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Emerge: Cities of the Apocalypse review: Civilization meets The Walking Dead

An excellent turn-based strategy game with in-depth gameplay that hooks you with a case of "Just one more turn".

Emerge: Cities of the Apocalypse is a turn-based strategy game developed and published by Emilios Manolidis. The game released on Steam on April 27th, 2016. Emerge is a great game with addictive in-depth gameplay that keeps you hooked. The only flaw with the game is the imbalance of the different types of weapons, which can make combat frustrating.

Its time to fight back

The cities of the world have fallen, that what remains of human life now is nothing more than scavengers. The cities lay in ruin where hordes of the undead roam. There is no organisation, no hope. Those who survived lay scattered throughout the towns, barely able to keep themselves alive.

Despite the future looking grim, it is time to fight back. Survivors are starting to band together in hopes of taking back the cities and once and for all eradicating the undead hordes. Under your leadership, will survivors be able to hold off the zombies and retake the cities? Or will the human race become extinct?

Create your survivor

At the start of each campaign, the player gets to create their survivor. They get to choose their survivor's gender, name, and avatar. At the beginning of the game, the player gets to choose between three different character classes each with their skills weapon choices and advantages. The three are Bounty Hunter, Scientist, and Engineer.

Once unlocked, the player will also be able to use an array of different bonuses along with challenges when playing in Skirmish Mode. At the start of the game the player only has small map size available to them. A small map lasts about an hour. Bigger maps are unlocked as the player progresses through the campaigns.

Though amount customisation is limited at the start, as more unlock, the amount that is available to the player is quite surprising. Considering this is a solo developed game, it has an enormous amount of detail to it before even playing.

The monumental amount of customization that is available to the player allows each campaign to be unique. Each class, weapon and bonus can change how a campaign goes. If only more strategy games did this amount of detail.

Regaining control

Each campaign has its objective to complete. Some revolve around capturing a certain number of sectors within the city. Others revolve around saving a certain sum of money on top of controlling areas. These objectives are but two examples of the mission objectives that available, but there is much more.

At the start of each campaign, the player will only have their stronghold under control. The player has to scout and capture the rest of the city bit by bit. To obtain each section of the city, the player requires infrastructure.

The player gains it at the start of each turn. The amount they gain is increased depending on how many upgrades the player has in the areas they have captured. These upgrades include building a research lab, production plant, trading post and more.

They become available after the player studies them, in the research menu. With each additional part of the city under the players control, the entire infrastructure required to capture another increase. The constant growth means the player must keep on top of upgrading what is under their control while also continuing the capture new areas.

Of course, this is not as easy as it sounds. Hordes of zombies are roaming the city and enter occupied sectors. When they do, should the players defences fail, they can make a stand and attempt to kill them all or forfeit.

Making the most of each turn is crucial. If they start to fall behind, the groups of undead begin to become too large to sustain, resulting in losing territory. Though this does have an advantage of it being easier and less costly to defend smaller amounts of land, the player still needs to expand to secure the city.

The entire system of expanding territory while also holding back the hordes of zombies is quite well balanced. It takes some time to increase control of the city but from the beginning the zombies are quite easy to contain. It gives the player enough time establish sufficiently to have a fighting chance.

With good plans, decisions and a little bit of luck, the player can expand while holding the undead at quite a good pace. It is quite an addictive system that does what Sid Meier's Civilization does. Just one more turn which ends up becoming another thirty of forty.

Strength in numbers

Taking back the city by sectors is just one part that the player has to focus. To succeed, they need to learn and install new technology to their buildings and increase their team of survivors. The player researches through the menu. There is a total of three different trees.

The three are Research, Production, and Economy. Each of these has their role within the city, and each tree contains its upgrades. The higher amount of research the quicker each project is complete. The higher production is, the more defences that can create with each purchase.

The greater economy is, the more money the player receives at the start of each turn. Each of these increase by building various buildings such as labs, production plants and trading posts in controlled sectors. Of course, players cannot depend on technology alone.

At the start of each campaign, the player will only have the survivor they create to fight off zombies when they attack. To survive, the player needs to upgrade the amount of team slots which cost money and crystal along with either finding or hiring more survivors.

Just like the player created survivor, other survivors come in all shapes and forms. Their class, level, and weapons are all randomly generated. It is wise to choose carefully, as having too many of the same can be a disadvantage. Having different classes and weapons on the battlefield is far more efficient.

The balance of all the research, how long it takes and upgrade is well done. Getting the hang of everything is quite a challenge to begin with but once the player figures out how everything works, it doesn't take long to come up with a game plan.

Different campaigns cause for various approaches towards research and upgrades which give a constant refreshment to each one. With so much different approaches possible, it immensely increases replayability with campaigns. The player can attempt different ways of completing tasks, challenging themselves in the process.

Taking down the undead

When the players defenses fail to hold back a zombie invasion on a sector, the player is given the choice to take them on or forfeit the area. When the player decides to take a stand, the game changes to a combat screen. Here the players created survivor along with any others on the team are behind a barricade to the right.

The zombies will then begin to make their way towards the barricade. The player needs to kill all the approaching zombies before they destroy the barrier. The survivors will have the weapons they are assigned and any combat items equipped can also be used which include grenades, mines, saw blades and more.

If the player fails to kill the zombies and the barricade is destroyed, the survivors are forced to retreat, losing the sector. Along with that, there is always a chance of survivors dying if compelled to abandon. At the start of the game, only the most basic of zombies show up.

As the player progresses, new types of zombies appear such as the running burning zombie, the acid spitting spitter and much more. Each zombie has its strengths and weaknesses which the player needs to learn and use their advantage.

This part of the game is the weakest. Not because of its design but due to there being an imbalance with the weapon types. Different weapons have different recoil, accuracy, reload time and damage and it is with these that the problem lies.

The likes of the assault rifle and machine gun are rapid fire, but their recoil is high and accuracy low. The sniper rifle, on the other hand, is high damage, low rate of fire, high accuracy, and medium recoil. Due to the damage, accuracy, and medium recoil, it is a far superior weapon.

The number of zombies the player can kill using a steady hand far surpasses that of automatic firing weaponry. It should be quite the opposite way around. The sniper rifle should be ideal for taking out tougher enemies from a distance. The automatic weaponry should be good for mowing down weaker enemies.

The balance of the weapons is something that needs addressing, but it doesn't mean that it ruins the overall experience of the combat. Though basic in design, it is never the less extremely intense and quite fun.

A smart and well-designed game

Apart from the games imbalance with the weapons, there is little else to dislike about the game. It is a brilliant and well-designed game that is a cross between Civilization and The Walking Dead. Indeed, there are other titles just like it such as the flash series Rebuild.

Never the less, Emerge goes that extra mile that gives a unique feel. It may not have the complexity of Civilization, but contains more than enough to make it a competent strategy game. As someone who is fascinated with strategy games yet quite bad at them, Emerge is a game that anyone can play.

It is a game while complex and in-depth, it isn't so much that only the strategy experts will be able to play it. Once you get the hang of the game, it is easy to get into and to start progressing. For an asking price of $7.99, there is an awful lot of gameplay to be had. If you like strategy games or zombie games, this is worth a try.

Emerge: Cities of the Apocalypse is available to buy on Steam for $7.99

Disclaimer: A copy of the game was provided by the publisher

Our Rating
8
An excellent turn-based strategy game with in-depth gameplay that hooks you with a case of "Just one more turn".
Reviewed On: PC
Published May. 14th 2016

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