They Are Billions, too many – First Sip Review
They Are Billions is a steampunk strategy game that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. Both developed and published by Numantion Games. They Are Billions marks the team’s second major release after the 2014 release Lords of Xulima.
The campaign story begins in the year 2260. Two centuries after an undisclosed epidemic converted humans into monsters and spread throughout the land. However, based on context clues from the opening it’s safe to say the infection was a result of human meddling. In the ensuing years humanity is ravaged and pushed into exile. Until Lord Quintis Crane forms both a city and an empire in an area known as “The Great Crater”. With the cities high walls as well as the steampunk aesthetics it’s somewhat reminiscent of Attack on Titan, but instead of Titans, you have infected zombie-like creatures en masse.
From here 13 years pass and you enlist to become the latest General under Lord Crane’s command to try and increase the human sphere of influence. Where many have failed, you will try now to succeed. Your goal is to secure land and build new colonies that will allow you to reclaim the world you once ruled. But the enemy won’t make things easy, the infected are high in number, they are billions.
The art style in They Are Billions is quite simply, fantastic. The game mostly takes place quite zoomed out to fit tons of characters on screen at a time. But, you can zoom in enough to see the level of detail on each character. Both the human and the infected are drawn in a very comic book style with heavy outlines. It gives them an almost cel-shaded look that isn’t too far from Borderlands but is overall less pronounced than that series. Which isn’t to say that it’s worse or better than the Borderlands art style. In fact, it actually stands out a lot and comes across as one of the best looking RTS games in recent memory.
Each character movement is comprised of hundreds if not thousands of individual frames which make them all look incredibly smooth on screen. This is made even more admirable when you take into account the game’s design focus of filling the screen with enemies. The developers could have easily skimped on the animation frames with the knowledge that most battles won’t afford the chance to really see what’s going on for individual units. But they didn’t, and it looks wonderful.
When you start the campaign there is also an animated scene. While it does cut some corners. Such as a few images being static as the dialogue plays. And the character shown delivering dialogue having armor that covers his mouth. But it still looks really nice overall and the moments with fluid animation look better than a lot of animated TV shows.
The design of Quintis Crane might be too close to a discount Warhammer character though.
The music in They Are Billions is ok. For the most part, it’s a standard sort of orchestral music. Very fitting of a militaristic game such as this. And honestly, the soundtrack is quite nice, especially for fans of orchestral classical music with a focus on the heavier aspects (big booming drums, etc.). But the problems are that the levels are generally fairly long and require you to listen for alerts and the like. So the music is used sparingly and at the best of times falls into the background. Listening to the soundtrack itself I gained more appreciation for the music, but again listening to the tracks in a row it lacks a bit of variety.
Sound effects are average, nothing really more to say here. The infected make the noises you’d expect of zombies, guns sound like guns, explosions sound like explosions. Everything is what you’d expect it to be and nothing more really.
The game has voice acting in the opening scene and for your units when you select and command them. But the voice actor that plays Quintis Crane doesn’t really fit. It seems like he should have a strong commanding voice based on his role and his design, but the voice actor feels miscast like he is trying to put on the right kind of voice but he’s unable to commit or possibly just cannot get his voice to where it needs to be. Similarly, the voice acting with the units is also flawed in my opinion. While RTS games are well known for the repetition of unit and command phrases (You must construct additional pylons, etc.). They Are Billions has missions where you control your hero and hearing them constantly say lines that aren’t at all relevant to the situation gets old very fast.
Gameplay in They Are Billions is fairly text-book RTS (Real-Time-Strategy) for the most part. Once you select a standard level you’ll receive victory and defeat conditions. From there you’ll have a Command Center and from there you can build tents to increase colonists, resource collecting buildings, army training buildings and more. There are a few things the game does that set it apart at least a little though. For instance, building more tents doesn’t give you more colonists, rather it increases the limit of how many colonists can stay. Every 8 hours a train will run through and drop off more colonists for you. Generally, the levels will also be designed so you spend most of your time building your defenses so you can survive timed waves of the infected. Rather than seeking to destroy an enemy base or capture a certain point.
Another major difference is the way the game treats the “fog of war”. In most RTS games simply moving your units will clear the fog and allow you to see further. But in this game, you need to build “Tesla Towers”. It’s an interesting albeit frustrating concept. The towers cannot be built too close together so you’ll need to daisy chain them to cover larger distances, but if a middle one is destroyed it will break the chain. This means that you might essentially go blind for a large area until you can figure out and replace the broken tower.
A score is awarded when you beat a map. Scores are modified via a number of factors including difficulty and amount of attempts. Once you beat one you’ll gain research points that can be used to upgrade your army via skill trees.
A feature used in They Are Billions is the ability to choose a Hero character. Unlike other RTS games that use this feature like Warcraft 3, the hero will appear in all levels. Rather, only in Hero Exploration levels will you see them. Hero Exploration levels are basically what they are called. You control your hero (much as you would a regular unit) and explore. As you explore you’ll find items and resources. Sometimes you’ll find enemies to defeat and even ally units to assist you. Thankfully these levels seem to be much shorter without the need for building. But even with the reduced length the Hero and allies talking when selected get very annoying.
Overall I kind of hated this game. However, unlike Renzo Racer and Neko Ghost, Jump! which failed to perform as the type of games they are. They Are Billions is an objectively well-made RTS. During my time with the game, I was constantly frustrated by various features, especially the length of the levels in comparison to the action in them. Even the first level which would normally be a short tutorial takes about an hour to beat. And while it does provide some level of tutorial it very quickly stops holding your hand and just throws you in. When the infected attack a building or unit rather than just destroying or killing them they infect them. This creates a lot of situations where you get overrun very easily.
In comparison a lot of the older RTS games I loved where as long as you could push back the rush there was time to rebuild. Again this isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you like the challenge. As it just means you need to be on your toes a lot more. If even one enemy slips by your defenses you could be overrun in seconds.
While I personally didn’t enjoy playing the game I can see the merits. More extreme fans of the RTS genre who have more patience are sure to enjoy it.
In Coffee Terms
They Are Billions in coffee terms is a black coffee with extra shots. Too dark and bitter for my tastes, and likely for most casual coffee drinkers. But for those looking for a real caffeine hit this is a quality option.
They Are Billions Links
Playstation Store: https://store.playstation.com/en-us/product/UP2106-CUSA13463_00-THEYAREBILLIONS0
They Are Billions Review Summary
One half of the YouTube brother duo, The Game Bros with Sirhc and Ar0n, Chris is a lover of games, movies and other great things you can do from home.
Coffee of choice: I like the sweeter kinds, mixed with chocolate, coconut, caramel etc. but I won’t turn down a flat white or a straight black either.