Endzone: A World Apart is an upcoming city-builder set in a grim post-apocalypse. In a world washed with radiation, you and a small pool of settlers must carve out an existence scavenging from the land, farming irradiated crops, and managing a diverse and ever-changing set of hazards.
We've been playing Endzone's closed beta for a while, and here's why we think it has the potential to become the best apocalypse simulator of them all.
Immersive and unforgiving
Endzone: A World Apart takes place in a truly unforgiving landscape, where nuclear radiation sweeps over the land and ruins dot the landscape. Although there's not a whole heap of information about how the world got into this state, developers GentlyMad have expressed a desire to include story scenarios into the game, as part of its early access development. For now, we have the foundations of what is already an incredibly complex simulator, with masses of potential.
Complete with day and night cycles, weather effects, and an attractive, rust-bitten art style, Endzone has the makings of a great sim, with creative potential constrained by the hazards and management layer of the game at large. Endzone scenarios begin with a small group of survivors, made up of worker adults and dependent kids, as you fight to carve out a small, sustainable civilization for your population amid the chaos.
Even on my modest PC I found Endzone to be very well optimized, with great graphics options. Even in the later stages with many buildings and units wandering around on-screen, Endzone remained performant which is encouraging given that it's still in early access.
Speaking of buildings and units, In order to achieve your goal of sustainable apocalypse society, the game gives you plenty of tools and facilities to meet the challenge. And challenge is truly the right word.
Brutal and complex
Endzone is a truly unforgiving game on its base "normal" difficulty, but you can tailor the challenge to meet your preferred pace of play. Like most sims, you can speed up or slow down the game's passage of time, making the micromanagement a little easier. The hardest part of the game seems to be establishing a foothold initially while maintaining a healthy, stable population of survivors.
The passage of time comes and goes with seasons, which control crop growth, as well as the spawning of children and the old age deaths of adults. Initially, population control was the hardest thing to manage. If people die for whatever reason, it depresses your units and decreases their working efficiency, which can have cascading impacts on your society's productivity and survivability.
Carefully balancing production with supplies and population levels is a difficult endeavor, even more so considering some of the graphing analytics aren't yet live in Early Access. Eventually, you get a feel for it, though, making life a bit easier. However, just when you think you've got it down, the game can throw a curveball at you.
Outbreaks of disease, waves of nuclear radiation, and other problems throw a wrench into the state of play. You may find yourself shifting production away from luxuries and future investment projects quickly over to food or medical supplies, as the needs of your colony shifts.
Ensuring that your facilities are performing optimally and efficiently is key to colony growth, but keeping tabs on it can be difficult at times, as the game doesn't make it very obvious when something isn't working as optimally as it could be. Visual aids might help in future updates, but as for now, you have to actively remember to keep an eye on what your buildings are doing, and how man supplies of specific goods you have at any one time.
Units are largely autonomous and wander around taking on any tasks you assign to them. Naturally, as with any self-respecting survival sim, they also need to eat and be entertained, along with housing requirements. You control the population using housing. You can limit growth by having fewer family houses, but if you limit it too much, you may find that your population dies off before you can keep it going.
There aren't any active threats in the game, like bandits or wildlife (at least not yet), but radiation can sweep in and decimate your crops, or irradiate your water supplies. Ensuring that you're proactive with your harvesting in these situations is important while sending your units to clear radiation from affected areas. Oh, and naturally, you'll need to give them protective gear in order to brave the world outside as well, made from recycled scrap in the surrounding area.
Later on, you can craft renewable energy sources and link your base to power supplies, further increasing efficiency and productivity. Blackouts, however, can plunge your society into disarray, if you're not properly maintaining the grid.
As your civilization grows, staying outside of a cascading death spiral of stacking problems becomes the game's biggest challenge. But the longer you do, the more satisfying the game gets.
Big apocalyptic potential
I'd love to see Endzone: A World Apart get a few more features on the societal side, such as including banditry, maybe adding weapons and defenses as an important part of apocalyptic life. But even with the environment as the game's biggest threat, it's proven to be an impressive take on the genre, complete with a well-optimized engine for mid-range hardware and complex systems, despite its Early Access status.
GentlyMad says the game will be in Early Access for at least six months as it adds new features and takes feedback from the game's community. If you're a fan of the survival sim genre, I'd argue that it's already worth picking up, once it hits Early Access on April 2, 2020.