Zombies never seem to vanish from media, do they? Seems like any game that needs a quick and easy reason for survival goes with the undead threat. Sure enough, Days of Doom settles on a zombie apocalypse setting for a roguelite tactical RPG. From Sneakybox, the premise delivers some charming visuals in an otherwise straight-faced and forgettable effort.
The premise is a fairly standard one for genre. Your group of stragglers is hoping to make their way to Sanctuary in their old school bus. Across six zones, you’ll need to fight, barter and survive. Whilst there are random scenarios that can deliver a little bit of context, the narrative is not any deeper than that. Just know there is ample opposition between you and your safe haven. I would’ve loved more story to be fed to me as I progressed but, as it stands, there is a singular goal to achieve.
Gameplay maintains a typical loop. You have a map you can chart your progress on. Travelling to each node costs fuel and fighting gain you experience and other resources. Fuel can be valuable as it really dictates how deep into the map you get. Take too long exploring all there is to offer and you may run out of fuel. That said, I’ve only emptied a tank once. Branches present themselves quite often and it’s nice to know the major points of interest are already marked.
Fights are common but there’s also random scenarios that give you a decision to make. Some of them feel like obvious traps but engaging in the fights could result in some extra goodies coming your way. That balance of risk and reward did give me something else to think about. There’s also merchants that become available once you pass the first area. Here you can buy runes for additional buffs, any resources you may be lacking in and, if you have the scrap, new recruits. Extra bodies are hard to come by but incredibly expensive.
Combat takes on a tactical, grid-based approach. Drums of oil, water and radioactive waste implies that status effects are prioritised. Unfortunately, I’ve not always found their positioning to be beneficial. AI seems magnetically drawn to you and wasting turns to have them collide near barrels just doesn’t seem optimal. When enemy numbers increase, having them stack next to one is a rare treat.
Your units will typically have two actions they can perform during a turn. They have a basic attack as well as a special move which operates on a cooldown. As such, units can take on specific roles. A Fighter doesn’t deal the best damage but his charge can stun an enemy out of the next turn. A Gunslinger has great range but is perhaps not the most resilient of units. Trying to balance out the team whilst surviving a fight is Days of Doom‘s best quality and I do feel satisfied when a victory comes without a scratch.
Other recruits can arrive by chance but, by default, you’re left to choose three of four available classes. I found a three I was comfortable with but it was largely down to the restrictions the early game puts you under. Before a run begins, you have a base camp you can upgrade with the renown you’ve gained. This currency comes at a snail’s pace and can result in some genuine repetition. This is exacerbated by the high cost of upgrades. It accumulates as you win victories and boss are your best bet at a larger windfall.
Roguelikes are often about repeated playthroughs but I struggle to motivate myself for another crack at the early couple of zones. Enemy variety is poor and the same zombies will be returning time and time again. New areas don’t seem to mean much beyond a slight change of scenery. I found it wore out its welcome very quickly. Raiders provide minor changes in combatants but, from start to finish, it’s all too familiar.
At least visually, there is a charm. It flies in the face of the serious tone but the goofy shambling of the advancing units adds a much needed sense of character. Units have distinct designs that make them distinguishable and easy to read. Whilst some of the numbers under the hood may change, it’s very easy to remember what each unit can do in terms of attacks and status effects. As such, I wasn’t diving into stat sheets much beyond the opening few battles and it did keep the pace of combat fairly brisk. I think the music settles more in the tone of the narrative. The bland guitar twangs imply a certain grim melancholy. It firmly makes the art look out of place and I wish they’d brought something more cohesive.
As it is, Days of Doom is a tactical experience that runs out of steam very quickly. The grind for currency leads to a lot of wasted runs and I just didn’t find combat all that compelling. The visuals delivered a rare charm but, set against a very serious backdrop, it felt jarring. It needs more variety in enemies to truly make repeated runs worthwhile and I just don’t have the motivation for it.
+ Runs can be relatively quick.
+ The scenarios can give you some interesting decisions to handle.
- The grind for currency is a struggle.
- A genuine lack of variety in encounters.
- The animated art style seems at odds with the serious premise.