What if Sim City but as miserable as sin? Meet Surviving the Aftermath

(Image credit: Paradox)

So many of my colonists have died that there's no one left to staff my burial pit. I'd like to say this was a one-off, but my experiences in the Early Access of Surviving the Aftermath, a post-apocalyptic management sim have taught me some very harsh lessons about life in the wastelands. It's miserable, unforgiving, and I can't stop going back for another radiation powered punch in the chops. 

You start with a small settlement and can tinker with your setup – how barren the land is, how likely natural disasters are likely to happen – to set the difficulty. Once you have your happy little band of colonists you're faced with the usual challenges, keeping them housed, fed, hydrated and, twist, free of radiation poisoning and safe from meteor showers. Once you get the basics, trappers and farms, water towers and housing, then they need clothes and tools. After that, you can start to think about wind turbines for energy, schools to educate the children (tiny little wastrels who can't even collect concrete rubble until they come of age) and fripperies like colony happiness. Think Frostpunk but less snow, more mutations. 

(Image credit: Paradox)

Survivor science 

The amount of buildings you get access to early on is fairly basic, but you can add to it by spending science points in the tech tree. You can build bigger farms, unlock gravestones and better housing, even a little cookhouse to eat your berry mulch in. (After an unfortunate spate of deaths in a heatwave, berries featured heavily on my settlement Sadtown's menu.) There are currently around 50 different buildings to unlock.

Not that getting those science points is easy. As new people arrive at your colony looking for shelter (you can turn them away, but those water towers won't build themselves) you'll be able to send a select few Specialists out onto the world map to raid settlements for resources like medicine and canned food or take on bandits. Sometimes they'll find an abandoned building with science points, and it's like a tiny Christmas every time. Technology for everyone! 

Your role as hapless colony caretaker also means making decisions about who you let into the colony, how to settle fights (punish the aggressor, the instigator, or help both with precious medicine), whether or not deal with bandits, traders, and to give aid to people passing by. Your colonists will also want to go on their own little trips, to hunt bear or search abandoned wagons, and your decision could be the difference between a haul of meat or a bunch of broken bones for your medical tent to deal with. 

(Image credit: Paradox)

Hurts so good 

Despite the fate of so many of my colonists, and the aforementioned burial pit problem, there's just something addictive about the sheer variety of failure possible. Sure I'd arrange my shantytown in a particularly pleasing pattern this time around, but seeing them smashed to bits by falling rocks was somehow less frustrating than the usual city simulation problems of traffic problems or not enough power stations. Developer Paradox is allowing user-made mods too, and no one dreams up existential misery options like the internet. 

This is Early Access so the odd bug added to my colonists' tortures. One meant that some would become stuck in a running animation and just keep going until they died. Paradox has popped a friendly ladybird icon in the top right of the HUD so you can report but it's a little late for Penelope, god rest her tiny fictional soul. 

So if your depression medication is working and you love to rule the lives of tiny people, this is an alarming easy way to burn through days without ever getting bored. Just follow my advice and build a few burial pits early on. The place just looks messy with too many corpses lying around. 

Surviving the Aftermath is now available in Early Access at Epic Game Store and Xbox Game Preview. At the moment it's due for final release in late 2020. 

Rachel Weber
Managing Editor, US

Rachel Weber is the US Managing Editor of GamesRadar+ and lives in Brooklyn, New York. She joined GamesRadar+ in 2017, revitalizing the news coverage and building new processes and strategies for the US team.