Hands-on with Beyond the Dead, a zombie RPG that lets you fight the undead with LARPers

A team to kill

Hands-on with Beyond the Dead, a zombie RPG that lets you fight the undead with LARPers
| Beyond the Dead

There's no shortage of free-to-play zombie games on the App Store these days, but GREE's Beyond the Dead isn't just another mobile zombie jamboree.

Instead, it's an immersive and story-driven squad-based RPG that just happens to take place in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Think of it like a simplified, bite-sized version of Fallout Tactics and you won't be far off of what to expect.

Except there are no Deathclaws. Or super mutants. Or Nuka Cola bottles to collect, but there are 125 different characters to recruit, each with their own unique skills, weapons, and backstories.

I'm a survivor

While some games in the zombie genre have you fight for finite boxes of ammunition or items, the main focus of Beyond the Dead lies in recruiting and training survivors.

Each survivor has a broad archetype (class) that defines their abilities, and you'll be spoiled for choice when filling out your ranks.

You could go the easy route and make a squad out of a Fireman, Police Officer, Hunter, and Army General, or you could go for a more atypical band of a LARPer, Hipster, Bride, and Stockbroker.

We're not sure his class, but we suspect he pities a great many fools.

No matter what survivors you choose, you'll find plenty of elbow-in-the-side geek culture jokes smattered about the descriptions with skill names referencing everything from The Simpsons to internet memes.

Catch some Z's

Once you settle on a team, you can begin exploring expansive world of Beyond the Dead.

I was told that there were 16 zones available "at launch" which makes me think that there are more in the pipes, but the ones I saw checked off the usual horror movie locations with everything from a secluded campground to a bombed-out hospital being represented.

Personally, I found the Amusement Park level to be the most enjoyable - if only because it let me beat up on some zombie Furries.

Speaking of, the PvE combat in Beyond the Dead is similar to a simplified MMO interface. Each area presents you with a host of wandering baddies to fight, and tapping on one initiates a combat. If your team is stronger - and your skill procs are lucky - you'll wind up with a pile of loot for your effort.

You have a rough idea of an enemy's level based on the energy required to fight it, but its hit points and skills are all hidden from view. This makes each combat a bit of a guessing game, but it also underscores the value of upgrading and training your team members so they can deal with a broad range of threats.

The PvP combat, in which you take your plucky band of survivors up against another, equally plucky band, works much the same way - and it's an appreciated nod to realism that you don't get a tally sheet of your opponent's skills before go up against them.

Of course, if you're feeling more cooperative you can always team up with another player to take down more powerful enemies.

The final gameplay element of Beyond the Dead that players need to focus on is settlement building, which allows you to construct buildings that offer resources and stat boosts to your team.

This settlement mechanic is also tied to the training of your team members, so it's an aspect of Beyond the Dead that you'll want to spend some time on.

A to Z

As you wind your way through the single-player campaign of Beyond the Dead, you'll have the option to complete missions to unlock the complex story at the center of the game.

Each survivor has a story to tell, and the underlying cause of the zombie outbreak remains a bit of a mystery at the start of the game, but you have the ultimate choice in how deep you choose to dive into Beyond the Dead's lore.

If you'd rather just kill everything and skip the reading, it's got you covered. If you'd like to find out why teams of hipsters are going up against gangs of waitresses armed with notched machetes, then you'll definitely want to quest around a bit.

Either way, you won't have to wait long to get your hands on Beyond the Dead - GREE didn't provide an exact launch date, but told us to expect it "around Halloween".