The Latest

Facing the Undead and Uncertainty in Ed-0: Zombie Uprising

If you only enjoy the kind of technically proficient but slightly sterile experiences offered by triple-A games, you might want to steer clear of Ed-0: Zombie Uprising. Released by D3Publisher, it recalls the inelegant but habitually entertaining experiences of franchises like Earth Defense Force and OneeChanbara. But instead of a centering exclusively on action, Ed-0 is just as much a roguelike that persistently forces you to make tough decisions. For players willing to put up with a few unpolished components, Ed-0 offers a healthy blend of action and administrative duties.

Delve in the recently released Early Access title, and you’re begin as a hulking samurai, armed with a katana. As a master swordsman, you can cleave through shambling corpses with a three-hit combo or a powerful thrust that takes a moment to charge. Across runs, you’ll encounter random magical scrolls. Once mapped to a button combo on your controller (Zombie Uprising is rather unwieldy with a mouse and keyboard), you’ll have access to special strikes, such as a powerful yoko giri (side cut) that can one-shot subordinate foes.

How Does Shiren the Wanderer with Real-Time Combat Sound?

Feeling like a three-dimensional, action-driven entry in the Mystery Dungeon series, randomization drives each journey through the game’s underworld. While heading through a succession of floors connected by torii gate-shielded portals, you’ll encounter a supply of arbitrary items. Some are given ambiguous names, and if you decide to eat “hard food” or toss a “white orb” into a crowd of zombies, you might be in for a surprise. Like most roguelikes, learning the best use for each object is especially enjoyable.

Other times, you’ll stumble upon a yabuki dolls that can attract and subsequently attack foes. There’s already just enough variety to make each expedition through the game’s procedurally-generated levels feel distinctive. Initially, you’ll encounter slow-moving farmers and women clad in kimono. But dig deeper and you’ll soon encounter wraithlike carcasses who carry swords. Unfrequently, they still remember how to use them.

Surprises, Both Good and Controlling Tossing

Shinjuku-based developer Lancarse likes to keep players off-balance. A previous build had invisible mines, which when stepped on, would occasionally get my samurai drunk. My noble combatant sank into a puddle of mutinous muscle, puking all over himself, drawing the attention of a horde of zombies. This was hilarious the first time it occurred. But on each subsequent playthroughs, stepping on a mine got a lot less amusing. However, there are signs of change.

Either Lancarse is gradually making progress toward a clear-cut goal or they’re truly listening to players. Yes, the mines are still there, but in far smaller numbers a week after Zombie Uprising’s debut.  Statistical balancing was another fundamental flaw. Enemies felt like damage sponges, and the buffs and augmentations that carried over to successive runs took too much grinding to earn.

Hope is Occasionally Found at the Bottom of a Sake Bottle

It’s still not perfect. But with an estimated six months of time before the full release, Lancarse has already shown that Zombie Uprising can be quickly modified, so there’s potential. With the latest update, each playthrough is long enough to show off the game’s unpredictability. One run was going great until I battered open a treasure chest, setting off a trap that sent a zombie mob running after me. Another trek was an exercise in inventory management, at least until a wicker basket made room for other objects, acting like a nestling doll. Like any respectable roguelike, you’ll probably be persuaded into using indistinctly-named items when you’re beaten down. If you appreciate a game that cultivates a sense of desperation, Ed-0 will delight.

Aesthetically, Zombie Uprising has aptitude. Walking through forests in the early stages feels sufficiently unnerving, with a bit of haze concealing groups of lumbering adversaries. Later, you’ve venture into period-specifics structure where you’ve cover tatami mats with the mutilated undead. Like OneeChanbara, you’ll become covered by the blood of your enemies, giving your character an unnerving appearance.

Back at your base village, the game channels the elegant tranquility of Tokugawa era, with storefronts where you can purchase new abilities or adventuring essentials from the merchant. There’s something quite amusing about seeing your character scarf down a giant cheeseburger or onigiri and I’m glad that Uprising isn’t afraid of silliness. While Capcom doesn’t seem to know what to do with their Dead Rising series, Lancarse could likely get the franchise back on track.

Palm Attacks That Would Make E. Honda Proud

Hubs can often feel utilitarian in games. While Ed-0’s in unfinished, with an unused hilltop shrine, it invited exploration with treats like a small farm behind the dojo. The town vendor sells you antidotes like water which helps with stat-depleting hangovers or sushi to from your hunger from compromising your health supply. Hokusai even has a studio in the village, where you can admire some game-inspired ukiyo-e prints, before instigating a great wave of bloodshed.

Mastery is baked into Zombie Uprising. You’ll unlock new abilities by doing tasks a specific number of times. Heal multiple times during a run and you’ll start to open new restorative abilities thanks to the powers of the Sacred Tree back at the town hub. Earning virtue, a resource gained by putting the undead to rest, and you’ll unlock vessels that constrain stat-boosting blessings. That one top on charms that you’ll find, which often have deliberately ambiguous effects on your adventurer.

At present, Ed-0: Zombie Uprising can feel overly grindy. On one run, I faced a flaming enemy that took at least 60 sword hacks to defeat. Other times in can feel punitive. While it’s customary to forfeit some of your wealth when dying in roguelikes, taxation of half your gold feels vindictive. You’ll eventually unlock an additional character, the sumo who offers a palm-fist combo and a chargeable assault that erupts into a huge fireball. While slower, he’s a walking tank clad in a mawashi and purification rope and has a massive health bar.

Despite these issues, I find revisiting Ed-0’s underworlds, dedicated to the task of making an efficient assassin of the undead. I’m also looking forward to Lancarse’s third character, eager to see how the developer’s interpretation of ninjitsu will fit into the game’s world. Now, if the studio would only give us a female character, like a witch or sorceress, Zombie Uprising could reach a tipping point. As it stands, this isn’t a technically impeccable effort, but it’s an undeniably likable one that delivers plenty of goofy enjoyment.

Ed-0: Zombie Uprising was played on PC with
review code provided by the publisher

 

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

3 comments

  1. You should also mention that it’s $19.99. Price factors into people’s decision making process.

  2. Usually, I end up liking the games that get a “mixed” on Steam more than the ones that are “positive” or “mostly positive”.

  3. The Dead Rising statement was spot on. This is essentially DR is a Feudal Japanese setting. Don’t get the Steam complaints.