An infected mother and her young son are cast into the midst of a zombie apocalypse and only by working together will either of them have a chance to survive.
Genre: Action, Survival
Publisher: Skystone Games Inc.,
Release date: 19 October, 2021
Zombies are overdone in media at this point. You know it, I know it, and yet it’s still one of my favorite themes. Each new promising release still catches my eye and my excitement. Sure, ninety percent of the releases are hot garbage that’s worse than nothing at all, but the good ones tend to be exceptional and that’s enough to validate my guilty pleasure. Give me a State of Decay, Project Zomboid, or 7 Days to Die with a few friends and I’m good for at least a week.
Undying grabbed my attention for this very reason. Its zombie survival gameplay pulled me in and the premise of playing as a doomed mother trying to prepare her son for an apocalypse that she won’t be there for was unique enough that I had to give it a shot. Though many of the skills are still locked behind its Early Access state, after a few hours with the title it seems like it may have some promise.
Mother Knows Best
Undying begins with Anling’s evacuation plan going awry and the location being overrun by the walking dead. Her son, Cody, is attacked by one of these abominations but Anling rescues him before he’s mauled. Unfortunately, she paid the price by getting bitten. Although the two of them escape and make their way back home, Anling knows that she’s running on borrowed time and that her son needs to be prepared to survive in this horrible world without her.
You take direct control of Anling but it’s Cody who gains experience and skills along the way. Cody is nearly useless on day one, though through Anling’s actions and tutelage he’ll gain three types of experience: crafting, survival, and combat. Each of these categories has its own skill tree, though the latter half of each is inaccessible at this stage of development. It appears that the release version will allow Cody to surpass his mother in nearly every way, but for now we have to settle with him more or less breaking even. It’s an interesting system of character progression and I look forward to seeing Cody burst onto the scene as a grade school-aged Daryl Dixon.
Don’t Get Bit
As with any good survival title, Undying doesn’t just threaten you with zombie bites. Food, water, materials, and Anling’s infection are all going to test you as you fight to scavenge what you need. If Anling or Cody suffer too much damage, starve, or run out of water, it’s game over. The same goes if Anling’s daily timer runs out. If she doesn’t make it to bed by 2 AM she succumbs to her illness. It feels a bit artificial that a good night’s sleep resets the virus’ progress, but you’d be surprised how terrifying the Stardew-from-Hell approach is to bedtime.
Your base of operations is complete with broken workbenches, ruined sinks, bare gardens, and so forth. All of these useful structures can be repaired and upgraded to unlock new capabilities and improved resource efficiency. The place seems to have been scavenged and torn apart in your absence though and nothing is in working order other than your bed, your storage box, and your refrigerator.
The zombies aren’t just going to let you survive though. Health is in short supply as healing items eat up plenty of resources for a relatively small payout. Throw onto the pile that Anling and Cody aren’t warriors by any means and you’ve got a challenge ahead of you. Avoiding the undead tends to be the best option when possible though your risk/reward is likely to kick in at times as it’s impossible to stealth through many of the environments unscathed. The combat system is simple but takes some getting used to and you’re likely to get hit at least once in every scrap that you find yourself in. With healing in such short supply, this is sufficiently terrifying. It’s survival through-and-through as you loud up a powerful attack to briefly stun an enemy, walk some distance, and then attempt to do the same again. I often myself opening with a home run swing and then hitting as rapidly as possible as the zombies tend to run nearly as fast as you do once you’ve alerted them.
Undying is a zombie survival experience that feels familiar but offer a few of its own twists. The survival elements and combat are nothing new though the infected mother and son dynamic is a new take that makes the title stand out from a gameplay perspective if not a narrative one. I’m interested in seeing how the currently locked portions of the game affect the experience as I was always just barely outdoing death throughout most of my time. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one, thanks to my zombie-based guilty pleasure, though I can’t vouch for its final state as of yet.