The mobile market wasn’t necessarily crying out for another build and battle game, nor was it lacking in titles based on The Walking Dead. It’s a good thing, then, that The Walking Dead: March to War is the latest product of Disruptor Beam, which has always had a deft touch with big name IPs and a way of squeezing more story into games than you might first expect. Even though this isn’t a game that breaks a lot of new ground on the gameplay side, it’s more compelling than it might first appear because of the attention to detail apparent throughout.
Like any Disruptor Beam affair, March to War starts by dropping you into a story that seems to already be in progress. The zombie … excuse me, walker apocalypse from The Walking Dead has come, and you’re a survivor on the outskirts of Washington D.C. The first person you meet is a woman named Amira, a character created especially for this game who teaches you the basics and sets the scene. Fans of the comic book will recognize the point of the overall story in which the action is set, with Rick Grimes and company in Alexandria and several other groups trying to deal with the threat of Negan and his Saviors.
The usual build and battle trappings — meaning a bunch of timers for anything you build or do — are apparent right from the start as you attempt to forge a more permanent home, surround it with other useful facilities and recruit other survivors to join you. Yet there are complications too, as the RV you use for shelter “belongs” to Negan, making it clear he’ll be a thorn in your side right away.
As you organize groups of survivors to scavenge precious resources and undertake missions to clear walkers and gather supplies, the continuing presence of well-known heroes and villains from The Walking Dead comic book series (which means no Daryl Dixon, sorry Norman Reedus fanatics) helps March to War stand out from other entries in this increasingly crowded genre. Not only do they become council members, leading missions for you, but they also come to you periodically with dilemmas that mirror the tough choices often faced in the comics.
It also turns out that The Walking Dead is a perfect world for a mobile strategy game since the idea that humans are really more dangerous than the walkers is one of its overarching themes. Players have the option to join Communities, another name for guilds, and battle against large walker swarms while also engaging in the kind of PvP intrigue you’d expect. If you’re already predisposed to enjoy games like Game of War and also happen to be a TWD fan, chances are you’re going to get into this without much coaxing.
The visuals and soundtrack also set the tone perfectly, with an art style that looks like the comics have come to life and somber music throughout. Every now and then, rain will fall, making things even drearier. And while you can zoom in and see random walkers anywhere amid the ruins of D.C. and its suburbs, that also highlights one of the few weak points: there isn’t the element of ever present danger you’d expect from this franchise. Your outpost becomes pretty resistant to anything but assaults from other players pretty quickly, the council members can’t die or even get hurt, and walkers in general get dealt with easily. This is probably the safest zombie outbreak ever.
That aside, The Walking Dead: March to War succeeds in carving out a niche for itself in a place where it didn’t even seem one existed. That’s a pretty neat trick, one that should make its developers proud and provide plenty of fans a reason to give it a try.