Numantian Games' They Are Billions is an enjoyable enough survival strategy game that's hampered by a lack of variety and poor controls on Xbox One.
They Are Billions, a zombie survival real-time strategy game by Numantian Games, takes its mish-mash of different genres to thoroughly enjoyable heights, even if it never really knocks any of them out of the park. Its setting in a steampunk-inspired world is a nice change of pace from the usual medieval-like settings that populate strategy games. While this is enough to make They Are Billions feel refreshing, its lack of variety in game modes and flimsy controls make for a somewhat frustrating experience overall.
They Are Billions, like most strategy games of its kind, uses a top-down view of the map, which is randomly generated when the player starts up a new game. Set in the late 22nd century and featuring more than a healthy dose of steampunk and zombies, the title tasks players with building up their settlement within a certain amount of days before the big horde arrives and attacks. The difficulty of the game depends on settings players can adjust before the game begins, like the amount of days before the horde arrives and the amount of the population infected. This level of customization is one of They Are Billions' biggest and earliest strengths and enough to inspire some initial excitement.
The gameplay in They Are Billions is also equally encouraging, with top of the line base-building options (though nothing totally groundbreaking) and exploration that can be tense a lot of the times. This is especially true when perusing Villages of Doom for supplies, where the infected can attack at any moment. Given the randomly generated nature of these instances no two games will ever be quite the same. It adds a horror-like kind of suspense that's missing from more traditional strategy games (and quite frequent in survival games), and They Are Billions is all the better for it.
Still, it's easy to tell from the get-go that They Are Billions was designed with a PC in mind, and the port to console is more than a little unevenly handled. Moving the cursor around the map is plodding and highlighting certain troops or areas of the map is either much too fast or too slow. Some players will waste valuable time (especially in higher difficulty settings) just trying to select the right troop or building. This comes off like less of an intended extra layer of challenge and more like poor design choice. It would have been better to streamline the system a little more for console players. Of course, the game does support mouse and keyboard on Xbox One so this can be avoided, but for those players looking for a true couch and controller experience, this may still be a bit disappointing.
There's also a disappointing lack of variety in game modes in They Are Billions. At launch of the console version, only the survival mode is available. Even with multiple randomly generated maps that can be unlocked and different levels of challenge to play around with, it's easy to think that the title could quickly wear out its welcome. While the PC version recently launched a campaign mode called New Empire, the console version is missing it on launch. It certainly will eventually make its debut at some point, but without it, They Are Billions feels a little empty.
They Are Billions is a fun enough game for those looking for a nice hybrid of the survival and base-building strategy games even if neither aspect feels as fleshed out as it could. While the steampunk setting and addition of zombies adds a fresh layer of paint to things, it's not nearly enough to sustain the game for too long, especially when the controls are often so frustrating that some players will find themselves pausing or turning the game off entirely to take a break because of it. Regardless, there's still a really fun game underneath all of the flaws, and a level of suspense that almost makes it worth ignoring them.
They Are Billions is out now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC for $24.99. Screen Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for the purposes of this review.