Buying into an early access game is always a weird roll of the dice. In theory, you could be buying into a great game that brings you more and more joy as it grows. They often evolve into something amazing a short while after the initial playable concept. There are times though where that just doesn’t happen. Empty promises, people just looking for a payday, studios closing, all that and more can lead to an early access game crumbling and losing its fanbase. So what does that have to do with Night of The Dead? It just launched about a month ago into early access and that is an arguably critical time for games this size. Now is the best time to establish a community and grow it while nurturing and adding to your game’s foundation. Let’s take a quick look at and dissect what works as well as what is a little off in Night of The Dead. Core Concept The core concept of Night of The Dead is simple. Scavenge to build your base and collect other needed items. Kill the zombies or avoid them to live another day. Players need to hunt and learn every day in-game in order to keep going. Pushing themselves further and further away from home every day to find parts and needed materials, but getting home quick enough to defend from the nightly horde. It is a satisfying game loop that can keep solo or groups of players engaged for a solid amount of time. Growing Pains There isn’t a ton to complain about for Night of The Dead. A lot of what is “wrong” is easily fixed in patches. Some players have commented that the tools the player uses not deteriorating over time are a problem. I really don’t see it that way as it allows newer or casual players to worry about surviving more than anything. I understand for more hardcore players though that is usually a standard. I’m sure that is something that is coming in a future update but overall it really doesn’t detract from the experience. Night of The Dead’s zombies are sprinters. The animation for which feels a little off and funny. It makes them stand out but not in a great way, I laugh when I see it. If that could be tightened up or made creepier somehow that would definitely help keep the player engrossed in the game. They aren’t bad as an animation but for zombies, it doesn’t really work. As with a lot of games lately, there are bugs in Night of The Dead. So far I have not had any game-breaking ones which is great. I have encountered some funny ones, however. The ones I have seen mostly revolve around the birds in the game getting stuck in objects. Case in point, I was sneaking around an abandoned freeway. There were about a dozen zombies that I saw around the location. As I worked my way around the side of a bus a noise grew louder. It was angry flapping, I figured a bird was trying to attack me so I started frantically looking around. As I saw nothing I looked over at a guard rail to see a raven’s wings poking out. It was pretty amusing, I was also able to kill it for food which was nice. Overall that stuff doesn’t detract from the experience of the game. It’s all stuff that can be easily fixed and likely will be as the game evolves. Combat The most important part of any game involving zombies is the combat aspect. It needs to feel meaty and satisfying while not being too easy. Night of The Dead sort of gets this with nightly hordes rushing the player’s home base. The problem arises with the available weaponry. Early on the player has their knife and plenty of time to make a bow. The bow is great for hunting and will kill most things in one to two hits. When using it on the undead though it doesn’t feel the same often taking five to six shots per zombie to kill. The knife outshines the bow here. It kills zombies in about three swipes. I have been able to fend off the undead for several nights with nothing more than a combat knife. While that feels a little broken it was pretty funny to see the zombies sprinting in a line from the distance and going all bar fight on them. You can find a crossbow in the game but I have sadly yet to come across it or any guns in my adventures. Solid Atmosphere The atmosphere is there for Night of The Dead. Sneaking up on a house trying to peek in to see how many are in there, then being terrified to see over seven of them in there, makes the game enjoyable. For every little wonky thing that falters in this game, it is still an enjoyable experience. The world feels desolate as I ran through forests cutting trees down. I felt like I had to watch over my shoulder constantly for wildlife and the undead sneaking up. It was tense, scary to an extent, and most importantly fun. It manages to make the player feel small and insignificant while still giving them a fighting chance in the apocalypse. Wrapping Up Night of The Dead is off to a great start in early access. If it can cultivate a following while fixing the few wonky aspects of the game I think it can continue to grow. It’s a nice rival to 7 Days to Die and you can try it out now on Steam for 25 dollars. There is a lot in this game to enjoy and do solo or in a group, it feels worth that price now.