STAFF REVIEW of Ed-0: Zombie Uprising (Xbox Series X)

Thursday, August 17, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

Ed-0: Zombie Uprising Box art Every now and again a new game will fall into my lap that I’ve never heard or seen before. It’s about 50-50 if it turns out to be an unearthed gem that I end up adoring, or a game I wish left unheard of. Ed-0: Zombie Uprising was one of these games that I’ve never even seen a preview before playing, so diving in without any previous knowledge, I had no bias or notion of what to expect. Essentially Japanese culture x Zombies, I had an idea of what it may be, though I’m not sure I was prepared to die as much as I did in this quirky repetitive roguelike.

Ed-0: Zombie Uprising’s backdrop is set in 1854 in a fictional Edo-era Japan. Mysterious ships from elsewhere in the world landed on Japanese land, not bringing with them technology and trades, but something much more deadly. This is how the zombie infection began and spread, infecting virtually everyone. There seems to be a few immune though, called Zom-beings, humans with some sort of mysterious power.

As one of three Zom-beings, it will be up to you to restore Japan to its former glory and rid your lands of the seemingly never-ending undead. Aside from some loading screens here and there throughout your journey, there’s little else in the way of narrative. With an interesting setup, a lot could have been done to make for an interesting story, but there’s really no engaging plot from the opening onwards to keep you intrigued and wanting to find out more.

Being a roguelike, you can expect every dungeon run and playthrough to be completely unique from the last. This is either going to favor or go against you randomly, as I had some great runs with tons of health and upgrades, and others I barely made it a few levels. Eventually you’ll get to choose from a Ninja, Sumo Wrestler or a Samurai as you progress, each of which suits a different type of playstyle best, though the agile and quick Ninja was my favorite by a long shot.

Everything is generated randomly each time you play, not just the map, but the enemies, placement and items. One on hand this always means things are fresh and never dull from repeated missions, but luck is going to be a huge factor on your success as well, not just your skill. Stages are full of items found on the ground and dropped from enemies, some of which like charms can be equipped, but also kept to be used or thrown at enemies as well. Why would you want to throw equipment at zombies you ask? All equipment and items are not made equal, and some will actually give debuffs or have negative effects, so you need to be careful what you pick up and/or use.

Even your special moves are scrolls found on the ground at random, so each playthrough you’ll have your regular attack, heavy attack (from holding the button), jump and dodge, but your specials need to be found and equipped each playthrough. This is where you hope the randomness plays in your favor, as I certainly preferred a handful of skills over others. This means you won’t always have the same ‘build’, and because of this I would use the wrong skills that get equipped since they won’t always be in the same button slots. This too allows for almost infinite possibilities and combinations, great for those that want variety and challenge, but not so much for those that want to take the time to learn a character and their skills to be proficient.

Each area has its own theme and style, with the opening being a dark and mysterious forest. Each map is generally small and you’re searching for a Torii Gate that’s randomly placed somewhere to move onto the next floor. The Torii Gates vary in color though, each denoting a different use or reward. Some replenish health, others food, charms, etc. This is how you can choose what to refill or upgrade per floor depending on your current situation. You’ll also sometimes get an option for a special portal back to your village, your safe haven hub, bringing back with you your earned experience and money. This is a roguelike after all, so dying means you lose much of what you’ve earned to that point, so you need to weigh out your risk versus reward. Do you risk continuing and losing it all, or go for the glory and better rewards if you're successful?

There is even more randomness that sometimes is placed on certain floors, like a Torii Gate requiring a key, so you need to find the specific zombie and kill them for it. Perhaps corpses decide to explode after they are defeated, which is great for AOE damage, but you better not be nearby, and on more than one occasion, I literally starved. That’s right, you need to manage your hunger as well, so always keep an eye out for some rice balls and other food items to keep handy. This eventually becomes easier to manage once you get used to it, but it’s a terrible mechanic overall and feels completely out of place, simply designed to make things unnecessarily more difficult.

Given how random the enemy placement is, you’ll either have very little zombies to fight, with them being nicely spread out, or completely swarmed where you need to be quite cautious or meet a swift death. You’re able to lock onto specific enemies, but the movement doesn’t really work well, and trying to choose a specific target in a sea of zombies goes as well as you’d expect. You’re able to guard and parry, but I found it difficult to use, not because of the timing, but you basically need to be standing directly right in front of said zombie for it to work.

Speaking of zombies, expect to see the same handful throughout the whole game. There are a few different types and looks, but they are constantly repeated, all wearing the same clothes and do the same attacks. The bigger issue is how much damage they can absorb. Even the regular zombies you first encounter take way too many hits to defeat. Expect to hit them a good dozen times or so each to kill. Sure you can use your charged up heavy attack, but you’re constantly just attacking a few times, stepping back, and repeating. For a game focused on slashing and killing hordes of zombies, the combat is immensely boring and repetitive, even with the special moves.

As you play more and become more proficient, you’ll be able to survive more and more floors, eventually taking on a challenging boss. The bosses were easily the highlight, as it’s easy to get bored with the monotony of grinding the same zombies for hours on end. The random drops of items is a great way to improve your character and abilities, but it’s completely random what you get. The other issue is that because many items have negative effects, you need to stop and take a moment to read the description to decide if it’s worth picking up, using, or ignoring, but the game doesn’t pause for you during this. Also, you’ll learn very quickly that tapping the button holds it in your inventory, where holding equips or uses. I can’t tell you how many times I used an item instead of holding, only to have it later kill me from making me drunk or setting me ablaze.

Like any decent roguelike, you do make some overall progress. Coming back to your village with money and experience can be used to purchase items, perks and abilities. These of course make every subsequent run just a little easier, though the randomly generated levels play a much larger role in your success or failure. It’s quite a grind for any real character improvements, so if you enjoy mindlessly killing zombie hordes repeatedly, then you’ve got something to strive for long term.

The Edo Japanese x Zombie setting may not be completely unique, but the backdrop and setting is a welcome change, as is the cool “Edo Shader” setting that makes it all appear cel-shaded. Visually though, Ed-0: Zombie Uprising is quite an eye sore. Enemies are repeated, textures are low resolution, and animations are a bit janky at best. Audio is as unmemorable aside from the Japanese narration for the story in the beginning, so expect constant grunts from zombies and weapon slashing sounds throughout.

You’re going to die a lot, and in the beginning it’s going to feel unfair, especially when you starve to death. You’ll eventually learn all of its quirks and how to circumvent many of its ‘unfairness’, but I found I had to focus on doing that more so than simply enjoying a mindless zombie slasher. Ed-0: Zombie Uprising has a long grind to strive towards, but it’s monotonous and feels like a very low budget title, even if there are brief moments of fun here and there.

**Ed-0: Zombie Uprising was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 5.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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