The Order: 1886 and the Problem with Late-Game Difficulty Spikes

I marathoned almost the entirety of The Order: 1886 this past weekend, and for the most part, I really enjoyed my time with it. It is a very linear game with a healthy amount of cutscenes and quick time events, but I really got invested in the story the game was telling, and the third-person shooter elements felt smooth and fun to play. The Order is extremely polished, and it looks gorgeous from start to finish. I finished the game yesterday, and my playthrough clocked in around 6.5-7 hours, which is totally fine in my book.

My only real gripe with the game is its pacing. There are some chapters that are more cutscene than gameplay, and the interruption of gameplay with cutscenes in some places disrupts the flow of the game.

And then there was this:

This particular scene takes place in Chapter 15 of the game, the second to last chapter. It represents a difficulty spike that absolutely ground my playthrough of the game to halt, and left me thinking I might not even finish the game.

What was supremely frustrating about this particular scene is that you enter into a room in which there is no escape initially. Guards continue to spawn in at the back of the room, and there is no position where you are safe from being flanked. So, you are constantly moving around the room, which is fine, until you start dealing with the heavies (more powerful enemies). Because you’re constantly moving, you’re going to take some damage as you’re running around. Normal gunfire isn’t a big deal, but when enemies start using grenade launchers and thermite guns (which shower you with flammable material then set you ablaze), one shot from these heavies will finish you off. And the last ditch healing mechanic you have takes precious seconds to use, during which time other enemies just pump you full of bullets.

After dying a myriad of times, I did walk away for the rest of the evening. I managed to beat this section the following day, essentially by using a spawn closet for cover as I picked off the heavies, as they would not enter into the spawn closet for some reason.

The crazy thing about this particular segment of the game is it represents a big spike in difficulty. There was no other area in the entire game where I had to deal with that many enemies of various types in such a confined space, with no defensible position. It forced me to play the game differently that I had for all of the previous hours I’d spent with it.

Now, hitting one really frustrating point in the course of an entire game is not the end of the world, but I feel like it’s a big deal for The Order, because the flow of the story is so important to the experience. There is a sense of urgency to this part of the game, where Gallahad (the main character) is trying to get to a colleague as quickly as possible. That experience is completely shattered when one room becomes a meat grinder that causes you to replay the same section over and over again. It ruins the penultimate chapter of the story in a game where the story is everything.

The last time I ran into a momentum killer like this was in 2012’s ZombiU, which is still my favorite WiiU game to date (I wrote a whole series on it in 2012). There is a level where you get captured and have to fight your way out of an arena that almost made me quit that game (you can read my post on that here).

Whether designed to shake things up or to prolong the playtime of a game, the late-game difficulty spike can not only be a momentum killer, it can actually keep people from finishing a game, which is a bummer.

And just so we’re clear, I’m not picking on The Order here–I really enjoyed the game. But this particular section was a textbook example of something I think games can do without.

Do you have any examples of late-game difficulty spikes? Did you end up finishing the game in question?


ZombiU: Closing Thoughts

Writing the Survivor Stories series while playing through ZombiU put me in a mindspace where I was constantly thinking about the game. My experience with the game overall was great, and there are a lot of interesting things that ZombiU does with systems I’ve seen in other games. Some are implemented in a similar fashion, and some are quite a departure.

From a survival horror perspective, ZombiU is much more in line with the classics like early Resident Evil and Silent Hill games. The game is very atmospheric. Whether you are trekking through sewers or crawling over broken furniture in Buckingham Palace, you can often hear enemies long before you see them, so there’s a constant fear of what’s around the corner. Every encounter is potentially lethal, so there is a rush of anxiety whenever a zombie approaches. I was constantly using the environment to slow them down, or to get myself in a defensible area where could see whatever was coming. Ammo is scarce, which forced me to use the cricket bat in almost every situation where there were only one or two enemies. Bullets were for crowd control. Grenades were for armored zombies. Every weapon other than the cricket bat became situational. In many ways, ZombiU is an intentional throwback to the survival horror of old.

The story of ZombiU is rooted in British history, and really lends a sense to depth to the game world as you make your way through a ruined London. Granted, the story plays on the wilder aspects of the legend of John Dee, but its in a similar way that H.P. Lovecraft tied his fiction to the New England area–there’s truth woven into the fiction, and sometimes it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. You know, except for the zombie parts.

