They Are Billions

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
They Are Billions Game Poster Image
Difficult real-time strategy isn't for casual players.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Helping humans rebuild after a zombie apocalypse tempered by rampant killing.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No main heroes; human population generic, faceless beings.

Ease of Play

Even on lowest difficulty, the deck's stacked against you. No tutorials, and "easiest" difficulty level is very hard for most players.

Violence

Cartoon violence; infected zombies, combat, some blood. 

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that They Are Billions is an extremely challenging downloadable single-player real-time strategy (RTS) game set in a zombie apocalypse. Infected zombies are shown attacking human colonies and battling with human soldiers, with some blood shown, although the visuals are cartoonish. Even on the lowest difficulty setting, winning (and losing) is time-consuming and tough, especially since there's no tutorial to be found. Complex game systems mean this one isn't for younger kids and is definitely not a good starter game for kids new to the RTS genre. 

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What's it about?

THEY ARE BILLIONS is a steampunk-themed real-time strategy game with an unusual zombie twist. Like most other games in the genre, the idea is to build, expand, and fortify your base before enemies attack; in this instance, though, enemies have a particularly nasty advantage: infection. This weapon is far more difficult to counter than guns or bombs since one zombie's contagion can take a whole city down in minutes. Complex resource gathering, building, defense, and population growth are the key to survival. You can choose among different difficulty settings, and maps are unlocked as you beat them. 

Is it any good?

This challenging strategy game demands absolute precision from players, which is difficult for veterans of this genre and almost impossible for newcomers, thanks to its lack of tutorials. Real-time strategy games like They Are Billions can be one of the hardest genres to get into, thanks to its many moving parts and complex rule sets. Still, it can be one of the most rewarding once you get the hang of it. Tutorials and forgiving beginner levels are essential when it comes to absorbing such large chunks of information, and They Are Billions has neither. 

True, it contains a player guide/glossary of sorts, but reading pages of instructions isn't as good as learning gameplay a step at a time. The difficulty settings could help things, but here they don't really mean anything. In keeping with the recent hard-core difficulty game trend, even the lowest possible setting is fairly punishing, and things play out so slowly that it's tough to quickly attempt new strategies. The problem is the infection mechanic. As cool as the idea is, it's unbalanced. Infection spreads exponentially, and that means if a single zombie gets through your walls, it's game over. New and less skilled RTS players could find themselves stuck on the same map indefinitely, which is the antithesis of fun. It's too bad, because They Are Billions could be a great game. The steampunk aesthetic is cool, graphics and sound are great, and the build and placement controls are easy and fun. Further, upgrades and unlockable maps promise all kinds of fun new buildings and combat units to toy with. As it stands, though, many players will never see those. High difficulty and the no-tutorial policy mean new and casual players are doomed to hours of time-consuming work followed by quick and painful defeat. If you have the stamina for that, you might enjoy the game. If not, keep searching for that starter RTS.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the hard-core difficulty trend. What do you think about games like They Are Billions excluding casual and less-skilled players?

  • Discuss learning how to play new games. How much learning do you expect to do before having fun? 

Game details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love real-time strategy

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