EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Nathan Rowland
previewed on PC
Making a difference
Having the opening dialogue spoken by a young girl, railing against the failures of previous generations, “paying the price” for destroying the world before their time. But now, eager for their chance to make “things right” is an extremely salient narrative drawing a direct comparison to such activists as Greta Thunberg and the climate change crisis the world is facing today. It’s a compelling basis on which to situate a survival strategy game. And Endzone - A World Apart is all about survival, at the most granular level.
It bears many similarities to Banished with its town management systems as well as a steep learning curve to the uninitiated, with a complex web of systems in place determining the health and condition of both your town and its individual residents. Thankfully, the game provides a comprehensive tutorial, unlike Banished, which covers the majority of the game’s systems and unique building chains. It is still a lot of information to consume over the course of three hours, so it’s hard to describe it as a tutorial and instead as an introductory scenario. What the tutorial does not do a great job of is explaining is the meaning behind its jargon. Some game effects and building functions can get particularly in-depth and obscure in their purpose i.e. rain collectors contaminating the land should they become clogged with irradiated water. Mentioning these off-handed in the tutorial amongst lengthy monologues can become cumbersome to understanding the multitude of mechanics that the game offers.
Stop and Go
Yet, Endzone is far quicker in pace to other strategy titles, should you effectively organise your settlement’s progression. Early resources can become abundant if carefully managed. Yet, it is equally easy to run before you’ve learnt how to walk. If you do not pay close attention to your resource chains, you can soon find yourself stretched too thin with supplies and, short of demolishing most of your demanding buildings, you will spiral towards a social collapse in your settlement as longer campaigns will present increasing challenges in the form of deadly environmental effects (radiation, toxic rain, sandstorms & droughts).
It’s not the prettiest game either. I had the same issue with Rise of Industry: 2130. Choosing a post-apocalyptic setting seems to limit developers into having an unattractive wash to their game’s colour palette. Titles like Frostpunk did well circumventing this by creating a good tonal contrast between the harsh blues and blacks of unscouted territory and the dense snow and the warm oranges & reds of reclaimed territory and its burning fires. I feel it’s almost a necessity that strategy games like Endzone need to be very aesthetically pretty or I won’t enjoy poring through its menus and systems quite as much.
Armageddon wasn’t built in a day
The game can either by played in a scaling ‘survival mode’ setting, with sliders adjusting map size, the availability of natural resources and in general, how easy it will be for your settlers to navigate their environment. Seven scenarios are also currently available, tasking you to complete goal-oriented objectives to win in its own themed world. These choices range from: discovering all variations of plant-life as part of a bet to creating a settlement that lasts 250 seasons and establishes the ‘new centre of the world’ as a result. These scenarios do some good to vary up the structure of construction and the rate of challenges that you’ll face, but I still find the variety of deadly conditions lacking. Once you’ve got an effective routine going amongst your community, defeat isn’t really that likely. That being said, more systems are clearly coming with the developers introducing a ‘decree system’ in September and who knows what in the months beyond. They’ve also included a neat feature to copy the ‘seed’ of your map so you and a friend can play alongside each other on the same ground, so to speak. It’s not the most elegant of multiplayer experiences, but it’s not nothing.
Finally, the developers have a roadmap available on the main menu, where you can see what game systems are currently in place, what is being developed in the current month and what’s on the horizon. It’s a level of transparency which is very much appreciated in early access titles, as I often feel many titles struggle with the stigma that such a moniker infers.
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There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.