ZombiU also takes some inspiration from the Souls series, both in its approach to death, as well as it’s online features. When a survivor of yours dies, they not only show up in your game as a zombie, but they also show up in the games of your friends as well. While the novelty of this is cool, there is a gameplay purpose as well–these zombies are still wearing their backpacks full of gear. When it’s your previous survivor that has died, you must reach them before dying again in order to claim your gear, or its lost forever. This is exactly like the Souls series, and it adds an additional layer of tension to the game. When it’s another person’s survivor that spawns as a zombie in your game, it’s like a bonus, as you can kill them and take whatever gear they had on them when they died. There were a few times in my playthrough that I was strapped for ammo, and finding someone else’s former survivor helped me get out of a situation alive. In the Souls games, this would be the equivalent of another player dropping an item for you in a multiplayer session, which I’ve had happen as well. In both cases, certain gear is precious, and you can’t afford to be careless with supplies.

The spraypaint mechanic in ZombiU also seems inspired by the Souls series. You can leave messages (consisting of a series of symbols) for other players, which they can find with their scanners. I have to say, I found the implementation in ZombiU to be a little clumsy, as the symbol system wasn’t robust enough for really meaningful hints to be given. In the Souls series, you at least have a variety of phrases to utilize, which, while restricting, still allows you to convey what’s coming to another character. This is an area that could be improved should the game get sequel, as the premise is solid.

No discussion of ZombiU would be complete without talking about the GamePad implementation. While my experience with WiiU has been limited to only a few games so far, I do feel that its use in ZombiU is the best implementation I’ve experienced yet. For those worried about it feeling too gimmicky–don’t. The primary use of the GamePad is inventory management. Being able to hot key items into easy access slots, as well as access things like your map, journal and stats at the touch of a tab is great as well. The GamePad also functions as a scanner, and other than having to come up with a story explanation that seems reasonable, using the scanner works well. Basically, you can scan any area that you can see for enemies, items, doors and more. I found myself doing that as soon as i came into an open area, and then planning my route through from there. Using the scanner also mean taking your eyes off of the main screen, and since you’re not actually pausing the game when you scan, there’s an element of danger to it. Again, this adds to the tension, and you have to be thoughtful about when you do it. All in all, the GamePad functionality is great in ZombU. Even the sniper moments, where you use the GamePad as a scope, are so few and far between that you don’t even have time to get tired of them.

GamePad aside, the one place where ZombiU stumbles is when the controls can’t keep up with the design of the game. The basic controls are clunky, like those early survival horror games. They are meant to go hand in hand with a methodical pace, and a limited number of enemies. There are some times in the game when what’s happening eclipses the ability of the controls to keep up, even when a player knows what they’re doing. Early on, the safehouse gets attacked by a horde, and for that early in the game, it’s a pretty big difficulty spike. However, that’s nothing compared to a late game level that is so difficult that it’s almost game-breaking. Had I not been trained in the Demon’s Souls / Dark Souls school of never giving up, I would have walked at that point, because it was so frustrating. The crux of the problem was that it required you to be constantly running, when you have limited stamina, it required a high degree of accuracy when the controls don’t provide it, and you needed to use the environment in specific ways when the zombies did not take the same path every time. It took me days to beat this section, as I would make several attempts, fail, and then have to walk away. Sure, I was overjoyed when I finally beat it, but the whole pace of the game, and my immersion in the world had been badly thrown off by that one section. What amazes me is that there is a Survival mode in ZombiU, where you only get one life, and people have actually beaten that level in one try. When you play this game, you’ll know how amazing that really is.

After spending 27+ hours with it, I can honestly say that ZombiU is now one of of my three favorite horror games this generation–Resident Evil: Revelations and the original Dead Space being the other two. The game serves as a reminder of what survival horror can and should be, and it deserves to be played. I’m excited that Nintendo is releasing a ZombiU bundle for WiiU, as that will hopefully get the game into more people’s hands. I had an absolute blast with it, and the few frustrations I ran into would not keep me from recommending this game to those who want a challenging, fun horror experience.


ZombiU Survivor Stories #11–Joseph White Saved the World [Spoilers Ahead]

Joseph White is a warrior. He did the impossible.

I mentioned in my last post that after Joseph was the one to survive the arena, I decided he was the chosen one. I’m not kidding–I was determined to make it through the rest of the game with him, almost to spite that arena level that claimed so many survivors. I’m sure it took me longer to finish the remaining sections, as I was very deliberate, taking everything as slowly as possible to ensure Joseph did not die because of my carelessness.

