ZCREW: The Last Legion: Review: A Decent Start to a Post-Apocalyptic Shooter

      ZCREW is a Diablo-esque post-apocalyptic isometric shooter.  A group of elite militaristic elites have banded together to bring order to a world falling apart and reclaim the Earth from mutant hordes.  As the official sites say:

     "ZCREW is an isometric shooter that supports up to 4 player co-op. In the world destroyed by an alien virus, every day is a matter of life or death. Players will need to cooperate and fight back the mutant blight in their quest to rebuild the world and restore civil order.

     Battle within the Ruined City and the Lost Desert, facing hordes of infected humans, mutant insects and creatures unknown until now."


     Players begin the game and can choose one of 4 different classes- Assault, Warrior, Supply, or a Medic.  They all begin with a singular skill like a dash or teleport.  As you do missions you unlock both more skills (of 4 total) as well as small perks applicable to the character, weapons, or skills they use.  Each of the classes then also begin with their own type of weapon- assault rifle, sniper rifle, SMG, etc- and it is an absolute slog to level up anything because the experience is based on in-game level completion and I don't believe enemy kills actually seem to give you any bonus XP.  

     The early game skills make the player classes start relatively the same, but as the game goes they wind up much more varied in HOW those skills are used- which is awesome.  Each character's movement skill begins just as a movement, but as skills unlock through leveling the characters up they add bonuses to them.  The Assault class can leave a trail of electricity to the teleport, while the medic can disperse poison orbs in 4 directions upon dashing.  It is the beginning of great system.

     There's a lot of good ideas in mission variety- find or investigate areas, escort NPCs (that really shouldn't be nearly as dumb as they are currently), even some where you need to find some parts and build something to make way into the next area.  Honestly, some of the early levels could be lengthened with the option for more exploration, but overall, it's still really fun to go in and start the action.  The levels don't have much right now in the way of extra things to wander around for.  They are made to be simple and linear by giving you tasks to complete and waypoints to follow.  Drop in hidden areas or things for players to loot.  Give players a reason to explore these gorgeous-looking areas you've made.  

     For weapons, you have to randomly find design blueprints as random drops, parts, and currency to build new guns, then create parts to build those guns up in the players' hub.  The system isn't great, and could definitely use some streamlining- why should you need 2 of the same gun blueprint to make that gun?  Why doesn't one suffice?

     The weapons have just barely enough difference, but could use some bolstering to make them feel really different (the bullet impacts, reload and firing speeds, firing distance, etc).  Players begin with their class' starter weapon, but can switch to another later.  Each weapon then can be upgraded with parts you find schematics for- such as extended magazines, sights, shoulder stalks, etc- each item bumps up various stats to the weapon you attach it to.  It's a great idea, but the implementation is poor.  Just as the core weapons, players have to find multiple blueprints of the same weapon (often it's 2), then randomly find parts during missions, and then currency to make them.  But you also need to use multiple terminals in the players hub to build them up, then another to equip them, and so on.  Why not let players be able to equip a weapon from the crafting station or personal inventory as well as the character screen?  Why can we craft but not dismantle at the same station- why can we only dismantle from the personal inventory station?

     As the hub where players go to (which is for some reason in 3rd person instead of the isometric view the entire rest of the game is) is confusing already, they really need to clean it up.  Why aren't all the varied menu consoles consolidated?  Put the weapons/items, materials, and character screen all lumped into one?  We are forced to craft weapons in at one console, but equip that to the weapon in another.  Or, why aren't the mission control and multiplayer ones merged?  As of right now you have to enter a mission select, choose the mission, then leave to go to another console to select a player ready.  These should be streamlined for sure, and really, they might want to think about shifting the entire player hub to the same isometric view as the rest of the game while reducing the number of terminals players have to interact with.


     The first major combat irritation is how enemies spawn.  Sometimes they appear far enough away that players have time to react with moving or shooting, but at other times 5 enemies will spawn surrounding you leaving you nowhere to go and guaranteeing you will take heavy damage and likely die.  This is insanely annoying in the early game when you try and do a mission "search" (holding the E button for way too long) enemies will consistently spawn nearby and interrupt you.  This might not be as frustrating if you were playing multiplayer (or why can you not bring in AI support characters of the classes you are not playing as?).

     Even more frustratingly, if you fail a level (after 3 deaths), EVERYTHING you did is lost in it, items you found are gone.  I had a level where I spent 20 minutes slowly making my way through, completing all the tasks, the end of every level is a timed rush to get to an extraction point.  This part is an absolute MUST change part of the game- players are swarmed with overwhelming hordes of enemies.  I got completely buried in enemies with ZERO way of avoiding instant damage and died immediately after each respawn literally lost all that effort within seconds.  It is easily the worst design decision in the game.  That run to the extraction point should, first off, not have a timer.  And it should be balanced to how many characters are playing.  If you are stuck playing solo (I had only a single time being able to actually play a level with another player, all other attempts we could match up, but our levels were 2 or 3 off and we couldn't play together (why would you allow players to match together, but then not allow them to actually play a level together?!?).  Why would you spawn 40 enemies on a solo player that has no hope of fending that many off, especially in the early levels?  By changing this singular thing, ZCREW would be instantly better.  Perhaps giving players far more health (and get rid of the run button, make the base speed the run speed- enemies can easily catch you even when you run), and have the absurd enemy damage reduced, and it might help balance things out a bit.


     There's a myriad of small problems (remapping a controller for Steam winds up a mess), some general control issues (running away while firing backwards at enemies will shoot a few first shots/grenade the direction you are running and NOT the direction you are aiming), and oddities in player numbers to enemy numbers (both sheer numbers, as well in health and damage).  If the developers keep at it, they have a truly good gem here, it'll just take a lot of hard work and balancing to get it to make it into a great one.

     With all that said, ZCREW actually does have a solid foundation and is generally enjoyable (outside of the aforementioned frustrations).  There are numerous irritations and problems with the game, but I don't want to dissuade anyone from actually playing the game.  I did actually enjoy it quite a bit, and will be playing more as the developers continue to improve the game.  I believe they have a tremendous base to build upon.  There's a lot to like and I look forward to seeing how ZCREW: The Last Legion shapes up over time.

*A review copy was provided, thank you!

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