Surviving the Aftermath offers a really interesting take on the city-building genre, combining traditional elements like having to provide enough housing and food for residents with a post-apocalyptic world where players also have to scavenge for resources and defend against raiders and other wasteland bad guys. The core game earned 4.5 GiN Gems in its original review. You can check out that review to read about all the core gameplay mechanics, but suffice to say, if you like city-building and light tactical combat, Surviving the Aftermath has a lot to offer.
Since the title’s release, developer Iceflake Studio, which has since been officially acquired by publisher Paradox Interactive, has released three DLCs for Surviving the Aftermath. Once you have access to the DLCs, you can activate or disable each one from the title screen at the start of every new game. So, players can choose to play the core title alone, one with just certain DLCs activated, or everything at once.
The reason that being able to activate different DLCs is important is because the quality of each of them varies by quite a bit, and they also tend to really change the character of the core game. This way, players can enjoy Surviving the Aftermath where certain DLCs have influence and others are completely inactive.
Today, this review is focusing on the Rebirth DLC, which is the latest one released, and which is arguably the best of the bunch. The first DLC, New Alliances, was available when we conducted the original review of Surviving the Aftermath. It added new societies and kind of gave it a Civilization vibe, although most of the new content was outside of the main colony on the world map other than a trading post and a society interaction building (which let you construct a few helpful buildings inside other colonies). The second DLC was called Shattered Hope and was arguably the worst of the bunch because it tried to add an Anguish mechanic on top of the already-existing Morale mechanic, which just made the settlers even more whiney than they already are. Let’s find out if Rebirth falls into that same trap.
Thankfully, the Rebirth DLC does not feel like an add-on like Shattered Hope did and is not predominantly external like New Alliances. In fact, the plot as well as the overall look and feel of Rebirth fits in perfectly with the post-apocalyptic theme of the title.
In Rebirth, the wasteland is afflicted by a fungal growth known as The Blight, which is not unlike the fungus that destroyed the world in The Last of Us, although it’s just kind of getting started in Rebirth. Players will likely first notice it in some stunted trees and ruined ground around the colony. Eventually, some blighted, giant wasp-like insects will attack the colony and will need to be fought off by guards or specialists. That will become a recurring event in Rebirth, with more and more waves of creatures eventually attacking, and more powerful creatures too. Thankfully, it does a good job of balancing those attacks so that you won’t be overwhelmed so long as you invest somewhat in defensive structures. After an attack, specialists can collect blight cores from fallen enemies which can be spent later on a whole new tech tree.
There is a mission on the world map that begins the Rebirth DLC quest chain where you follow some blighted creatures back to a ruined lab and find a single survivor. The lab was trying to study The Blight to find a cure, but someone got infected, and the entire thing suffered a violent and bloody collapse. The scientist will offer to set up a new lab inside your colony to continue his research. This allows players to construct a Blight Lab, which requires basic resources plus a connection to the power grid.
The lab is thankfully automatic. You don’t even need to staff it, because that lone scientist survivor you found will run everything without counting as a colonist. Once built, you will have access to a tech tree that provides advantages to your colony, like stronger guard towers or resistance to blight infections (which are fatal to colonists if caught before you have researched how to stop it). You don’t need to do anything with the lab other than collect blight cores, which are automatically ingested into the lab to unlock each subsequent tier of benefits.
You will need to collect thousands of blight cores to advance your research, so it will take a long time to move forward. Cores can be collected from fallen blight creatures and found in caches on the world map. There is also a new creature for your ranch buildings called a Blight Beetle which can be raised to provide a steady trickle of blight cores, or slaughtered to get a big one-time bonus. If you construct a few blight ranches, they act almost like batteries for feeding the lab, which is the most reliable way to keep advancing up the tech tree.
Eventually, you will learn how to construct an exterminator building which can destroy blight nests. Blight nests are like monster generators that keep spawning blighted creatures to attack you over time. You will also learn the terraforming skill which can turn blighted or infertile ground lush and green, sort of like the G.E.C.K. device from Fallout. So, with Rebirth, you experience quite a lot of extra pain early on, but the rewards are worth it.
More so than any other DLC for Surviving the Aftermath, Rebirth seems to integrate perfectly into the core game. It makes sense that there would be strange creatures out in the wasteland. And fighting them as part of defending your colony also seems right for a broken world. Plus, it gives players a reason to construct guard towers other than to scout new territory. In fact, I ended up constructing quite an elaborate defense inside my colonies when playing with the Rebirth DLC active. And some of those later battles can be exciting like something out of Starship Troopers. Granted there may be some players who do not like the constant defense missions, and that is okay, because the entire DLC can be disabled. However, I think most players will appreciate how much Rebirth feels like an exciting part of the core game.
The bottom line is that Rebirth adds quite a bit to Surviving the Aftermath and is also a lot of fun to play. It’s easily worth the $15 the DLC is currently selling for on Steam to add so much exciting content to the core title.