After stopping back at the safehouse, we needed to collect the remaining documents for Doctor knight to finish researching his cure for the plague. That involved trekking back through most of the areas we’d been to previously, as the documents were letters from john Dee that were found on various corpses in the different locations. Once we had those, we delivered them to Doctor Knight back at Buckingham palace, and headed to the safehouse to gear up.

Prepper was growing increasingly agitated with us, because in his mind, there was no such thing as a cure, and he saw our working with the Ravens of Dee as a betrayal of the guidance he had been giving us. As the game wore on, he went from helping us, to actually hindering us by locking us out of some of the shortcuts between areas.

Doctor Knight eventually radioed that he had created a vaccine and wanted to meet us. We had to take the long way back to Buckingham Palace, and it was littered with zombies. After battling our way there, we arrived at the palace too late to save Doctor Knight–he had succumbed to the virus and was a full-fledged zombie. After dispatching the good doctor, we were able to download the formula for the vaccine, which we now needed to get get to the Tower of London and on the last helicopter out of the city.

Back at the safehouse, Prepper found out what we were doing, and he basically kicked us out. Grabbing the last of our gear, we headed out into the subway station, which was under siege by zombies once again. We used the M2 turret to thin the herd, but it quickly became apparent that we would be overrun. We made a break for the exit, and almost got caught between two groups of zombies, before escaping above ground.

[Spoiler Warning–End of ZombiU being discussed here!!]

What’s cool about how the final sections play out is that you actually get the credits after leaving the subway station. You seemingly end on a cliffhanger, not knowing whether or not you made it out of the city. Once the credits are over however, you are right back in the game and have a chance to get to the evac chopper. It reminded me a bit of the end of Halo: Reach. There are actually three endings you can get, based on whether or not you make it there with the vaccine.

So did we make it? Well, as soon as the credits were over, we were back outside, and needed to get to the Tower of London. I knew this was the point of no return–to die would mean the end of the game. We made it to the docks and the Ravens hovered in a helicopter and tried to illuminate a path for us. Zombies were all over the place, so it was slow going as we swam over to the entrance of the tower grounds.

One mistake almost ended us as we neared our goal. I tried to lure an armored zombie into a wide open area, and ended up backing Joseph into a pile of burning rubble, almost killing us. After cursing myself and using our last first aid kit, we made our way to the stairs and into the tower. I wasn’t taking chances after the fire incident, so I used what was left of our grenades to clear the interior rooms and then headed outside. We had one more winding staircase to climb to get to the landing zone, but I made sure to lure out the zombies lurking around the corner before making our final ascent. We threw a flare to distract the last few zombies and made it to the landing point, triggering the final cut scene.

Joseph White, a 33-year-old street peddler, was my final survivor. Overall, we were together for almost seven hours, during which time Joseph killed over 200 infected. He escaped a zombie-infested London with a vaccine that could save the world.

And back in London, The Prepper is guiding a new recruit to the safehouse…

NOTE: I’ll be making one more post with some final thoughts on ZombiU.


ZombiU Survivor Stories #10–The Nameless

After Owen made it to St George’s Church in an attempt to rescue other survivors, he had been jumped and knocked unconscious. When he awoke, he was trapped in a cage, and the courtyard of the church had been barricaded off into some type of arena. Over the intercom came the voice of a twisted game show host, who explained that our only goal was to survive. As the cage started to rise, I realized we had no gear at all. I also noticed that there were three other cages in the arena, each one housing an armored zombie. Our cage came up first, so we sprinted across the courtyard and grabbed a pistol that was laying in a bird bath. We had a limited amount of bullets, and I noticed some explosive containers around the yard, so the goal was to lead the zombies by one of them and take them all out. Easier said than done. Poor Owen fell to that first wave of zombies, and the next survivor woke up in the cage. And the next. And the next.

Not since the safehouse massacre have so many survivors fallen. I can’t even remember their names–that’s how quickly they died. One after another, into the meat grinder that was “the arena.” There were three waves of zombies that had to be destroyed before a second section of the arena opened up. Once I had mastered the strategy of grouping the zombies together and blowing them up (either with the propane tanks, or the one exploding zombie that spawned in waves two and three), I was able to manage the first three waves taking little to no damage. When the large gate opened into the second area, I had about seven seconds before another wave came, and I scrounged for a couple of landmines and a few bullets. There were another several survivor deaths as I figured out where the mines would need to be placed to catch the most zombies (I accidentally blew myself up a couple times), but I managed to get to a point where I would clear out most of them and then lead the few stragglers around while I looked for more supplies. After another couple of waves, my gear bag would respawn, and I could activate the door to a safe room where I could restock my supplies.

