They Are Billions review | An imposing RTS

The best RTS released this generation? We try and fail to fend off a daunting zombie horde in They Are Billions. Our review follows…


Almost 80 hours into They Are Billions, I haven’t managed to win once. Whether it’s a single tile of undefended perimeter, or an overwhelming horde ripping through my colony’s defences, my villagers are wiped out every single time. But that’s fantastic, because it gives me that tiny bit of an excuse I need to spend another night fawning over Numantian Games’ imposing RTS.

Set in a steampunk future that has seen the Empire brought down by a zombie plague, it’s up to you to create new outposts and fight back the hordes of undead to reclaim the world. Starting from humble archers and wooden fences, before long your huts have expanded into a sprawling city of mechanical defences, augmented soldiers, and… oh. The zombies found a gap in your fence. Game over.

The zombies are more of a natural disaster than a usual RTS enemy. The game is split into days, with ever-increasing numbers of zombies flooding in from the edges of the map every few days in an avalanche of putrid flesh. Starting off as maybe a dozen at most, by the end every available pixel will be taken up by the hordes in battles that are up there with Total War when it comes to sheer scale. The undead are evil, annoying, and can bring a seemingly perfect colony to its knees in the blink of an eye, but the sheer spectacle of watching a turret mow down thousands of zombies before eventually, inevitably being infected with the plague is amazing.

It’s the loss that keeps They Are Billions going, though. The basics of running a colony are simple enough, but identifying the flaws in your design and patching them up for the next run takes a much greater understanding of the game’s quirks than you’d expect. For example, archers may seem like weak starter units at first, but eventually, you realise they’re quieter than their stronger Gunner counterparts. You may notice this on your 19th run, and on the 20th you’ll have a large strike team of archers clearing the map of any environmental zombies before the waves come crashing at your barriers. It’s that sense of experimentation and discovery that turns what could’ve been a repetitive slog into something that burrows deep into your brain and refuses to go away, long after the game’s been closed.

They Are Billions is, without a doubt, the best RTS released this generation (which admittedly is a very small pool of competitors, but still). The aesthetic is great, the campaign is long and challenging, the survival mode is ludicrously compelling, and thanks to a lengthy early access period, it’s all done with little in the way of bugs or instabilities, even with a billion undead hands clawing at your defences.


I’m a sucker for steampunk, and They Are Billions manages to do it in a way that doesn’t feel over the top or forced. There’s a nice mix of the antique, the modern, and the fantastical, from arrows and ballistae to steam-powered mech suits and Tesla coils. Steampunk is so rarely done well in games, but TAB is a great example of it.


Being overrun by walking corpses hungry for your spinal fluid has never been this much fun.


Genre: RTS
Format: PC (tested) / XBO / PS4
Developer: Numantian Games
Publisher: Numantian Games, BlitWorks
Price: £24.99
Release: Out now

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