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Games Vintage and New - Zafehouse Diaries, PC

Updated on November 11, 2013

Zafehouse Diaries Trailer

Pros and Cons

Pros -

  • Intensely strategic gameplay
  • Ability to add characters to base game
  • Non-linear, randomized group and setting each game

Cons -

  • Largely text based
  • No action/twitch factor, all planning
  • Insanely difficult, group routinely fights amongst itself

Game Synopsis

This is a game where the focus is entirely strategic planning, based on the information you've read from the game's diary. It markets itself as a zombie apocalypse which is technically true, but has very little to do with the gore and violence you might have come to associate with the genre. You are entirely hands off, not directing and one specific characters actions, but rather, the broad actions of a small group of survivors. You are in charge of a group of five people who have arbitrary dislikes which will inevitably make them hate each other with a burning passion reserved for Pokemon rivals or the guy that swirlied you in high school. You must utilize your groups strengths while minimizing their ability to actively sabotage their frail chances of survival. To this end, you plan strategies and have the members execute them, and they attempt to bungle the whole business up as actively as they are able to.

Zafehouse Diaries features three different game modes of varying difficulty. The first mode the group forms organically and you have a lot more control over its formation and who is a member. Your supplies will be restocked occasionally, unlike the other game modes, and you have the chance to gain new members if you lose some. Roadkill, the next game, poses the difficulty of locating a car and the parts necessary to repair it as well as the map to get out of town. Your group consists of five members who almost certainly won't get along to some degree, so you'll have to split them up and hope for the best. The final game mode involves discovering when and where an air pickup will occur in town with a preformed team.

Gameplay In A Nutshell

You direct the activities of your survivors by telling the specific group members what to do. Generally speaking, you pick activities based on what you need at a specific time and also based off of group strengths. Pierre the Carpenter, for instance, might be real good at building barricades which will keep the undead from rolling right in. Of course, he might not like Mark the Musician for being gay, so instead of watching them beat each other into useless piles of food wasting zombie bait, I'll have to utilize Mark's talents in another building while Pierre barricades up what will be the main 'base.' Mark will be used to scout out nearby buildings, after which he will probably be used to breach a house with only 1 or 2 zombies in it (this is all he could reasonably handle by himself in a fight, short of having a firearm).

Gameplay progresses much in this fashion, you aiming for the goal of the game mode (escape or simply surviving). Interestingly, you can use rumors to change the group dynamics a bit. You can make two survivors be long lost cousins, for instance, but any racism the other group members have against one member might now be shared.

I got lucky in one game where I had four women who mostly hated men (I think one hated gay people). The one man in the group was pretty well hated but after I sent him on a solo breaching mission he didn't return from, things went along pretty swimmingly for awhile.

Basic Gameplay Screen. The markers designate where group members are in the town. The player has sent four character to investigate different places in town.
Basic Gameplay Screen. The markers designate where group members are in the town. The player has sent four character to investigate different places in town. | Source

Anger Management

Your desperate survivors who are about to be violently murdered by a horde of ravenous zombies will descend into cliquey, divided mess rather quickly if you don't do some planning and damage control from the get go. Failure to do anything will mean they attack each other, destroy useful items and furniture, and generally make a mess of things.

There are a few tricks. If you know people aren't going to get together, seperating them is often ideal. Two people that can work together might be able to split off and raid houses together while an otherwise neutral group remains at a base or splits off in its own direction, ultimately working towards the same aims.

Another thing you can do is, if two survivors are good or at least decent at a given task, and have no reason to hate each other, you might be able to improve group dynamics by having them work together. This is tricky to accomplish successfully, however. Generally speaking, you'll only want to use this strategy if you have a house full of a ton of modified tools since this will give you the best chances for successful outcomes (as negative outcomes on their task will produce feelings of anger).


Zafehouse Diaries Gameplay - Northernlions

The group dynamic screen, where the arrows show you who hates who and the color represents the current amount of hate. You can also make your own characters from imported images (System Shock 2's SHODAN).
The group dynamic screen, where the arrows show you who hates who and the color represents the current amount of hate. You can also make your own characters from imported images (System Shock 2's SHODAN). | Source

Strategies To Survive

Your best bet, I've found, is modifying tools and weapons as much as possible. This increases the speed and success rate you have at activities you attempt, since you are essentially playing against the clock (how long till you run out of food, people beat each other into uselessness, etc.). This provides you with the best odds in any given situation, since you can't directly control who uses what at what task you assign them.

As I said above, you will have to separate some group members so you can save the whole. Sometimes you will have to sacrifice one for the greater good. It happens quite frequently that way, actually.

I've found that outdoor traps work rather well, especially if you plan on having a lot of zombies directly outside the building you're setting them up at. This might change in future versions since they seem really, really good right now. Conversely, zombies don't often go into buildings in great numbers so traps built indoors rarely go off by comparison, and often with much smaller results.

Focus on your mission. Plan around your groups strengths. Think like a robot and less like a person.

Events like this will pop up from time to time that can wildly change the course of the game.
Events like this will pop up from time to time that can wildly change the course of the game. | Source

My Rating

2 stars for Zafehouse Diaries - PC

Conclusion

Zafehouse Diaries is a game where the term game is used very loosely. It might be better described as a post apocalyptic zombie group survival simulator. I feel as if the interplay of the group could be toned down a bit - maybe certain situations could illicit sympathy or positive feelings for other members. People die and if the rest of the group doesn't like them, they literally don't care. I'm not basing this off a non-reaction, it literally says this in the game. But then again, why would they? They're all just a bunch of racist, misogynistic, homophobes anyhow.

Despite the absurd difficulty, it is rewarding when things even half start going your way because you feel like some sort of social mastermind. If I could I would rate the game 2.5 stars out of 5 because I think its on the cusp of being fun, it just needs a couple changes to push it over the edge and make it basically fun to play.

Would you recommend the game Zafehouse Diaries?

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Where Can I Get It?

Zafehouse Diaries is available from Steam, GOG, and the Screwfly Studios Store. There are advantages to choosing either gaming platform - Steam makes updating pretty straightforward and less user intensive, GOG bypasses all the DRM issues making offline play a breeze. I personally own the GOG version. I imagine the Screwfly Studio Store version plays similarly to the GOG version.

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    • TiffanySimpson profile image

      Tiffany Simpson 3 years ago from Belize City

      Great hub... thanks for sharing!