Zombie games have come a long way since the earliest undead shambling hits. The War Z seemed to be returning the sub-genre to its roots. The selling points for the game all sound good. It’s a survival horror RPG where you, the player, attempt to survive the zombie apocalypse in a persistent online world. As you survive, you accrue experience to level up skills to make that task easier, while also having to deal with other human players who might want to work with you and might want to stab you in the back for your gear and supplies.
It sounds like exactly the kind of game people want, the kind of game that made Day Z such a wildly popular mod that it boosted ARMA II’s sales figures to meteoric heights single-handedly.
Unfortunately, what neither The War Z’s website or Steam Store page tell the potential purchaser is that the game is still a beta. Not only is it a beta, as of the time of writing, most of the claims made by the website and steam page are outright lies. Reddit has the details, but here are the basics.
The game does not have any skills to purchase or upgrade, despite the site not only saying that those skills are available in no uncertain terms but also making them one of the game’s main selling points, calling it the first zombie MMO.
They also talk about playing in their persistent online world with “up to 400 square kilometers”. The actual measurement is around 72 square kilometers on the only map they have currently available for play.
Perhaps the single most damning issue, however, is that the game is not actual a survival horror in any real sense of the word. The zombies are few and far between, and tend to not be a real threat as presented. The War Z team has admitted that the ‘screenshots’ on their site are actually all staged. The serious challenge in the game at current is, unsurprisingly, other players, making the game effectively a zombie apocalypse-themed PvP shooter.
A helpful diagram of the Steam page, with notations.
That would be fine if that’s what the game was being sold as, but it isn’t, and people are pissed, and with good reason. This is a definitive case of false advertising, and so far they’re absolutely getting away with it. The game is selling like crazy on Steam, currently at the very top of their ‘Top Sellers’ category in the store.
Just in case all this isn’t enough to raise warning flags, the game also has a cash shop. That’s right, the game has a startup cost and a micro-transaction store requiring actual money. For an example of a game doing that right, look at Guild Wars 2. The War Z is unapologetically not doing it correctly.
Items that real-life money can be exchanged for include cosmetic items (nothing surprising or wrong there), ammunition (definitely giving players with larger bank accounts a real advantage once they find a decent gun), food supplies (meaning if you have money the ‘survival’ aspect of survival horror is instantly gone), and weapons.
You also permanently lose items that you’ve purchased in this cash shop if you die, meaning literally wasted money. War Z’s marketing director Alex Josef was quoted as stating that it was a design choice, not a bug, and that the team hoped it would urge players to be more careful or spend less money, as if we’re supposed to believe that the ability to literally throw money at the screen for nothing whatsoever is a design feature more than a money-making scheme.
This is practically a checklist of things to not do when making and selling a game. What people need to learn from it is that it is also a checklist of warning signs that a game should not be purchased, not before having the worst issues resolved. I haven’t even addressed some of the more serious gameplay issues. The game itself is buggy and currently flooded with people walking through walls and shooting around corners, but none of that should even matter.
Shame on this game for its dishonesty.