I Shall Remain was announced in October of last year. It's a zombie survival role-playing game being developed by Jake Way, an active duty marine from Hawaii. Last month, Way released the prologue for the game, and since it's available for free, I decided to take a look and see what it might have in store for us. Originally, I wasn't sure if I should call this a review or a preview, but after spending some time with the game, I think I've settled on "warning." The prologue doesn't play very well, but a lot can (hopefully) change between now and the full release of the game.
In I Shall Remain, zombies have taken over the world, as they tend to do, and you're in control of a small pocket of human resistance. Your character (at least in the prologue) is Captain C.J. Hodges, and you and your four followers are out on reconnaissance. The operation goes badly -- the convoy you're supposed to meet with gets wiped out, the hospital you're supposed to defend gets overrun, and so forth -- and you end up having to wander around some post-apocalyptic-looking city streets while defeating hordes of zombies.
I Shall Remain looks like it's going to be an action role-playing game. Your character gets a handful of attributes (including strength and intelligence) and a handful of skills (including rifles and explosives), and you gain experience and levels as you complete quests and kill zombies. You also acquire special "doctrines" as you play, and these act as passive bonuses for your character. The first doctrine you receive is for "runner's form" which increases your movement speed by 10%.
There is a variety of equipment in the game, including guns, grenades, bazookas, and melee weapons, but no armor. Some weapons have a higher rank and thus deal extra damage, and you can spot them because (as is always the case) their name appears in a different color -- blue for uncommon and yellow for rare. There are also health packs (for restoring health) and water bottles (for restoring stamina), and all items can be shared amongst your followers, who can be given simple commands like "attack," "defend," and "regroup."
Your character can also earn achievements. These achievements count the number of times your team does certain things, and then as you pass increasing thresholds you receive passive bonuses. So if you kill enough "Nazi" zombies, for example, then you get a damage bonus against them. Unfortunately, if the achievements page is to be believed, then there are only eight types of zombies total, and other than one extremely large fellow, they all sort of blend together.
In other words, I Shall Remain has all of the components you'd expect to see in an action role-playing game. The problem is that everything is sort of basic and low rent. This is fine for a free prologue, but it's not exactly a selling point for the rest of the game, which will presumably cost money.
Consider the graphics. The game uses an overhead view, but the environment is murky, and it's tough to tell what’s going on and where your character is allowed to go (a map screen will probably help with this, but for some reason the map option isn't available in the prologue). The zombies also don't look particularly good -- at least so far as I could tell given the camera's vantage point and the nighttime setting. Annoyingly, your character gets a flashlight, but it requires batteries (which appear to be random drops), and I ended up playing half the mission in the dark. The animations are also subpar, and characters often get stuck on even the smallest pieces of debris.
There are other issues as well. Your character requires ammunition, but your followers don't. It isn't possible to wound your allies with friendly fire so you can spray bullets and flames everywhere. There isn't any way to save your game (at least in the prologue). There are a ton of typos in the game and the info sheet that comes with it (including "greanades" that you can "scavange"). Every drop is random, and your success or failure depends way too much on how lucky you are (I had to play the prologue three times before I completed it). And zombies spawn infinitely, so you have to rush through the mission. None of these problems are major, and they can all be fixed, but it's telling that they all exist in the game's first release.
Last week I praised indie developers because they seem to have more freedom when it comes to creating unique and interesting games, but there's also a drawback to them in that you don't always know what sort of quality you're going to get. I Shall Remain rests squarely at the low end of the quality spectrum. It's not unplayable, but it's not something I'd want to pay for in its current form, either, and I wouldn't recommend that anybody rush out and download the 1GB prologue. Maybe at some point the game will get cleaned up enough to be worthwhile, but right now it's a tough sell.