Yet Another Zombie Survivor Review


Yet Another Zombie Survivors (hereafter YAZS, because who has time for that?) is, of course, another Vampire Survivors-like with a squad packing guns, explosives, and other weapons trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. It is out in Early Access on Steam, but honestly (as the developers recognize) it is rather short on content now.

What’s there is pretty polished and capable, but I’m not finding much (yet?) to distinguish it in a crowded field. Those hankering for the days of zombies everywhere or really jonesing for another hit of a Survivors-like having worked through the many good ones, might find more to like, or at least keep an eye on for the future. Or, if you want to be more involved with Early Access feedback, you can do that in-game or via their Discord server.

And for those not familiar the craze was ignited by (the really excellent and compulsive) Vampire Survivors, though the basic gameplay elements have been done before, like in the mobile game Magic Survival. The basic idea is usually to survive for a certain length of time, or as long as you can, as you gather experience, weapons, powers, etc. with your only controls to move (aiming and using powers is automatic) and select upgrades. Usually there is meta-progression of permanent upgrades you can earn, characters or other things to unlock, and overall just trying to survive or make fun builds. The idea is a pared down, easy-to-play but with depth in character builds, where your goal is to out ramp the increasing amount/difficulty of enemies. In other words, try to reach ridiculous power before you are overrun. I’ve also heard these called Horde or Bullet Heaven games (like the opposite of a “bullet hell” of being the focus rather than the source of bullets). Maybe “body hell” would work too, since here enemies are just trying to throw their bodies at you most of the time.

(Besides Vampire Survivors, ones roughly in the genre I’ve at least tried that are worth looking at include Brotato (made with Godot!), 20 Minutes Till Dawn, Halls of Torment, Death Must Die, Rogue Genesia, Soulstone Survivors…)

The basic setup is exactly what you’d expect: there’s a horde of zombies overrunning the world but luckily you are equipped with a few good survivors and the hardware to stay alive till dawn. You move (optional aiming is coming), select upgrades after collecting experience from killing enemies, collect cash for permanent upgrades (meta progression) as well as unlocking more characters and upgrades through things like killing zombie bosses, and so on. There is also an endless mode that can be unlocked.

The new element is that you can add up to two more members to your crew in the first few minutes of surviving, each with their own weapons, abilities (on an auto cast timer), and bonuses. For example, there’s the bow wielding huntress which gives critical strike bonuses, or the engineer which can electrify enemies and reduces ability cooldowns. They will randomly appear in the world, marked with a green arrow, and then you stand next to them for a few seconds to release them (or later pick an upgrade instead).

The presentation is overall pretty good, bit generic in overall look and feel but polished enough. Technically everything works well via Proton, at max settings more like 30 to maybe 40 fps on the Steam Deck. Controller support is there too. Sound effects are fine, feel of weapons and all the basics also hit the mark.

However, the lack of content is what is holding back YAZS from realizing what potential it has. There seems to be only one music track, which is pretty decent for a few minutes but is repetitive and gets tiring. There is only one stage. The 6 current characters are pretty varied with different weapons and abilities they get (unlocked by playing them more) but the selection of abilities/upgrades when leveling up is very limited. Especially in the early stages when you only have maybe two abilities for each character and a weapon upgrade. There is a lack of variety and moreness that is the hallmark of a good Survivors-like.

The idea of having a squad and how you mix and match abilities and weapons has some promise though and I think the more it leans into that aspect and opens it up the better it could be. The setting and enemies are also all pretty typical, zombies that explode into poison gas, big ones that rush you, faster swarming ones, and that’s about it.

A minor quibble I have is with the collision/damage detection. Especially with a full squad of three, your character circle is a bit chunkier. It doesn’t seem you take damage even when an enemy is in that circle unless they are actively attacking, but it is a bit hard to tell. It leads to a sort of “floatiness” in how moving can feel, though I do find this true in others of the genre, too.

As this article was being finalized the upcoming 0.3.0 update came to the beta branch for all to try. I did a few quick runs noticing the new level (a rather barren wasteland), new enemies (spiders) and hazards (giant sandworm thing), and what seemed to be a tougher experience. The new music was pretty good (a bit more of a heavier rock track, which I like), though probably will get tiring quickly as well without some more variety to choose from.

Update: While this article was pending during our downtime, the developers released the 0.3 update. This also includes manual aiming, quality of life improvements, and new content. I did not have a chance to test this more thoroughly though.

You can see the YAZS roadmap for more of what is planned, and clearly there’s a lot to go. Basic features like more characters, abilities, synergies, and so on are yet to come. The overall design and gameplay loop is there, as well as general polish, at least.

Overall YAZS is fine for what it is, but the emphasis is on the “early” part of “Early Access.” That’s certainly fine, it is playable, works well, and can provide a few hours of some Survivors-like if you need more. Still, nothing has grabbed me just yet and the setting, weapons, and enemies aren’t my favorite genre (but could be for you!).

In short, it hasn’t found that compulsive tickle of a good Survivors-like. This could be one to keep an eye out for, though I fear it will be swallowed up in this crowded field without something more distinguishing, doomed to be “yet another” indeed.

Yet Another Zombie Survivors is on Steam in Early Access currently. A game key was provided to us for review.