Undawn review – “Zombies to the back!”

Undawn review - "Zombies to the back!"

You could argue that the point of a zombie game is to provide some sort of cathartic relief when you let loose against mindless squishy targets. Because of that, you expect zombies to be the stars of games like Undawn by Tencent Games, Lightspeed, and Quantum.

This is a new 3D survival game about humans trying to survive in a zombie-infested world. You’ll be fighting off hordes while exploring and defending your base. You’ll also have your own homestead to decorate and expand while other survivors will constantly be coming to you with their problems, and it’s not like you’re low on time or anything.

What is Undawn?

Apocalypse in the Undawn

The zombie story has been played out so much that all the cards have had their images rubbed out. Despite that, it still works as a setup for a survival game and Undawn puts it to use. The game begins following the character’s creation and they end up crashing on a bridge. After escaping the burning wreck and leaping into the water, they come upon a huge settlement established by a group known as the Ravens. Apparently, it’s been 4 years since the outbreak started turning humans into both regular and mutant undead. Once you join the community, it becomes your mission to try and make the world a better place for the people and for yourself.

The light of a new Undawn

Recon holding a sniper rifle aimed at the camera

There are a few nails that a zombie has to hit with a survival-crafted hammer. Undawn manages to hit a few once it gets going. The biggest one that it drives in is the scale. For a mobile-friendly game, it is quite huge. The world is vast with roads, urban environments, wilderness, and communities to visit. It’s also a pretty populated world (well, considering that it exists during the zombie apocalypse) with a lot of characters to talk to and even more, players to chat with if you want to get a survival party together.

In terms of gameplay, there’s a range of things you can do with two main areas being exploration and management. There are always zombies to fight and places to loot, but if you want to take it easy, you can just hang out at your homestead crafting new things, expanding plots of land, and trying to make it your own.

Now, I can’t forget the drama. There’s bound to be some in such a scenario, but not with such performance. There are times when the game inexplicably jumps into soap opera territory complete with musical numbers and overly emotional dialogue. It’s unclear what they’re going for with this, but it’s amusing and over-the-top and that’s just fine.

The dusk of Undawn

Armed squad in the Undawn

There was a lot of talk leading up to Undawn and as a result, there’s a sense that things were rushed. Starting out small, your character’s physical vocal sounds and speaking vocal sounds have a chance to sound nothing alike which is confusing. There’s also a fleet of rendering and distancing issues. Even if you turn things down to the lowest settings, you’ll still experience the inconvenience of not being able to some objects and people unless they’re a few feet away from you. It’s also unfortunate that the controls can seem unfriendly to controller users because this is a game that would greatly benefit from a controller control scheme.

Then there are the zombies, which aren’t the main attraction and feel more like an accessory. The real bulk is the time you spend roaming around the community, maintaining your personal stats, and building your own home. When zombies do happen, it’s more of an activity rather than a real threat or action-packed encounter. Even when the giant mutant zombies show up, it’s never usually a big deal.

Rise at the crack of Undawn

Undawn is a 3D zombie-survival game with a lot of crafting and management elements to keep you busy. It definitely has a lot to offer in terms of things to do and some unexpected dramatic theater to experience during the game. However, it may need to pull back some of the scalings so that it can render more efficiently, expand control options, and give the zombies more to do. Should you wake to the light of the first Undawn, it wouldn’t hurt to draw up some blueprints for your new patio.

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