Welcome to ParadiZe could be my new zombie addiction | Hands-on preview

by on January 18, 2024

I wouldn’t blame any of you for not remembering the How to Survive games. They were released in a period when zombie media were at an all time high. I mean, they’ve been dropping at a steady pace for years, but the first How to Survive was released in 2013, around the time The Walking Dead was in its hay-day, State of Decay was fresh on Xbox, and World War Z was the new hotness (for about five minutes). Well now the How to Survive developers, EKO Software, have returned with the awkwardly-named Welcome to ParadiZe, either a spiritual successor or straight up sequel, and it’s just what the zombie doctor ordered.

If you do remember How to Survive (or its sequel), you’ll know it was a janky, tongue-in-cheek adventure RPG with a focus on looting, crafting, and exploration. Welcome to ParadiZe is similar, with one significant difference: you can hack a zombie and make them follow you around as a bodyguard or – and this is the best bit – a mount.

Welcome to ParadiZe

In the game’s canon, ParadiZe is an organisation that has found a way to control zombies and make them serve humanity. Of course there are still plenty of feral cadavers out there, but they’re a lot less scary when you have your very own ambulatory meatshield to take them on for you. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what I liked so much about the short preview build I played, but I think it comes down to a few things.

Firstly, this game is lousy with loot. There’s loot everywhere. It drops from zombies, it fountains out of the environment when you twat it with sticks, it materialises around resource nodes, tumbles from smashed containers. Some of it is gear that you can equip or dismantle for parts, some if it is special equipment that you’ll unlock once you’ve collected enough which your zombie can then equip. You’re never not looting something, and I’m here for it.

Secondly, the zombie companion that you control with a special helmet who follows you around is just great. You can point him or her at other zombies and they’ll sic ’em, or you can put a saddle on them and ride them around piggy-back style. You can dress them up, arm them, and they’ll die for you over and over and over again. If they get beaten to a pulp, you just revive them.

Welcome to ParadiZe

Or, thirdly, it might just be the overall wackiness of it all. Zombies get fired out of tunes in the ground connected to pylons you can destroy. I don’t know why this is but it’s never not amusing to see a zombie blast out of the ground, limbs flailing. There are pages from Bob’s Survival Guide scattered around the place (another nod to How to Survive) which helpfully tutorialise everything, so you’re never left wondering where to go.

Finally, you can construct your own base in the wilderness, and get around via numerous fast travel points. There are side quests and objectives, secrets to find, NPCs to help or hinder, and at the end of it you can return to your own base where you can build things like a generator for power, your own pylon to disgorge zombies to protect your base, or even a shuttle launcher (for reasons I simply cannot fathom yet). A huge skill tree also lets you unlock new abilities for you and your zombie buddy to help keep you alive in the wilds.

Welcome to ParadiZe

The caveat, sadly, is that the whole thing is built like it’s held together by string and cuckoo spit. Obviously this was a preview build, but given a lot of EKO’s previous output (the exception being the above average ARPG Warhammer: Chaosbane), I don’t expect big things at launch. And yet I don’t think I’ll care much. Running around the woods making armour from leaves and twigs, shooting zombies with air-powered handguns and strapping huge spikes to my undead bodyguard so nothing can get near him was enough to sell me on Welcome to ParadiZe. Being able to mount the poor dead bastard and save my own lazy legs was the icing on the cake, frankly.

It’s safe to say I’m excited for Welcome to ParadiZe, awful title notwithstanding. It’s one of those games that owns its jankiness in a very honest, self-deprecating way and there’s not enough of that these days. The humour may be a little hit and miss and I can’t say for certain it won’t eventually become either too repetitive or too easy, but what I played was enough to leave me chomping at the bit for more, and that’s enough of an endorsement for me.

Welcome to ParadiZe is set to release on PC on February 29th.