The Walking Dead: Assault is a new game from Skybound LLC which seeks to bring the comic book experience to iOS devices, albeit in the form of a strategy game. With much of the App Store already crawling with zombie games, does this title have what it takes to stand one decapitated head above the others?
The short answer is an ambiguous "maybe". It all depends on how much you like strategy games and how invested you are in The Walking Dead's narrative. While the Assault follows the graphic novel, unlike Telltale Games' Walking Dead: The Game, there's really not much story or even character interactions to be had. What you're left with is an unsatisfying strategy/survival horror game that just happens to have a Walking Dead veneer.
You start off controlling Rick as he wakes up in the hospital, all by his lonesome. The tutorial teaches you how to select characters, show them where to move, how to switch weapons, and all of that good stuff. It's all pretty standard for any strategy game. The only difference here is that you're controlling Rick Grimes and company against a horde of undead Walkers.
You go around levels collecting supplies and ammo while shooting and/or clubbing walkers to death ... again. And that's really it. Some stages will have bonus objectives, like finding a survivor and keeping them alive until the end of the level. Other times you'll have to kill a certain number of zombies. These objectives pretty much take from the laundry list of tasks available to most RPGs, such as fetch and escort quests.
Your team members will have a radius around them which will, when breached by zombies, trigger their auto-attack. Characters will be equipped with both long-range and melee weapons, switching to the latter once their ammunition stores have gone dry. You can pick up ammo which drops from zombies, but it's best to conserve your bullets and steer clear of zombies whenever possible, especially because too much gunfire will draw a huge herd. One way to avoid this is by activating objects in the environment, such as fire hydrants and cars with alarms, to cause noise and distract nearby zombies.
Characters will also have Special Moves and Team Bonuses available that can help out the group when in a jam. Glenn, for instance, can call attention to himself to distract zombies while his passive Team Bonus ability increases the running speed of all characters. Having the right combinations of different members can further increase the chances for survival during levels. Of course, this is all great in theory, except that sometimes the execution can be a little off.
Perhaps the biggest flaw that weighs this title down are the controls. It's not easy to select a character, especially when they're hiding behind another one, so chances for strategic movement are lost in favor of random tapping and holding. The user interface also makes it a little difficult to keep track of what all your characters are doing at once, especially while defending against a big group of zombies, so a little more intuitive control options would have gone a long way.
What the f is going on...
As much as I tried to like The Walking Dead: Assault, it just came across as a decent, but altogether underwhelming release. The graphics are good, even if they're devoid of all color, and stay true to the graphic novel's art style. The audio is so-so and doesn't do anything to hurt or help the game. But ultimately, the controls drag it down to 6.5 Rating territory. There are more episodes coming out, so maybe they'll have some fixes that tweak the controls to increase playability. But until that day happens, feel free to skip over this zombie-fest and get your apocalyptic kicks elsewhere.