I have played a good deal of survival games over the years, many of which were based in some sort of zombie apocalypse scenario. So believe me when I say that the genre can feel a bit stale, as a number of these games just sort of tick off boxes without differentiating themselves from the rest of the pack.

Undying, on the other hand, stands apart by offering a gameplay hook that is sure to breathe some new life into the genre as a whole.

From developer Vanimals, Undying puts you in the shoes of Anling, who has been recently bitten by a zombie. She must now find a safe haven for her son Cody and teach him the ways of the world with what little time she has left. While dodging hordes of zombies, Anling has to search for resources to ensure that she and Cody don’t starve or succumb to the elements or brain-hungry undead. As Anling, you will have the opportunity to teach Cody a number of survival skills, such as cooking and crafting, while you are still among the living.

The twist is that Anling can turn really at any moment, so it is imperative that you do everything in your power to impart as much wisdom and knowhow as you can before saying goodbye. This is one of Undying’s most compelling features; whenever you do anything in the game (like rummaging for resources or cooking or fixing things), you can hold the shoulder button (if you are using a controller) and Cody will pay attention, one hand rubbing his chin in furtive contemplation as he studies and learns from you.


It’ll be interesting to see how deep this system will be. Currently, you can improve three different categories for Cody’s skills: Crafting, Survival, and Combat. I haven’t really had the chance to dig too deeply into these, since I’m still learning how it all works, but even if it only boils down to ‘Have Cody craft X amount of Y,” which makes the crafting meter increase, that would be a pretty cool system.

In the little bit I’ve played of the demo, my initial impression is Undying is a bit rough around the edges, with disclaimers that cutscenes are more or less still placeholders. There are also a number of typos in the copy. But the core game mechanics and loop feel good, which more than makes up for some of the quirks in presentation.

And the art style is rather charming and even a bit disarming — at least for a zombie survival game. It’s slightly reminiscent of games like Lonely Mountains: Downhill or even Islanders, which gives it a somewhat calm tone during its quieter moments. But that isn’t to say there also won’t be times when you aren’t running for your lives or starving to death looking for just one last saltine — you most certainly will have moments like this. But the visuals also help to dampen some of the violence and gore, which might entice players who are normally turned off by over-the-top viscera. Although there is still a decent amount of blood at times, it’s just of a more cartoony nature.

Anling has her own energy, hunger, and thirst meters, typical of survival games, while Cody only has an energy meter — although he does ask for food and water, so it’s unclear to me if he needs to eat and drink to stay alive or not.


Both characters have their own inventory slots, which you will need to manage, and it does seem like you can unlock more slots down the road. When you sleep, you lose thirst and hunger points in exchange for energy points. You lose a bit of all three meters the more you exert yourself. The opening hours aren’t too punishing, but we’ll see if that changes the longer you play — I can only imagine it does, since the basic concept is keep both characters alive as Anling is effectively marked for death.

One nice little touch is that when confronted with danger, Cody basically just curls up and is frozen in fear, with little squiggly anguish lines worming around in his word balloon (the in-game dialogue is delivered in word balloons above the character’s heads), and you have to use the right trigger to hold his hand and guide him to safety. Once at a safe distance or out of harm’s way, you can press the X button and Anling will give Cody a comforting hug. Which, again, reinforces the mothering angle that makes Undying feel unique in the genre.

You can download a demo for Undying from Steam now, which will let you play up to the ninth chapter (roughly one and half to two hours, as estimated by the development team). Multiple playthroughs are recommended so you can see and do everything, though your willingness to do so will depend on how thoroughly Undying grabs you.


According to Vanimals’ website, there is no firm release date as of yet, though the Undying Steam page has it listed for fall of 2021. This is supposedly coming to PC, as well as PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo consoles, but we’ll have to wait and see if those console versions end up materializing.

You can check out the Early Access announcement trailer below to get an idea of what to expect from this clever little zombie game.

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