Between 2017 and 2018 I think we heard the words “Battle Royale” tossed around a LOT. I believe it’s safe to say that in the beginning, it was fun to hear about developers giving their games the battle royale treatment, yet after a while, it became a running joke. I lost count of how many times I would read about the upcoming game that would “Dethrone Fortnite!” and to date, I don’t know if anyone has done so.
The problem is that battle royale games were popping up left and right with little to no ingenuity between them. That’s not necessarily to say any all of them were bad games, I just felt like the idea of battle royale was burning out as fast as it had caught fire. Obviously, the genre is going nowhere any time soon, with 250 Million registered Fortnite players, it will go down in the sands of time as one of the most successful games/genres ever.
Fortnite initially stood out from the other BR games with its cartoony graphics and unique building aspect. With its success, it’s no surprise that many developers wanted to try and tap into the crowd in hopes of piggybacking on their success while the genre was hot. One of those studios was tinyBuild Games, they had a plan to make a game that would not only hopefully pull in the crowd but also be unique enough that it doesn’t just feel like another cookie-cutter battle royale. Thus, Pandemic Express was born…
Pandemic Express – Zombie Escape is currently still in production, however, it’s currently playable under Steam’s ‘Early Access’ program. We were given a review code by the developers to get a hands-on look at the game they have been working on and so far, things are looking as if it is full steam ahead! This game has a unique spin which started off a battle royale but quickly morphed into something that is so much more!
Let’s face it, in every other battle royale game you have played, once you die…that’s it! You either go back to the main menu to start your next game, or you sit there and watch your executor. tinyBuild had a much more clever idea to ensure that death doesn’t mean it’s game over for the player. In Pandemic Express, the goal is to get on a train and ride it all the way into the sunset, or at least to the next station. The problem is that there are zombies that want to make sure that if you show up to that station, it’s as a blob of remains. The concept really is as straight-forward as can be!
Each match has 30 players stuck in a small room at the beginning. After the time runs out, one random person will become a zombie and start attacking the other players. The gates will open and as a human, there is a pointer that says where you need to run to get to the train. As there is a swarm of zombies that wants to eat you like yesterdays jam, you need to find weapons to defend yourself. Generally speaking, finding weapons is pretty easy. They will be in homes, nooks, and crannies and generally all over. If you want to go the distance though, you may want to take the chance of going to the airdrop where you will get legendary level weapons. You will know how good your weapons are by the rank, ala how many stars it has and the colour of it. Like many games, Pandemic follows the colour coding of White>Green>Blue>Orange.
This is where Pandemic Express differs from similar games out there, if you’re playing as a human and get slaughtered by a zombie, you become one!
Playing as the zombie can be disheartening, as that means you have failed as a human, but it’s also really exciting to get to hunt down the people you were teaming up with prior to your death. You may not have the ability to pick up AK-47s, but you have other abilities that humans don’t have such as throwing explosive barrels! As a zombie, there is a counter at the bottom of the screen that is constantly going up. Once it hits 100, you can respawn as either the Phantom or The Bomber.
• As the Bomber, you are a walking bomb that will deal out massive explosive damage to any humans nearby, as long as you can get close enough.
• As the Phantom, you can turn invisible for 10 seconds. This is a valuable skill that is obviously great for getting the jump on an unsuspecting human.
As I mentioned, the aim of the game is for the humans to make it to the train and ride it out whilst defending against the zombies. Here is where one of my issues with the game lies. The train ride feels way too long. There are points during the train ride where you go into stations where the zombies can’t get to you, yet humans can restock their ammo and heal themselves. I feel like this takes you out of the action too much. I would rather there be a shorter ride with no stops. The most exciting part of the game is salvaging for equipment, so maybe if players knew there were no stops then they wouldn’t just rush to the train?
Also, to combat the ammo running out, perhaps tinyBuild Games could add melee weapons such as an Axe or brass knuckles? I also think that Zombies should be nerfed a little bit, as it does get a bit silly when 20+ zombies are climbing all over the train yet the humans, with decent weaponry, can’t hold them off. Again though, the game is still in Early Access, so I expect things will change as time goes on and the developers look at what needs altering.
Pandemic Express – Zombie Escape is still in its early stages and as far as I’m aware, the game is expected to be in Early Access for a good amount of 2019. Hopefully, they’ll release new content often as there is only one level available in its current state, yet the game has an AWESOME blueprint to build upon already. For being only one level, between my son and I, we have already put about 20 hours into the game. It has some balancing issues, but it’s still lots of fun to play.
I hope that when it is fully released I can come back and say this game lives up to the potential that I see in it now.
Review based on build v.0.8.0.0.190510
*Update* – the game is now Free to Play on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/939510/Pandemic_Express__Zombie_Escape/