Infectonator: Survivors

Infectonator: Survivors is a great game. It’s also a game that, when you list its surface attributes, sounds like every random piece of garbage flooding Steam. It’s an indie pixel tower defense game where you fight zombies and craft your survival, and I recommend it way more highly than that description would suggest.

The game loop cycles between the HQ, scouting, and exploring. During the day, your (hopefully-growing) team of survivors works on various projects that take up time: researching items to craft, growing food, cooking the food into useful supplies, calling out on the radio to other survivors, or working on fixing the car that is your way out of the city. You only have so many days in which to do this, before the government nukes the whole place.

These projects take special materials to complete, as well as a great deal of time. You gather these materials by leaving HQ at night, taking a hand-picked team you equip as best you can to face the zombie hordes. The city is laid out on a grid (more or less), and you move from location to location, looking for sparkly things to search for materials, supplies and fuel. Scouting puts you in a small, narrow series of maps. You fight waves of zombies, carefully positioning your survivors to maximize their weapons’ usefulness or protect the weaker members of your team. These maps vary in requirements (just killing all the zeds, or keeping them from getting past you, for instance), and have turret mounts you can use to build guns to help your survivors fight. These scouting maps are also used when you get ambushed while walking around the city.

Exploring an area puts you in a large map, usually a building with a series of rooms, and spawns in waves of zeds, tasking you with exploring 75% of the map in order to progress while fighting on the move. Exploration potentially yields a lot more supplies and materials, and gives you the chance to run into other recruitable survivors, merchants, and other encounters.

Once your night expedition runs out of stamina, you’ll want to be back at HQ ASAP to nurse your wounds and work on more projects. It’s a satisfying, simple, fun little loop, and it’s deceptively difficult to manage everything successfully. As your survivors level up and you research more weapons and equipment, more tactical options become available to you, and there’s so much to do and so little time in which to do it.

There are some elements that stick out to me as indicating that Survivors was originally intended to be a mobile game, but thankfully they’re stripped of the usual mobile game impediments and pay-to-win models of design. The game also features a straight up survival mode where you face waves of enemies until you die, but I didn’t find this nearly as interesting as the campaign mode.

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