They Are Billions – real time strategy game
They Are Billions is a real-time strategy game whose flow swings between cautious turtling as you hunker down to fend off the zombie hordes and well-considered dashes to expand your territory and exploit vital new resources. Introduced into Steam Early Access last year with a survival mode that challenged you to endure a certain number of days on a randomly-generated map, the game now features a hand-crafted campaign mode as part of its Version 1.0 release. The result is a hybrid RTS that shines when it plays to its strengths even if several of its new additions feel like unnecessary distractions.
Survival mode is based around permadeath, as you’d expect. But the campaign, too, incorporates various degrees of permadeath and iron-man elements in an effort to force you to accept the consequences of your choices. If you get overrun and fail a campaign mission, for example, you have to restart that mission from the beginning rather than reload a save from mid-mission before it all started to go wrong. There’s even a penalty applied to the mission reward for each time you fail. Somewhat ironically, an option to back up your campaign save has been added since its 1.0 launch, and the developer has indicated it may continue to adjust its approach in this area in future updates, which makes these decisions feel unconfident.
The campaign fares better as a more gentle introduction to They Are Billions. The tech tree locks away many of the game’s structures, units, and bonuses behind research points accumulated by completing missions. This means the early missions let new players learn the ropes by only having to worry about a handful of buildings and a couple of units, rather than potentially overwhelming them with too many concepts to understand at once. As a new player myself, I also appreciated the adjustable difficulty settings which let you advance more slowly through the research tree while at the same time serving up missions that let you progress with the lesser tech at your disposal. Then, once I was comfortable, I was able to bump up the difficulty to match my improved skills.
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