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Pestilence Z: Episode 1


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Rating: 4.1/5 (73 votes)
| Comments (22) | Views (135)

DorapestilencezThe dead walk! At least, they do until you arrive on the scene and relieve them of all their extremities in this RPG-turn-based strategy hybrid from Break Point Studios. In Pestilence Z, you play one of three survivors trying their best to stay alive while they search for the source of the outbreak. With fantastic visual design, simple to grasp gameplay, and some welcome opportunities to blow up your shambling foes in strategic style, this is one interesting and fun hybrid you'll want to take a peek at.

Controlling the game is done either via the in-game menu as you click on icons representing each action, or with hotkeys, which is my personal recommendation. Everything is turn-based, and that includes the combat. Once you clear an area of all threats, your movement restrictions are lifted so you can go anywhere on that particular map with a single click. There are a few different zombie variations, such as the soldier whose helmet makes him immune to headshots, and child zombies who are capable of sprinting right up to you in one go. Killing enemies grants you experience points, naturally, which helps you level up and become stronger, bestowing skill points you can spend from the character menu on special passive abilities.

Pestilence ZDuring battle, zombies will move towards your character at every turn; although a few of them have ranged attacks, most of them would really like to eat your brains up close and personal. Click on a zombie to open up a menu with different actions. If you have ammo, you can attack from a distance with a gun, but once a zombie has gotten up close and personal you'll have to use melee attacks or shove them away. You have several options in either melee or ranged situations; when firing at a zombie, you can attack their torso for standard damage, their legs to temporarily halt their movement, or take a chance at a headshot for a potential instant kill. When a zombie is up close, you can also take a swing at a headshot, attack the torso, or attempt to shove them away from you which has the bonus of both potentially stunning them, and opening them up to ranged attacks again. If you have grenades, molotov cocktails, or flare guns, you can use them by clicking the little explosion icon beneath the gun in the menu that appears when you click on enemies.

Naturally, you can't have an RPG without treasure, so you'll want to make sure you search everything; if a question mark pops up when you mouse over an area, it means you haven't searched it yet to get whatever items are there. You'll find everything from ammo to medical supplies, and of course all sorts of weapons and armor of varying quality; whatever you don't use you can "sell" on the character screen for experience points by dragging the unwanted item from your inventory to the trash can. It's not just the obvious places like crates and cars that can be searched; spend some time sweeping the mouse around each area and you're likely to find secret hidden items as well. It's especially important to investigate any places an exclamation point appears over when you mouse past it, since these usually are secret area transitions that lead to "bonus" locations with extra supplies. Some of the best weapons and armor in the game are hidden in these places, so make sure to explore.

You can save at any time when you're not in battle, so make sure you take advantage of it. After all, you never know when y*crash!* AAAAAAAAGH! MY BLOOD! HE PUNCHED OUT ALL MY BLOOD! NOOOOooOOOooo! *crunch, crunch, om nom nom*

Pestilence ZAnalysis: There are two things I love in gaming; zombies and turn-based RPGs. I don't care how uncool the latter is; for one, you're not the boss of me!, and for two, if you're not a very action-oriented person, as I am not, then turn-based is a great way to relax and enjoy some strategic gameplay. In this regard, Pestilence Z excels with what it has; a little careful planning can turn even the hairiest situations your way. Cripple the zombie that's leading the pack during battle to line them all up for maximum damage during an explosion, skip turns to lure enemies in close to get in the first shot, or shove them away when they get too near to temporarily stun them and open them up for a ranged attack. If you have the ammo for it, a headshot is usually worth attempting even though it isn't guaranteed to hit, especially against enemies with lots of hit points.

It's also a very good looking game, from the sketchy comic-style artwork on the characters and cutscenes to the detailed (and not overly detailed) main gameplay. Battle animations in particular are filled with a lot of great little touches, from the way the Nurse claps in delight at the explosion of a molotov cocktail, to the way each zombie has different death animations. The soundtrack is mostly appropriate and well done too in a way that reminds me of early zombie movies, although each track is usually only a minute long and thus has a tendency to repeat far too often.

Pestilence ZIt is not, of course, a perfect game. Even with hotkeys the UI feels clunky and awkward, particularly during battle. It also starts to get bogged down in far too much repetition the further you go; after you've played for about a half hour or so, you've basically seen all there is to the game in terms of locations and enemies. There were never any surprises, and I occasionally found myself frustrated that the farther I went the only real change was that there were just more and more enemies onscreen at any time to deal with before I could progress. Sprinkling in a few bosses at certain points would have done a lot to break up the action, especially since the story doesn't really feel like it's connected to the gameplay and only crops up during the short, infrequent cutscenes.

Still, the more I play Pestilence Z, the more I like it, and I like it a lot... at least enough that when an update wiped my save file while I was writing this, I didn't immediately set my computer on fire and rampage throughout the countryside until I had to be brought down by the military, instead opting to start again with a different character. (The things I do for you.) Apart from some characters being stronger than others, the gameplay is virtually identical apart from who it displays during cutscenes (even down to the hilarious om-nom-nom death during the tutorial.) so you aren't missing much if you only play through once. If you like turn-based gameplay, detailed pixel graphics, and, of course, zombies, then this should absolutely be a title you put on your list to check out. The developers are clearly tremendously talented individuals who care a lot about what they do, which bodes well for future installments. I'll be waiting; goodness knows I love me a good apocalypse.

