They Are Billions Review

They Are Billions is a small indie game created by Numantian Games that has been in Early Access on Steam for a while now and garnered a rather impressive following. However, the game has recently come out of early access with a full release complete with a brand new campaign. Despite the game’s popularity while in Early Access the full release campaign has met with a very mixed reception.

The main menu.


The core of the game is simple. You are the leader of a small town set in a steampunk world that’s been hit by the zombie apocalypse and you must survive. It’s a real-time strategy game with a focus on resource management and defense.

Any single zombie can end the game if not spotted and controlled as if it infects a building then it’s workers also become zombies leading to a snowball effect that can’t be stopped. If they make it unchallenged into your tent village you might as well give up and join the undead. This works great as a concept for making any encounter with a zombie tense but can lead to much frustration at the early part of the game if you are in a wide-open made and haven’t had time to set up walls or unit production as they come shambling slowly in.

A farming town.

The Map

You must branch out and reconquer parts of the map as you expand. The difficulty and concentration of zombies increases as you get to the farthest areas of the map and there will be surprises among the way.

Sometimes you will find abandoned builds that you can hook up to your power supply and fix up often granting you access to late game buildings earlier than normal. It’s not all good though as you must still pay late-game levels of upkeep and they will very rarely be in an optimal position so when you can build them yourself you may find yourself tearing them down.

There are also some bigger and scarier breeds of zombies waiting out there and if you wait too long before hunting them down then you may find the fight coming to you when you least want it. Whilst the wilds outside your town are dangerous the real challenge comes with the hordes.

Exploring the map.

Zombie Hordes

Every so often there will be a large number of zombies that will enter the map from a certain direction that you will only be aware of minutes before they arrive. This means there is a mad scramble to prepare what troops you were able to muster and hope you can hold them off. Each wave gets bigger and bigger until the final wave, which is such an incredible moment of amazement and dread that we are not going to spoil it here.

Each wave comes as a challenge, even when wellpracticed and in a routine any wave could end the game so it’s always a tense moment as you want for them to appear out of the shadows. If the horde happens to hit your weak side or finds some buildings undefended it can snowball into an unstoppable monster.

Each wave increases in size by so much that as soon as you have survived one you can only wonder at how many more will arrive next time.

The zombie horde attacks!

Survival Mode

It seems odd to cover the Survival Mode before the Campaign but this is really the bread and butter of the game. They Are Billions spent a long time in Early Access with survival mode being the only mode to play it on and it remains a large focus for the developers.

Survival Mode allows you to choose three separate settings, each of which affects difficulty in various ways and add a score modifier to your game based on difficulty. The settings you can choose from are the map type, ranging from arid wastelands to frozen mountains and they will affect everything from resources found to the number of undead activity on the map. The second setting is the game duration with a longer duration being easier as it gives you time to build up. The final setting is a population of zombies on the map.

The goal of this mode is simple. Survive until the end time you chose. This sounds easy but it is far from so.

The mining gates.

The Campaign

The newly added campaign adds a great deal to the game. It has a branching mission tree with lots of different objectives and play types so even if you come across a level that’s not to your liking or you are struggling with you can work through some others until you are ready for them.

Another interesting addition is research which is gained by spending points you earn from completing a level. This is a pretty good idea as it gives the player the ability to really focus on the type of playstyle they are most comfortable in. The downside to this is that you may find yourself needed a technology you don’t have to stand a chance on some of the levels. Anyone who has played the survival mode such as us early adopters will also find it quite jarring how little you have to work with while first starting out, but the progression does feel good as you go.

The Campaign Map


The campaign has, unfortunately, come with some controversy though. Many of the long-time players have written bad reviews on the release of the campaign to show their anger at the fact that the survival mode has been sidetracked while they made the campaign for the final release. Whilst this is understandable, with players becoming so used to the survival mode after many hundreds of hours playing, it is ultimately a futile and ultimately harmful way of showing your dissatisfaction.

Small indie studios such as Numantian games rely heavily on good reviews to sell copies as they haven’t built up that large following that bigger studios have. When review bombing a game for a decision you don’t like you can end up impacting the number of sales of the company that made a product you love which could end up affecting the amount of time and staff they have to work on their next project or update for the game. This ends up being bad for the company and the players.


The overall quality of the game is spectacular. With a fairly unique take on the steampunk design. The gameplay is solid with a high difficulty level but a real sense of progress as you learn where the weak spots are in your current plan. You always tend to have an idea of what you can do to improve next time.

The zombies work in a very basic way, spawning at a certain point and running in the most direct path towards your main base, stopping to attack anything nearby on their way. This is both a blessing and a curse. This allows you to plan your defenses much better and the difficulty is already high enough without any surprises. The downside is it can be incredibly easy to manipulate and exploit. The game is enjoyed best when not using these tricks but when the game scores you at the end it means you cannot compete on the global ranks without it.

Zombies assault the gate.


The art overall is pretty solid. The game is very reminiscent of old RTS games which is very nostalgic for us long-time strategy gamers. Some of the unit and building designs are very interesting and quite unlike you’d see in many RTS games.

The only thing that lets the art side down is some of the 2D art that comes up, although much of it has improved in the content released as part of the full release. The cutscenes made for the campaign are a nice addition to the world-building but are unfortunately noticeably low budget. It is to be expected though as it’s a fairly small company that’s only other game, Lords Of Xulima uses mostly 2D art in their cutscenes.


The design of the game works great with a style reminiscent of the old strategy games. A large focus is on resources that require you to constantly expand to get the resources you need. The resource that allows access to the end game units does not replenish like the other resources so having a larger amount of end game units requires most of the resource points to be owned. This means you will always have something to do while preparing for the next horde.

Layers of defense through the town.

There’s a nice variety in some of the units and defenses you can build which keep it from becomes a game of spamming a particular unit. It is unfortunate however that the units don’t seem particularly balanced. Some of the units and defenses are pretty essential to your survival while other units seem to be a waste of resources that could be used on something else. This leads to you forming certain strategies that end up leaving out many of the more interesting units.


All in all, They Are Billions is an excellent indie game that really shows Numantian Games at their best. It’s an homage to the old school RTS that does a great job of bringing something entirely new to the table. Spending hours building up a city and having it frantically hold off the endless hordes is hugely fun and incredibly tense. Indie strategy games don’t come much better than They Are Billions.