Surviving The Aftermath is a colony management game developed by Ice Flake Studios. It is currently in early access on the Epic Games Store and Xbox Game Preview. Joseph Pugh conducted this early access look on a standard Xbox One console.

Overview

Surviving The Aftermath is colony management and simulation game that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. You manage a colony of colonists struggling to survive in the wake of a worldwide disaster. You will need to manage many different resources and make tough decisions to ensure your colony survives.

This will require you to build and plan your colony’s layout and what to prioritize. Colonists need food and water to sustain themselves, yet clothing and tools are also important. You will eventually burn up nearby resources and will need to rely on specialists to venture outside the safety of your colony’s gates.

Surviving the aftermath colony
Your humble colony starts small but can grow quickly.

Specialists have different skills they use to traverse the world, fight bandits and scavenge resources for your colony. To succeed, you need to manage all these factors while combating catastrophes that will periodically fall upon your struggling survivors.

Your own personal apocalypse

When you first begin Surviving The Aftermath. You are greeted with several storytelling themed choices that dictate the difficulty of the game. You can choose how often catastrophes occur, how many survivors you start with, the scarcity of resources and much more.

It is a profoundly deep and customizable difficulty option that completely trounces the common choices of easy, normal and hard. You can tailor the experience down to very detail of how you desire it to be.

Surviving the aftermath difficulty
You get to make several in-universe decisions that affect the difficulty.

I always praise games for including difficulty settings, but few go the extra mile that Surviving The Aftermath traversed. Not only is the customization a welcome feature, the options are presented to the player in a way that feels very organic and thematic. It truly shines when compared to a set of dull sliders you might find in the options menu found in other games.

Colony Management

All of the expected survival aspects are present. You need to provide homes, food, water and healthcare for your colonists. They might start with meager tents, but you can unlock and build larger sturdier dwellings later in the game. Packing folks in tenements is efficient but makes your survivors less likely to have children. It’s hard enough to get in the mood in the end of days without one-eyed Ed sleeping in a cot three feet away!

Scattered across the map are several types of resources. You can set work areas on the basic ones such as berries, concrete and wood piles for your haulers to gather.

Advanced resources such as metal and plastics require structures like a recycler and a worker assigned to it to gather and refine the material into something usable. Materials can be used to build more structures or manufactured into advanced resources such as tools and clothing.

Surviving the aftermath city
Managing resources and what to do with them is one of the major gameplay loops.

Each survivor is fully simulated with needs and even a bit of personality. Some will have bonuses such as faster production or similar penalties. However, these are by and large meaningless. While you select how many workers a structure should use, you don’t really micromanage the individual colonists themselves. Furthermore, Your colony can quickly grow to high numbers which makes such micromanagement impossible in any case.

You oversee the bigger picture, what resources survivors should scavenge and what materials they should refine. You build the structures, the housing and the roads to help your survivors move and act more effectively. Making sure they have tools so they don’t get a productivity penalty, and ensuring they have clothes to help protect against ailments. How do you expect survivors to chop down trees without tools? By punching them? That’s just silly!

Surviving the aftermath toxic fallout.
Catastrophes such as toxic fallout can throw a wrench into your well oiled apocalyptic machine.

If you have played other colony simulations such as Rimworld or Oxygen Not Included, you will find that Surviving The Aftermath is much less personable. It is less about the individual colonist and more about the colony as a whole. It is very much a city builder with a survival overlay, and it works into the games favor quite well.

Managing resources and planning city development feels much more engaging when you’re battling the post-apocalypse and vying to survive rather than turn profits or win elections as in similar titles. It is a nice thematic twist to the genre and the management game-play is executed well.

Catastrophic World

As time passes you will encounter events that present you with a choice, sometimes with a moral component hitched to them. Do you help an injured survivor at the gates? Or do you turn them away? Use resources to build a ladder for a colonist that fell in a hole? Or tell them to climb out?

These choices not only can win or lose you resources, but they also affect the happiness of the colony as a whole. Catastrophes will also occur but you usually get a day or two warning ahead of time to prepare. Heat waves, toxic fallout, and other disasters will show up and throw a wrench into your plans. Dealing with them in a timely and well thought out manner is one of many challenges in Surviving The Aftermath.

Sometimes you will be presented with a decision to make.

Sometimes when you take in new survivors a Specialist will be among them. Specialists are special survivors with skills that you can send out into the world. Doing so brings you a new layer of the game, an over-world view of the area surrounding your colony veiled in a fog of war.

Your specialists accumulate action points over time. You can send them to scout areas, fight bandits and scavenge locations. Most of this is not displayed in a visually striking way. Instead, they are simple figures represented on a board game-style map.

Planning the moves of your specialists is important to the game as you begin to wear thin on resources near your camp. You will need specialists to venture out and bring back more. Even more important, is this is the only way to accumulate research points.

You send specialists out to explore and scavenge on a board game type overworld map.

Some scavenge locations grant research points and you can spend them to unlock new structures in the technology tree, such as solar power. The research trees are a little bare currently. Hopefully more will be added as the game progresses in development.

The specialists and over-world are a welcome second layer to the game, even if it’s not incredibly entertaining from a visual standpoint. Combat happens more or less behind the scenes and you are mostly just interacting with graphical representations of what is on the map.

Verdict

Surviving The Aftermath is a well-made colony simulation with some neat new ideas and a great post-apocalyptic theme. It is a little bit light on content right now, since it just entered early access. But the entire game is in good working order and can provide plenty of playtime.

Managing your colony is fun and the specialist over-world layer is neat. I’m a little disappointed that aspects like combat are more of an behind the scenes affair though.

I played the Xbox One version on a standard Xbox One console and the graphics are a little rough in places and the frame rate had a couple of hiccups but nothing major and I didn’t run into any bugs. The controls translated to a controller well and the overall interface felt pretty fluid.

Certain aspects, such as the research trees are currently a little light on content.

Content is a little light, the research tree in particular is need of some fleshing out but there is still a great many hours of game time you could sink into Surviving The Aftermath and the difficulty is incredibly customizable.

Early access games can be a risk. Surviving The Aftermath is backed by Paradox Interactive however, so it is a safe bet that it will receive continued support.

If you are looking for a new simulation or city builder game, I think Surviving The Aftermath would be a solid choice even in early access. The few issues I had weren’t enough to spoil the experience and the two layers of gameplay meld interestingly. It feels different than games like Tropico in the sense that your goal is to simply survive. That very idea grants the game a unique kind of feel in how it is designed. I’m really looking forward to seeing this one evolve.

A press code of Surviving the Aftermath was provided to Gideon’s Gaming by Paradox Interactive.

Interested in Colony simulation games? Check out my review of RimWorld!

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Pros

  • Highly customizable difficulty
  • Simulated colonists with needs
  • Colony management with a post-apocalyptic flair works well and is fun to play
  • Sending specialists to scavenge on a board game-like overworld is an interesting and well-executed idea
  • Catastrophes and events to challenge your colony are fun and change things up

Cons

  • The simulated colonist aspect matters little to the moment to moment game-play
  • Combat is largely off-screen, two figures slapping at each other to represent what’s happening
  • Graphics can be a bit rough on the standard Xbox One
  • Content is a little light due to early access

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