I have been having so much fun with the Steam Survival Festival that I wish that it went on for a lot longer. Then again, survival type games are right up there with RPGs as my favorite genre for games. The festival has given me an excuse to dive into some new titles with a lot of potential like Northern Lights and Mist Survival that are still in early access. I will be covering at least some of those games in a bit, but this week I wanted to talk about a more established title that really captured my attention, and that I am sure fellow survivalists, and those who like base building and Civilization type games will also enjoy.
Surviving the Aftermath is developed by Iceflake Studios and published by Paradox Interactive. The core game released last year but was recently updated with a New Alliances DLC that puts other struggling civilizations into the wasteland for you to ally with or fight. The DLC also adds a mysterious and powerful civilization that is actively working against you and trying to steal your limited resources and sabotage your grand plans for the world.
As might be expected from the name of the game, Surviving the Aftermath takes place following a major disaster that more or less destroyed all of the world’s major civilizations. The plot is a little bit vague on exactly what happened, but it was not a full-on nuclear war because while there are some radioactive zones and sometimes fallout to contend with, much of the world is still vibrant and green. Apparently, some meteorites were involved (the kind that fall to Earth) and then all of the world’s armies got to fighting, but it doesn’t really matter because you are given a clean slate to try and start society back up again. And your quest to do that begins with a small village and a handful of ragged survivors.
There are three main components to the game. The first, and where you will be spending the most time, is building up your home city. You do this by gathering resources like wood, plastic, steel and concrete from the environment around your new home. You will also need to sink wells and gather water, collect food from the land or maybe raise crops to keep your people fed. And you will need a safe place for everyone to sleep and live as well. Your citizens also have secondary needs like medical problems that pop up from time to time which need to be addressed by medics working out of special facilities. Fail in any of those tasks, and your town might experience an unrecoverable die-off.
You meet those needs by constructing key buildings focused on a resource, and then assigning someone to work there, like a wood scavenger who picks apart the bones of old structures around your new base. Eventually, those structures can be upgraded to support higher level activities like a woodcutter’s house with a worker who chops down trees, or a forester’s hut to house those who plant seedlings to make sure that your logging is sustainable for the long term. For the most part, the villagers are smart enough to perform their tasks without assistance, though you can direct them to certain “work areas” where they will concentrate their efforts. Finally, you will need to bring in new people to continue to grow your town, balanced by the need to have an infrastructure that can support them.
Helping you keep your colony running is a very complex tech tree where you can research everything from better farming techniques to building movie theaters. Obviously, technologies build onto one another. You can’t have the aforementioned movie theater without first researching electricity and then building some type of power producing structures in your town. And to even be able to research new techs, you need to earn research points, which can normally only reliably be found out on the main map outside your town. Which brings us to the second component of the game.
The overview map shows the broken world where your new civilization calls home. It’s a tough world out there, so your normal villagers wouldn’t last long. Instead, you need to recruit specialists to explore the world, beat back the fog of war and find valuable resources caches to bring back to your town. There are also wandering bandits, wild animals and other hazards, so you need to be careful how you use your valuable specialists. If they are injured, you need to bring them back home so they can heal up. But their job is critical, especially at first, because it will be a long time before you can start making valuable resources in town. Until then, your best bet to obtain valuable resources, especially for advanced components, will be exploring the main map.
While every specialist can perform every job, they each have a profession that makes them better at certain tasks. For example, a scientist is great at quickly “mining” research points while a soldier is best employed at attacking or defending against bandits. Meanwhile, scouts travel quickly over the map due to having a lot of action points while scavengers can gather key resources so quickly that they can often minimize risks like radiation by not needing to spend a lot of time in dangerous territories. I found that specialists often work best when deployed in teams that can mutually support each other in the field. This is a lot easier later in the game when you can employ vehicles for group rides out into the unknown.
The final main component to Surviving the Aftermath is the story elements. You will often be confronted with bizarre situations, wacky wasteland characters and deadly crisis points, all presented in a story format with multiple choices of actions. A so-called wasteland witch even stops by to offer you riddles from time to time. For most choices, there is a good answer that earns you some benefit and a bad one that ends up costing you.
I also played with the just-released New Alliances DLC enabled, and I enjoyed the extra complexity that it adds to the game. You will often find other civilizations and can work with them to your mutual benefit. In addition to trading with them for critical resources, you can establish businesses and embassies there which earns you a steady stream of various resources or income. The downside is that those societies will often make “requests” of you. Fulfilling them will earn you more sway and rewards, but they can also time out which results in a reputation hit. And that almost got out of hand for me, especially when they would ask for something that I had not even researched yet on the tech tree, much less built. The remedy for that is to construct things like schools and greenhouses (early tech tree levels) in their towns to give you a small bonus to your reputation with them every turn. I almost discovered that trick too late, so don’t make the same mistake.
Of course, you have the option to just fight other towns and raid their caravans, and some of them may try and do that to you as well. But the wasteland is dangerous enough without making new enemies over a few gallons of milk or gasoline. We should have learned that from the Mad Max movies. Still, the combat and “cold war” options are there if you want to go that route.
My only disappointment is that it took me so long to discover Surviving the Aftermath. But now that I’ve found it, I can testify that it has that “just one more turn” element that tends to keep you playing just a few more minutes until the entire night has passed and you wonder where the time went.
Surviving the Aftermath earns 4.5 GiN Gems out of 5. Give this one a try if you are looking for a Civilization-type building title with quite a few unique and fun twists to keep you and your reemerging society on its toes.