So, after at least a dozen casualties, one man finally stood up and decided he’d had enough. 33-year-old street peddler Joseph White was the one who made it through the arena, and after running that gantlet, I decided that he would be the one I finished the game with.

Was I right? Tune in next time to find out.

P.S. On a side note, this particular mission was brutally challenging, and really disrupted the flow of the game in my mind. Everything up until that point was about carefully navigating the world and taking a methodical approach to enemies,. This mission was just a lesson in managing panic and frustration. Honestly, if I had not been trained in the Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls school of never giving up, I would have quit the game at this point. I’m glad I stuck with it, and it was very gratifying to beat this mission, but I do think it was a bad design choice. I think the developers could have accomplished what they were trying to do without making it near impossible to survive. To anyone who beat this in one try–you are a true gaming Jedi.


ZombiU Survivor Stories #9–Owen Hussain

Constable Owen Hussain woke up in the safehouse, which was still mired in darkness due to the generator having run dry. We had to go back to the nursery courtyard to get medication off the corpse of Caitlin Robinson in order to trade it for fuel, so that’s where we started.

Poor Caitlin was wandering around the courtyard, so we finished her off first, and then took out the few remaining zombies that were in the area. After grabbing the medication, we went back to the petrol station to meet with Vickram, but he wasn’t really in a talking mood, as he had turned into a zombie and was eating his own son. We couldn’t abide that behavior, so we put Vikram down like the animal he was. After searching the place, we found an upgrade to our Prepper Pad that let us hack the gate where the fuel was stored behind. We also found a nice pump action shotgun in the gated area, which we grabbed before heading back to the safehouse.

With the generator refueled, our next goal was to respond to a distress call from St. George’s church, where some survivors were trapped. A long and dangerous trek through the catacombs and the bowels of the church later, we got to where the survivors were allegedly holed up–only to find out it was a trap. Owen got hit from behind, and everything went dark.

Owen’s fate was sealed, he just didn’t know it yet. More on that next time.


ZombiU Survivor Stories #8–Caitlin Robinson

25-year-old teacher Caitlin Robinson was another survivor who succeeded despite my half-hearted attitude at the beginning of her run. Like Finley before her, I was not expecting Caitlin to last long, because I was still angry over losing Finley. However, we made it to the petrol station, and then I was dialed in, as the station owner Vikram would only trade fuel for medicine that he needed. So, it was off to the local child care program to scrounge for medication.

After traversing a mine-filled field, we made it into the nursery, which is easily the creepiest environment of the game to that point. Children’s music was playing loudly, toys were strewn everywhere (some blood-stained), and the building itself was creaking constantly.

On our way through the building, we noticed a child’s cassette-player on a table. Turning it on, we heard the last few moments of a panicked teacher who was planning on bringing kids to the basement due to the craziness going on outside the nursery. It was a very effective moment, capturing the chaos that must have been going on the day of the event.

We took out the few zombies that were wandering around, but the trip was mostly uneventful–until we found the medication. Upon grabbing the antibiotics and heading for the door, the floor collapsed beneath us and we were in the basement. It was pitch black except for the light on our Prepper Pad, and there was definitely something else down there with us.

The first real boss battle of the game ensued, as we were attacked by a ghostly, electrified zombie nanny, who would only become tangible for brief periods when she got close enough to assault us. Planting Caitlin’s back firmly against a wall, we managed to fight off and defeat the nanny ghost. It was a nerve-wracking battle to say the least.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I navigated Caitlin out of the nursery and back across the main courtyard to our exit. Unfortunately, the exit was locked, and we had to defend ourselves from a horde while the Prepper tried to hack it remotely. Caitlin took down about half of the zombies before finally getting overwhelmed.

All in all, Caitlin was my survivor for about 3.5 hours, and she killed 55 infected. She will be missed. Her replacement, a 47-year-old constable named Owen Hussain was a victim of unfortunate timing, which I’ll talk about next time.


