Review: Endzone: A World Apart
I’m starting to wonder if the expectations for building sims have changed over the years. Thinking all the way back to prehistoric times and the likes of SimCity, it feels like people used to be much more satisfied with basic building options and randomized maps. More modern builders are loaded with tech trees, mission systems, and complex production lines, and yet it seems that people still complain that they get boring and samey after one or two attempts at building. I’ll tell you up front that the arc of your settlements in Endzone: A World Apart will mostly be the same, in terms of what you build and how you expand, in much the same way that cities often came together the same way in something like SimCity. But there’s so much to attend to as your settlers struggle to survive that I can’t see myself getting bored of the challenge anytime soon.
It’s the end of the world, again! Humanity somehow outlasted COVID and capitalism long enough to obliterate itself with nukes, and is now emerging from the definitely not VaulTec vaults hundreds of years post-apocalypse to start anew. In fine Fallout fashion, they’ll need houses and markets and workshops cobbled together from the finest rusted sheet metal and rebar available, eventually growing their loose collection of shacks into a vast and bustling shantytown. Many of the resources you’ll need are hidden in ruins across the map, though, so scavenging parties will need your blessing (and planning) to strike out for fortune. And it wouldn’t be a proper wasteland without raiders and radiation, so protective gear and bullets are on the menu, too.
Before you get too enamored with the idea of a Fallout city builder, let it be known that the lineage of this one goes straight back to Banished. Managing your population in relation to your resources is the irradiated heart of this game, placing different kinds of houses to control how fast your people reproduce as you ensure they have everything they need to survive. Every time you place some kind of service or workshop, slots get added to the job sheet for you to assign people to. This balance, of ensuring that you have enough people to work all your jobs, but not so many that you outpace your production and everyone starves or irradiates, is a direct echo of Banished. If anything, it’s more challenging here because of the vast array of needs and thinner margins for getting it right.
In Banished, you could pretty easily reach a point of simply over-producing everything you needed, and slowly expand from there. But Endzone expands the requirements of a happy populace in logical ways for the setting, expecting you to provide filtered water, radiation suits, iodine tablets, and more to keep your settlers settled. The central production chain is one that will definitely take some getting use to, as your scrappers bring home scrap that itself is a building resource, but is also further refined into essentials like cloth and metal. I still struggle with providing protective gear to all my residents, mainly because scrap is a non-renewable resource and requires longer and longer cycles to provide. Keep in mind that you’ll also be contending with droughts, sandstorms, and shifting radiation fields too, so it may take several swings at Survival mode to reach any sort of comfort level here.
Increased complexity isn’t the only mechanical difference between this and Banished, either. Many important subsystems like electrical grids, contamination, and housing desirability add to your concerns when laying out your settlements. Your people can give you quests, which is used quite smartly when you run low on certain resources to help you get back in the black. Expeditions are probably the most interesting feature, allowing you to scout out ruins and then explore them in text-based adventures that depend on action points and the skills of the settlers you sent. This system ties into the research system as well, allowing you to come up with significant improvements like kitchens, mines, and refineries. And it wouldn’t be a modern builder without a defense element, in the form of towers and periodic raiding parties. This one I could have done without because it’s really undercooked here, with raiders running clean past clusters of towers and no walls or barricades of any kind to better corral them.
There’s an extensive, comprehensive tutorial that clocks in at around two hours that you’re going to want to complete, on account of all the systems and their importance to success. Survival mode feels like enough to keep most people occupied, with about half a dozen preset difficulties, random maps, and thorough customization of each game. But there are scenarios as well, challenging you to complete certain tasks under certain conditions. In all of these situations, you’ll have pretty similar starts to your settlements once you learn the important build orders and get used to providing foundational resources. But from there, the game blossoms into a dance of balancing growth, managing expeditions, uncovering new tech, and fending off threats. Endzone takes some well-trod principles of the builder genre but makes them their own, offering a clever, challenging take on management and expansion.