I wasn’t prepared for how much of an impact Undying would have on me. I guess the clues are there from the beginning, but the role of protective mother through a zombie apocalypse became so real, allowing me to adopt a mindset of what I would actually do for my own children given the hordes of undead scratching and clawing at my door. While its survival elements can be punishing, there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for your children, even with the knowledge you’ll soon succumb to the bite on your arm.
We’ve seen countless zombie games and films over the last twenty years or so, and it’s rare something comes along that tackles the genre differently. One film that blew me away was Cargo, a 2017 film set in Australia and starring Martin Freeman. It’s similar in tone to Undying, especially as he too was a parent soon to turn into a zombie himself while working out how he was going to find a safe space for his one-year old daughter. Angling has a son, Cody, and while he’s much older than Rosie was, he’s still a kid.
As parents, we try to shield our children from the harsh realities of life, be it the news where they’re talking about school shootings or mass murders, the devastation of war across the globe, or the myriad of hate crimes aimed at people who just want to be happy. It’s a tough world to navigate, but when having to kill someone in front of your child, albeit a zombie, is something that just can’t be hidden. This dynamic has always fascinated me within the zombie genre, and Vanimals has done such a good job of telling this story.
At the start of Undying, you return to your home after being bitten on the arm by a zombie. You try and brush it off as nothing to protect your son so he doesn’t worry, but you know that your time will be up. You don’t know how long you have left, but you know you won’t be his mother for much longer, and unless you teach Cody to survive on his own, he may very well suffer the same fate. Those basics of survival, while teaching Cody these fundamentals, are something you as the player need to learn, too.
It can be very easy to run out of meds, food, and water if you don’t set up a strong foundation. Your home is pretty much a mess, with nothing working, and beyond your walls, zombies lurk around every corner. Knowing how to get these basics takes a bit of time, and for a good few hours I was scavenging every thing I could in the hopes of keeping us alive. Once you’ve repaired the cooker you can prepare meals with the random ingredients you’ve found scattered around. You can grow crops in your backyard, create bandages and medicine, craft various tools, and fix faucets to supply a consistent stream of clean water.
Everything you need to craft has a set amount of parts, be it shabby clothes, electrical wires, scrap metal, or glass shards. It’s clearly laid out what items need what to be crafted, even if you haven’t found what you need out in the world. Your various crafting stations can be upgraded, giving you more items to craft, more storage for everything, and a better system for you to have the things you need. You’re not going to find everything you need close to home, so going out to surrounding areas is something you have to do, despite these looting missions offering a harsh game of risk and reward.
You might just be investigating a nearby camp or roadside, but as the world opens up and you complete missions, new areas will become available, offering greater resources. Angling can use a variety of weapons the more you play, but for the first few hours it’s all about making the most of what you have. Some of the areas which have more riches will be filled with zombies, and not just your standard slow-roaming biters. Using your bat isn’t going to be as effective as a blade or a gun, but you might not have the ability to craft them yet. Knowing when to tackle these areas all hinges on how prepared you are, and that is the key to your survival.
Reaching further areas require you to fix up your car, but once you’ve got a tank full of gas and a solid engine, you’ll be able to locate some fantastic areas that are filled with important items. You’ll encounter people who are trying to survive like yourself, fighting each other, and even those offering you a safe haven. Can they be trusted, and is it the best thing for your son? Only taking a leap of faith gives you the knowledge you need, however, it could be the wrong decision.
I remember early on visiting a farm where I knew the owners, but once I got there they were nowhere to be seen. Another couple had taken over the farm, and I could either get along with them to earn their trust and explore the farm for answers, or start a fight with them where they start shooting and turn hostile. Once I’d found out what happened, it changed how I played Undying, and opened up my eyes to how anyone, despite seeming so good on the surface, can do horrible things in the wake of an apocalypse.
One thing that cements the relationship between you and Cody is teaching him everything you do. Whether its gathering resources from scrap piles or showing him how to cook, it’s important to call him over every time so that he earns that vital experience. Once he’s learned something, he’ll be able to do it himself, making things easier for you while giving him the tools he needs to survive once you’ve gone. It gets tougher the further you get, and having Cody grow way beyond his years is a necessary evil. While you have to stay alive as long as you can, you’ll also need to focus on looking after him.
Cody gets scared and needs his mum, sometimes needing only a hug to keep him going. While you don’t need to hold his hand all the time, I instinctively grabbed at him wherever I was to keep him away from any potential threat. Sometimes, Angling can get symptoms for sickness that drastically reduces her chances of survival, such as a severe cold aversion or the events of the day greatly affecting her mental health. You’re also dealing with the effects of the bite in other ways, adding to the gravity of the situation at every turn.
While I enjoyed Undying a lot, I did get frustrated by some of the limitations early on. You don’t always get everything explained to you, and knowing how to find certain items needed for basic survival wasn’t clear. Thankfully, by taking your time to explore (and potentially replay from the beginning a few time), I started to get there. There is an easier difficulty and a more punishing one, but I was more than comfortable on the standard setting once I’d gotten to grips with the basics.
Undying is a fantastic tale of love against the odds, of family over everything, and as heartbreaking as it is, the game is so much fun to play. I loved going on journeys to new areas where I never knew what was coming, because that is what a zombie game should be. It should be about knowing you might not survive the next encounter and not blasting through waves of them with a railgun. Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead showed that zombie games are about the people at the heart of survival, and Undying goes one further by creating a story that’ll stick with you for a while.
Great sense of progression
One of the best zombie games ever
Crafting is satisfying
Hard in the beginning
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