Play Pestilence Z

22 Comments

Can't say if it's a good game. The videoquality seems to be set to low without a way to change it so that I can't read any text in the game.

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The annoying thing is that you can't get rid of the "hint" popups covering part of the map and the menu.
I went to the Character screen and turned off the hints. They're still there and I can't see!

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There doesn't seem to be an end-game. I've literally explored every screen, and even got the super-secret weapon hidden at the 'end'. There isn't anywhere else to go from here, apart from one screen that endlessly respawns critters.

And I agree, the hotkeys need work.

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I saved and then reloaded the game. Hints gone.

But now my problem/question is with the skills. Can you only get each skill once?

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And yet another thing: I went 1 screen west of where you find the

clue about the outbreak - the Biohazard Weapons guy and his manor

and there was a military popup. It said something about high radiation readings and vanished before I could read it. I did NOT click on anything once I moved into that area.

Does someone know what it said? Could you post it, please? As a spoiler...

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bpointstudios_Mike Author Profile Page February 24, 2011 4:36 PM

Hey, Game Dev Here :)

@HeroForge: The game definitely has an ending. Try exploring some more :)

@SkylerF: Yes you can only get each skill once, you get enough points to fill 2 trees in total, or split between all 3

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bpointstudios_Mike Author Profile Page February 24, 2011 4:38 PM

@SkylerF: That was a warning that zombies in that zone will continually respawn. Thanks for letting us know about that bug!

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A hint for other players:
Wave your mouse over every square. Items are normally hidden inside chest, bookshelves, trashcans, medboxes, etc, but some can be found on the ground! (usually ammo)

But some are hidden gates to another area!

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I played for a while and then got bored. It was fun while it lasted, but honestly after a while it just gets repetitive.

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I enjoyed it. The ending sucks though; a cut scene followed by "To be continued" is not a good way to end the game.

The other comment I have is that they really need to have new and harder zombie types rather than make the same old zombies just get tougher. The same old "male zombie" that I was fighting at level 1 was the same thing I was fighting at level 15. It did more damage and had more HP, but it still felt the same. For an RPG, the feeling that you are getting better is an important part of the experience, for instance getting a new shotgun and watching monsters die in one shot that you used to need two or more hits to take down previously is a great feeling. All of that was really missing from this game.

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I just got the BEST ranged weapon!

A flamethrower and I already had a chainsaw.

I should've seen those coming...

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Weird. There seems to be a glitch with the final ranged weapon. You CANNOT use it on the first turn. You CANNOT use it on far away zombies if you have at least one standing next to you. You CANNOT use it on a zombie 50m behind any others.

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I understand you push S to save. What do you push to "save for real" so your file is still there when you come back?

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I was enjoying this game until it froze, and when I reloaded it my saved game wasn't there. (Google Chrome, Windows 7)

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SkylerF: That gun can only shoot 25m.

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Also unable to find the end game. But not interested enough to care at this point.

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phil topher February 26, 2011 4:34 AM

you know what's cool about this game? it dropped my save file after i'd worked my way up to level 16.

round of applause.

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To be fair, what the game does it does fairly well. I enjoyed playing it. There is potential for it to be much better. Story is not bad.

* Good range of items, weapons, skills, and general bells-and-whistles. I like the skill trees being different for each character = more replay value. But the game overall wasn't engaging enough for me to want to play it again with a new character.
* Clunky and unintuitive hotkey system. I feel a better implementation would allow the player to move with WASD or arrow keys and calculate zombie movement after each tile the player moves.
* I agree with ninti up there - there's not much sense of progression when the same enemies appear to get stronger at the same rate that you do. At least make them look like different enemies, give them horns or something. :)
* Something a bit perverse about killing child zombies. Made worse when you realise that they are easier to kill and start being relieved that they are on screen...
* Would be nice if searchable areas remained highlighted once identified.

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Dudes I can't find the tunnel entrance :(

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@Tom: I agree on most points but... about the movement system, I think that calculating zombie movement after each step would eliminate the movement advantage humans have over zombies. But something could be arranged like calculating every two steps or whatever.
Then, about the baby monsters... first LOL ;) [I'm a bit of a black humor guy here] then I don't think they're easier to kill... maybe with the tough guy, but those little things are harder to snipe than most other grown-deads so that fairs up the balance to my soldier ;)
Anyway this games saved me today from getting the deepest blues so thumbs up ^^

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You are better August 9, 2011 1:16 AM

Warning: The game's normal mode is in the hardest setting.

In fact, if you know the existence of hidden floor tiles then don't even bother with the easier settings.

The game is not too easy but it is not that hard either once you get enough ammo from the hidden rooms. Most importantly, without the tension of the hardest setting, the game seems dull as the turn based controls and enemies feel more and more generic. At the hardest setting at least, there will be points where it's best to avoid certain places and items and the clunky feel of the controls become more tolerable because of all the important moves you have to make whether it is to rush an enemy instead of attacking them to save ammo or it is to not go for the head shot in case of high damage or to go for the head shot because of too many enemies. True hard mode is the hardest setting + ignoring the secret rooms of ammo.

It's one reason having a WASD setting would make this game even more boring. The game has a turn based point and feel to it. If the game is WASD, the tension from skipping a move turn to search an item is lost. I think the game should have a way point system instead where you can auto-move to a set of directions with the option of the movement stopping if a zombie is in range.

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