombie games out there and they all come in different forms. “Left 4 Dead” put you behind a gun and allowed you to mow down zombies while making your way from checkpoint to checkpoint. “The Walking Dead” takes a different approach and focuses on telling a story, character interaction, and quick time events. Both approaches are good in their own right, but one came along that not only tells a horror story, but allows you to manage your party while they build relationships (for better or for worse) and fend off the undead. Before we start going head to head with the zombie apocalypse, I’d like to thank David Kidd for setting me up with a free review copy.
The main menu allows you to start a new game, load an existing one, customize what you’ll find inside the game, read a diary from a finished game, and edit game options. The game options allow you to toggle between fullscreen and windowed mode, as well as turn off the music and sounds. There aren’t any sliders and there isn’t a drop down for screen resolution, which would have been welcome for bad eyes like mine. Fullscreen mode didn’t stretch the game out, it just centered the game inside of a black screen…I hope that the developers have plans to address the above as it would help make the game a bit more user-friendly.
The ability to customize your game (an option on the main menu), in its own right, deserves its own paragraph or three. In this menu, you can create your own survivors by assigning their name, age, profession, sexual preference, gender, ancestry, whether they always or sometimes appear in your games, and more. You can even import a photo for them, using the mouse wheel to resize the image. The ancestry drop down just reads as “ancestry 1”, “ancestry 2”, and so on, but each one has a designated race that are listed out in the game’s manual. I’ll link the manual at the end of this article for your reading pleasure.
You’ll also have the option to create custom professions, though the game does offer you basic ones to choose from. Creating custom professions has the added benefit of allowing you to assign points to certain traits. This adds quite a bit of replayability in my opinion as you can try the game with different skill / survivor variations to see what works and what doesn’t.
Starting a new game introduces you to the planning view, allowing you to see what survivors were chosen along with their profiles. The planning view also shows you a map of your current location and where your survivors are currently stationed. You’ll be able to pick and choose which survivors explore what location, though it is important to remember that the game takes relationships into account during encounters. You can view who does and doesn’t get along with each other by clicking on their picture, and this information may change as the game progresses. If you’ve chosen to customize your characters, you’ll be able to see how they end up pairing off and maybe try editing traits here and there afterwards to see what the next play experience will bring.
On top of exploring other areas, you can order your survivors to snipe zombies from their current location, keep an eye out for zombies, set up barricades, search around for anything useful, create a distraction, build traps, and more. I often sat for a moment to think about what survivor I wanted to perform what task, as I had not only their relationships to consider but their profession. I don’t have the math worked out behind the game, but I tried to assign barricade tasks to engineers and distraction tasks to athletes, just to name a few examples. Luckily, the game brings up a box listing your available survivors when you click on a task, along with a number of stars next to each name indicating their proficiency rate. The more stars, the better.
The primary goal of “Zafehouse: Diaries” is to have a radio and have at least one survivor at the rescue chopper’s location when it arrives. Time advances an hour when you click on the watch, allowing your characters to start or finish actions. Clues are scattered around town that hint as to when and where the chopper will show up, so barricading your party inside a building without ever venturing out simply won’t do. You lose the game if it shows up and no survivor is present. I must say that I really like this approach as you never know how much time is left (assuming you haven’t found clues). It gave me a sense of urgency even though I had to be careful in my planning. While you’re attempting to find the location of your salvation, a diary will fill itself out and give you an account of your progress thus far. The game saves your diary after the game is over so that you can view it later on via the main menu.
The meat and potatoes of the game isn’t about killing zombies, but how your characters interact with one another. They have needs, they get injured, they have strengths and weaknesses, they can get excited or show a disinterest in performing certain tasks, use weapons and items to perform said tasks, get into fights…needless to say, they’ll have a life all of their own. You can spread rumors and break up the party into smaller groups to keep people from fighting, as having negative relationships can really set you back. Not giving them orders will que them to perform idle actions, which might involve sharing a drink or playing a game with someone else.
Dilemmas pop every now and again that force you to make a decision. While you won’t have any direct control over your survivors after your choice, how they get along and how prepared they are will determined whether or not they make it out alive. The game accounts for all sorts of variables when determining success or failure…weapons, relationships, traps, barricades, and etc. The results of these dilemmas are also varied in that you may have some clean-up work to do, whether it be repairing morale or cleaning up corpses.
Overall, I found “Zafehouse: Diaries” to be a lot of fun and very challenging. You’re given five unique survivors to watch over and I enjoyed watching the story progress based on their individual quirks and the tasks I gave them. I also like how you can choose to make a particular location secure and branch out slowly from there, or just run around and loot without a clear base of operations. “Zafehouse: Diaries” gives you all the tools you’ll need to create your own, epic zombie story and I’m pleased to say that I created quite a few of them already. Customizable characters and professions keep me coming back for more and the ability to edit the in-game diary will ensure that my imagination never gets bored. If you’re in the mood for an intense, interactive zombie drama that emphasizes character development, then you can’t go wrong in picking up this little gem. A demo is available for those who like to try before they buy, via the links below.
Final Verdict: 9/10
If you’d like to learn more about “Zafehouse: Diaries”, please visit the official site and check out the manual, located here:
You can help to bring the game onto Steam by voting for it on its Greenlight page, located here:
You can view play sessions here: