It seems like it would be a match made in heaven, but zombie games with a horror/survival theme seem to be rare on iOS. Looking to do something beyond the usual action-packed zombie genocide, Trial By Survival [Free] looks to remedy that with a top down adventure that focuses just as much on the tension of staying alive as it does on taking out the undead. It actually succeeds mostly in that regard too, despite its freemium undertones.
Fire up Trial by Survival and you have the option of playing two modes. Survival Mode is the main story-based mode in the game and challenges players to survive 14 days in exile within a zombie-infested wasteland with no supplies and only a crowbar as your weapon. While in exile, you'll journey through suburbs, forests and towns searching for supplies (which can be used to build weapons), fighting zombies and earning experience, and avoiding the horde (or fighting through it). Each mission has hidden areas and nice little ambient touches that do a great job creating tension while exploring areas.
Each mission starts you at one end of a procedurally-generated stage with your goal being to dispatch all the zombies and get to the big 'Exit' sign at the other end. Do that, and you earn a level bonus, advance a day, and select the next region. Between stages you can build a wide variety of weapons, unlock special perks, or attempt to scavenge other survivors. Scavenging is a neat idea, as it allows you to extract resources from the maps of other actual players that failed in their quest. It's also one of the best ways to ensure your own survival, but requires survival coins which must be earned in Arena Mode or purchased via IAP.
While some levels focus mostly on combat (such as horde missions), others focus on exploration and resource collection for impending large battles. Even though the action in those exploration levels is relatively tame, I love the look and feel of them more than the straight up challenging horde levels. Still, those are important to consider since Trial by Survival ends if you die or make it out of exile after the 14 days are elapsed. The game's dual-stick controls do a great job of giving you a fighting chance, although I found the melee combat and aiming mechanics to be a little inaccurate.
Arena Mode, meanwhile, supplements Survival Mode by placing players in a small stage with a never-ending horde of zombies coming at you. While Arena Mode is primarily score-driven (leaderboards track total experience and kills per run) and not particularly deep, one important function it also accomplishes is the earning of Scavenger Coins, which allows you to scavenge in Survival Mode. Thus, both modes complement each other well and with enough play in each, you can play the majority of the game without needing to spring for IAP.
Still, being a freemium game there are some annoyances that will persist regardless. At the conclusion of each stage in Survival Mode players will have to wait an ever growing amount of time until the 'night' passes and you can select the next stage. Sure, IAP exists to permanently disable the 'night timer,' (you can also watch a short video to bypass the timer each time) but it's still an annoyance that either can be dealt with or eliminated with cash.
Another issue stemming from its freemium background is the fact that most of the fun weapons that can be used in Survival Mode (and eventually in Arena Mode) will take some time to unlock during normal play. You can buy a variety of 'kits' that unlock a lot of the basic weapons (which allow you to focus on buying the more expensive ones), but if you have an aversion to IAP, you're in for somewhat of a boring start.
Personally, I think Trial By Survival is enjoyable regardless of the IAP. In fact, I'd say it's well worth shelling out for a few weapons packs at the onset just so folks can enjoy the look and feel without worrying about the meta-game. It's not the most complicated game, but Trial By Survival makes up for it with feeling, making it well worth checking out in my book.
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