ZombiU Survivor Stories #7–Ella Marshall and Finley Patel

Still stinging from the death of Isaac, Ella and I went right back into the apartment building and finished off the horde that killed Isaac by the elevators. We then had to put him out of his undead misery, which we did, and then Ella grabbed his gear. Shotgun in hand, we went back down to the elevators and pushed the button to head up to the third floor of the apartment building

The elevator alerted the zombies, and we had to fight a couple off just to get the doors closed. Ella dispatched them with the shotgun, but as the elevator rose, more zombies were on the roof, and two of them dropped into the elevator. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the door opened and another zombie ran in. Ella Marshall died trying to fend them off in that elevator, less than ten minutes after she had woken up in the safehouse.

When Finley Patel, a 24-year-old supervisor awoke next in the safehouse, I decided he was going on a suicide run. No extra supplies, just charging into the apartment building and seeing if we could get Ella’s gear without dying. Turns out, Finley was ready for the challenge.

We made it back to the elevators and saw the newly undead version of Ella Marshall banging on the outside of the elevator doors. sadly, it looked like she was trying to complete in death the mission she failed at in life. We had to put her out of her misery in order to get into the elevator, and we grabbed her supplies before getting in.

I was ready for the zombies as I pushed the elevator button, but this time, the zombies on top never fell through the hole. We quickly killed the one zombie waiting when the doors opened upstairs, and started making our way through the apartments. The centerpiece of this series of encounters was a dance party filled with zombies that were so into the music they forgot to attack Finley. We took out an entire room with a molotov and then looted a few items before moving on to find the book the Dr. Knight needed to continue his work on a cure for the plague.

After dropping the book off, we got word that the Ravens of Dee, a group affiliated with Dr. Knight that believes there is a cure, are evacuating from the Tower of London. Against the advice of the Prepper, we headed over to try and hitch a ride out of London. Once there, we found the HQ of the Ravens, and got our hands on an AK-47. Then it was time to battle our way to the roof of the tower to be evacuated. Tragically, Finley made it to the final room before the rooftop, and was killed by the last zombie in the building (who happened to be an exploding one).

Weirdly, opening the last door triggered the cut scene, which showed the evac helicopter crashing. When Caitlin Robinson, a 25-year-old teacher woke up in the safehouse, the evac mission was listed as completed and a new task was set before us–refueling the generator in the safe house, which had just stopped working.


ZombiU Survivor Stories #6–The Ballad of Isaac Richardson

Let me tell you about a 57-year-old wine steward. His name is Isaac Richardson, and he was my survivor for five hours and fifty-six minutes. This is his story.

For the first time in ZombiU, I had to make a decision not to go after the gear left on a previous survivor. I got Isaac to the area outside the palace gates, but there was at least four zombies wandering around, and we had already used a few bullets getting to that point. I literally stood watching them from afar for five solid minutes before deciding to forsake the gear and try to move on. We found the sewer tunnel and made it into the bowels of Buckinham Palace. We lost contact with Prepper, but found a doctor by the name of Knight, who was working on a cure for the plague. We spent the next few hours moving through the palace, finding documents that the doctor needed for his research.

At one point, we completely ran out of ammo, and I decided to have Isaac backtrack all the way back to the safehouse to grab a few supplies. After doing so, I took another chance and went back to the outside of the palace, hoping to find less zombies there guarding our gear. We were in luck, as there were only a couple, and we were able to get Muhammed’s gear, including the carbine rifle. After one more tip back to the safehouse to drop the rifle off, it was back to Buckingham Palace.

The most memorable encounter inside the palace was in the last area where a book the doctor needed was behind a hallway full of zombies. This part of the palace was partially engulfed in flames. With some patience and car, we were able to lure the zombies one by one into the fire, which took all of them out but one–the armored riot cop. We learned a valuable lesson–fire does not affect armored zombies. We had to take him out the hard way. We also ran into some “spitters,” who projectile vomit acid across large areas at you, so they were always the first we’d take take out of any group.

Isaac made it all the way through the palace, and when the doctor requested more documents that would be found in the Brick Lane Flats, we decided to head out that was as well. Before we left, Dr. Knight gave us a syringe and instructed us to harvest zombie bodies for Virucide, a substance that can kill a zombie who’s grappled you and stop you from getting infected. With that, we headed out to the flats.

At the flats, Isaac and I made our way through some warehouses, and lots of zombies. We used a grenade for the first time, taking out part of a mob and some armored zombies, and scrounged for a few supplies (including a shotgun) on our way into the apartment building we were looking for. There was a shortcut back to the safehouse, so we too it and dropped off some supplies before heading back.

