If the struggle of managing through the unceasing apocalypse of the last few years hasn’t been enough then how about trying to build up your very own civilisation from the ground up in a radioactive post-apocalyptic wasteland with Endzone—A World Apart: Survivor Edition. You never know, you might learn some valuable lessons about survival to use in the next couple of years…
Following its success on Windows, the popular city sim game from German developers Gentlymad Studios finally comes to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S to results as strong as the cast iron works you’ll soon be building in the radiation ravaged post-apocalypse. This is a city sim game that delves surprisingly deep to provide a rich experience well textured with an extensive strategic framework to play around with, and allowing you to push yourself in the challenging pursuit of rebuilding civilization to survive the harshness of a new world order. Every inch of Endzone is as unforgiving as the post-apocalyptic wasteland it sets itself in.
Scrap for Resources
After a nuclear disaster in the early 2020s, what little of humanity remained were able to descend into underground facilities known as “endzones”. 150 years the last vestiges of surviving humans have finally resurfaced into the new empty wastelands left behind, ready to make a go of salvaging something from the world that once belonged to their race and begin civilization anew as it once was. Unfortunately, the new world-living society will have to also deal with the brunt of an earth still reeling from the events of 150 years ago, as radiation still plays its part in drastically changing landscapes and creating extreme weather conditions that could wipe out what little is left of the survivors in one go.
As the all-seeing power above it is your task to rebuild civilization, guiding your survivors through construction of a new society and giving them the tools to best survive against the dangers of the wild.
As a post-apocalyptic turn on the city sim genre Gentlymad games have done well to use the aesthetic of their world as a means to influencing how they approach gameplay. Rebuilding the civilisation of a set of surviving settlers is all about just that, surviving. Rather than setting city budgets, building the correct amenities to create jobs for economic growth, etc that you might find in other city sims, Endzone’s world building is all focused upon creating resources for survival and improving life. Your early stages will be not unlike that of an Age of Empires or a strategy sim game as you’ll work to gather the natural resources surrounding your settlement first, using these to then grow until you can eventually automate most resources for yourself through factory production.
Resources start simple as food, water, wood, and scrap before later becoming more advanced with the need to sufficiently generate and store electricity to then be able to create factory productions for resources like sulphur, sand, coal, metal, etc. With so many resources overall Endzone’s resource management eventually becomes quite vast, and the balance of creating one resource out of another soon becomes one that you have to rigorously manage. This feeds nicely into the scrappiness of the game overall as even in the later, more advanced stages of the game when you might expect to have more of an even keel over things the game will still force you to balance your decisions and work hard to keep everything running smoothly.
The building network is vast, with over 90 different buildings available in total. How you set the infrastructure of your city is vital. You’ll want to experiment with creating the best ways to grid out your buildings for the most efficient use of an electrical system to run through it, or for roads to provide quick paths for resources to travel. With how extensive Endzone is I have no doubt there is a tonne to play around with and experiment with here if you really love to get down into the nitty gritty of city planning.
Rebuilding the Population
Resources are not the only necessary cog in the machine for civilization to rebuild. The most important and, for me, most enjoyable aspect of the game lies in its use of your citizens as a resource as well. Every single one of your citizens is a worker to be placed into a vital role of society; most buildings or aspects of your city require at least one person to work for it to function. You can therefore assign each citizen a job in the city, and the more that are in that job the generally more efficient it will be. For example you can have builders for construction, someone to man the watering well, farmers, engineers for factory lines, a tailor to create important protective materials and so on.
However, like resources your people are finite. They age and die with time, but with proper homes and happiness they can also procreate as well to bring in the next generation of workers. You can educate your city’s children too to make them even more useful for their jobs in later life. With workers regularly dying and children growing up again you will be constantly having to reassign tasks to keep up with the state of your population. All your builders may die out at the same time you find yourself with an abundance of doctors, for example, so fortunately reassignment is quick and easy to do.
The death and aging aspect of the game also requires you to be careful of your population’s growth and decline. As your population grows naturally it will use more resources. If you’re not careful that growth may overtake your rate of resources which will cause a whole bunch of problems. Similarly a population in decline may not have enough workers to fill every role, especially if you have overexpanded.
As leader you have tools in the form of regulations to curtail these issues, although each of these can again come with their own problem. For example you might instate a mandatory birth control for a few seasons to keep growth down, but then your citizens will be unhappy at your infringement of their freedoms. Most brutally you can order the banishment of the elderly or even the children in your city if things are getting too drastic. No one ever said the post-apocalypse was going to be kind after all!
I found the population mechanic of the game to be its most impressive part, making it really feel like you’re taking the hard and necessary decisions to make a post-apocalyptic society to thrive best. It also keeps the gameplay at a constant speed since the outlook of your city is forever changing and can turn on a dime with such ease if you are not careful.
The Dangers of the Waste
As if scraping together resources and managing a population wasn’t difficult enough, you also have the natural dangers of the world to contend with. The world still remains radiated which affects your environment in multiple ways. For one it can determine how suitable soil is for planting since some areas can be more irradiated than others. Similarly your water supplies can become poisoned if taken from badly radiated pools or if hit with toxic rain. You can filter through different camera options to see which parts of the world are most affected by radiation to help you plan.
The radiation also causes extreme weather conditions from time to time. You’ll have to contend with sudden sandstorms that can wipe out your power and damage buildings or hurt citizens if not aptly protected. Droughts in the season can also limit your food and water resources if you don’t have a secondary option for production.
You can send out expedition groups to further explore the world and find valuable resources, however these groups will also need the proper protective measures to ensure survival, since the harshness of the world can easily catch up with any who stray too far from home.
Your final danger to mix things up are rogue bandit groups who will show up from time to time demanding a fee of resources or else they will attack. You can build towers, walls, and train a military to defend from these attacks but their presence is still a constant danger. These random acts of threat help to diversify the gameplay from time to time and further strengthen the overall scrappy survival aspect of the apocalyptic sim in an enjoyable way that both demands care and plays well into the game’s theme.
A Solid Survival Sim
Though there isn’t a strict “enemy” per say that you find in other strategy games, or an overall objective to conquer, the very necessities of survival are all that are needed to make this game thrive. Endzone—A World Apart has plenty going for it to make it a worthwhile addition to the city sim genre. I am not normally one for these types of games because I tend not to have the patience for the slower gameplay style, but the depth of Endzone and its constant scrappiness sucked me right in.
There is so much to learn here and so much to play around with, the additional post-apocalyptic threats are just a nice extra spanner to complicate things further and keep the game from going stale. Dive on in and I guarantee you’ll find something in here to latch onto.
Final Score: 7/10