And that’s when things went bad.

Not one minute after getting back into the building, we went down to the basement to take an elevator, and were swarmed by four zombies. They were fast, and though Isaac kept backing up the stairs to try and take them one at a time, we eventually found ourselves in a room that we couldn’t get out of. Isaac fell without ever even getting to use the shotgun or the Virucide he had scavenged earlier.

Isaac’s ending was unexpected and very disappointing for me. He had lasted almost six hours, three times longer than any survivor before him, and during that time, he killed 71 infected. In addition to the Virucide and the shotgun he also found the crossbow, upgraded our weapons twice, and upgraded the Prepper pad. Isaac accomplished more during his time than all of the other survivors combined.

Next up was Ella Marshall, and she did not live up to the legend of Isaac.


ZombiU Survivor Stories #5–Patrick Harrison and Muhammed Jackson

Compared to my previous survivors, Patrick Harrison was a zombie killing machine, taking down 13 infected during his short time as my main man. We didn’t fall for the ambush that took poor Emma, and we systematically made our way into the communications building, where Patrick grabbed a carbine rifle and some ammo. From there, it was on toward the gates of Buckingham Palace, where there were a handful of shuffling undead. We used a flare to lure a couple out and then shot them from afar.

After clearing out the palace gates area, we were on our way to a shelter to rest when a zombie in riot gear dropped from on top of a storage container. We were ready for a fight, but I didn’t count on it taking three whacks of the cricket bat before we could even get the zombie’s helmet off to start doing some real damage. We got backed into a corner and poor Patrick met his end, ten feet away from the safety of a shelter.

Muhammed Jackson was up next, and the first order of business was getting back to Patrick’s body and getting that carbine rifle back. That proved to be fairly easy, as Patrick had done most of the heavy lifting before he died. There were only a couple of zombies to clean up, including Patrick, so we made quick work of them and headed into the shelter to rest.

Coming out of the shelter, we immediately received word from the Prepper (our mysterious guide) that there was a horde incoming. There was an M2 turret set up outside the palace gates, so we sprinted to it and began mowing down the 20+ zombies that started shambling toward us from all directions. Sadly, we ran out of ammo just as the last two armored (riot gear) zombies got to us.

In a panic, I grabbed a molotov, but I’d backed Muhammed into a corner, and when I threw it, we were caught in the spread. The only solace I had for letting Muhammed down was that he was my first survivor who wouldn’t be coming back as a member of the undead, as he was never infected before he died.

Back in the safehouse, 57-year-old wine steward Isaac Richardson woke up. Neither of us expected him to be the best survivor yet, but that’s exactly what he turned out to be. More on his story next time.


ZombiU Survivor Stories #4–Emma Phillips

This one hurt the most so far, you guys. At two hours and ten minutes, Emma Phillips, a 33-year-old bobby, lasted the longest of any of my survivors to this point in the game.

Emily was the one that successfully defended the safehouse after the bloodbath that claimed six survivors before her. After resting up, we headed out into another area of the subway station, as our next objective was Buckingham Palace. We unlocked a new shortcut to the safehouse, and scrounged for supplies in the area just outside (some kind of storage yard filled with large containers). We made some runs back and forth to the safehouse, storing some supplies back there for future survivors.

I was careful to take things slowly as we approached a courtyard, across which was the door we needed to get to. After luring a couple of zombies out one by one, there was only one left, just in front of the door we needed to get to.

Or so we thought.

As soon as we got near the “last” zombie, three other ones crawled over the top of the storage containers, Emily managed to take down all but one, but I got stuck in the finishing animation for one zombie while that last one got us. I had failed Emily, but I’m not sure how I would have handled that situation differently. I suppose I could have tried to lure some of them away with a flare, but from the moment they appeared, I was fending at least one of them off.

I had to take a break after this one. But as with every death, I learned another lesson. This time, I learned that the scanner lies sometimes. I had scanned the area with my Prepper Pad right before engaging that last zombie, and none of the other ones showed up. Now I know there will be ambush moments in the future that the scanner won’t tip me off to, which means I’ll have to guess by the environmental cues (courtyard area, right before entering a new building, etc.)

As always, the next survivor awoke in the safehouse. I wonder if Patrick Harrison, a 27-year-old consultant, will fare better.