Endzone – A World Apart Preview: Don’t Eat the Glowing Potatoes

Endzone - A World Apart is a city-builder set in a post-apocalyptic world. Lead your people out of the fallout shelter back to the surface of the earth and build a city they are proud to call home. Take care of everyone's needs and keep away from the lurking radiation or humanity might just disappear for good.

Endzone - A World Apart Preview - Don't Eat the Glowing Potatoes Cover

The idea that our current lives of overindulgence will someday lead to the demise of our beloved planet is not a new concept and is becoming a real concern for some. In Endzone – A World Apart that’s exactly what happened. Fortunately, you now have the opportunity to rebuild and get civilization back on track. Not all doom and gloom then. 

Endzone – A World Apart may not do anything revolutionary but instead rely on tried and tested mechanics that have produced countless gems in the city-building genre. The only question is, has it done enough to be included among the greats, or will it fall into the void of what could have been.

Endzone – A World Apart is currently available in early access on Steam, GOG, and Green Man Gaming.

Water is the source of life

Water is the source of life

STORY – STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS BEFORE

The backstory is laid out during the introduction video and tells of how your ancestors destroyed the world, leaving you with a right mess to clean up. A few people survived underground for 100 years and are ready to return to the earth’s surface. 

It’s pretty much the same backdrop as any other post-apocalyptic story. 

GAMEPLAY – CLASSIC CITY-BUILDER

As I’ve mentioned, Endzone – A World Apart doesn’t attempt anything new but what it does, it does very well. Simply put, the mechanics just work and provide you with a city-building game that hits that sweet spot between fun and challenging. Never did I feel like I had nothing to do but I also never felt overwhelmed. You’ll be surprised how difficult it can be for games like this to be so balanced.

I was playing an early-access version of the game and while earlier reviews have mentioned some glaring problems with the AI, I did not experience that or any other bugs that made the game feel incomplete. On the launch screen, you are shown a timeline of features that have been implemented as well as those that are still being planned so you know what to expect and when to expect it.

Developer update

Developer update

It features a thorough tutorial that takes you through the entire survival experience but includes narration. After completing this I briefly thought that I experienced everything the game had to offer and wouldn’t want to play any further, I was pleasantly surprised to find that playing on my own still provided sufficient challenge. 

So, what exactly do you do here? Well, your primary focus is to manage your settlers and resources, simple enough. Your settlers need to be assigned a profession when one becomes available and you can set how many people will do that job at any time. You will also need to provide them with homes so they can procreate and increase the workforce as older settlers will sadly pass away and leave a gap in the job market. You will need the right kind of homes for this though as large shelters may house many people but don’t provide enough privacy for them to get their freak on. Children can’t be put to work immediately though, as they have to mature and grow strong first. You can watch their progress from the UI and see how close each of them is to adulthood and know when your labor pool will increase.

Planning to retake the planet

Planning to retake the planet

Then you get to your resources which start with wood and scrap, and from there you make cloth, plastic, metal, clothing, tools, electronics, and more. You also need water and food or your settlers will die much sooner than Mother Nature intended. There are a specific building and profession responsible for each resource but food and water can be gathered in several ways. Water can be drawn from lakes or collected during rainstorms for example.

When you have the basic resources sorted you can start looking at improving health, education, and settler motivation. You also need to keep an eye on radiation levels which still looms like a phantom and will continue to haunt you. Then there’s the tech tree that unlocks things or improves existing ones and the Forum where you can enable decrees to help your city grow. Finally, you can explore the ruins around you to meet other survivors and gather forgotten resources.

At the time of testing the game offered over 50 different buildings to construct and around 30 different professions for your settlers, with more being added with each update. It will take some effort to unlock and construct everything in the game while maintaining your resource levels and attending to the needs of your people. 

The tech tree

The tech tree

Oh, and did I mention the weather? As the seasons change, you will have to deal with occasional droughts and sandstorms which could lead to a massive shortage of primary resources and result in many unwarranted deaths. The balancing act here is key as you will always see the next shiny toy you want to add to your city, but it’s so easy to move too quickly, neglect some key resources, and find yourself moving backward in a hurry. In one of my early games, I made this exact mistake. I ran out of settlers to assign to professions, so I cut down on some of the professions I already had running. Everything was running smoothly one moment and within a matter of minutes, I lost 90% of my population. That’s when I decided to accept defeat and retry.

The game doesn’t offer a lot of game modes apart from the tutorial, survival mode, and some additional scenarios. Survival mode is the one you’ll be playing most often and when doing so you have a good number of options regarding the world you’ll be playing on like the size, the number of mountains, lakes, and trees, how many settlers you’ll start with, and even the harshness of the weather.

As far as gameplay goes, I’m really happy. The game is fun and challenging, without ever becoming overwhelming. However, I have one major concern that could keep Endzone from being truly memorable. I have the fear that once you’ve spent a bit of time here, you’ll figure out an optimized way of building that will help you dodge any of the curveballs the game might through at you. If this happens, then this no longer becomes a survival city-builder but a paint by numbers experience that will be enjoyed for a brief moment and then forgotten entirely.

The neighborhood is coming along nicely

The neighborhood is coming along nicely

VISUALS – THE BEST UI I’VE SEEN IN AGES

Overall, the graphics are mid-tier and won’t impress or disappoint. However, when zoomed in the tree models look like a child’s finger painting. That said, there are some nice touches to the visuals like the fields and trees that sway with the wind, and you can see the droplets splash on the ground during a rainstorm. The building designs also look good, however, because everything is made from scrap they tend to look very similar.

Where this game truly stands out is in the UI which is usually a constant headache with games like this. In an FPS game, you just need your health bar, ammo count, and maybe a mini-map, but in a city-builder or management game, you need as much information as possible to ensure you are doing your job correctly. In most cases, this leads to a UI that’s so cluttered most players can’t figure out what’s what and that kills the experience before it began. Other times, there’s not enough info readily available which has you constantly flicking through menus rather than enjoying your creations.

Statistics make everything better

Statistics make everything better

Statistics make everything better.

Endzone gives you all the information you might need in bite sizes. Click on a building and you can view the current production, the employees currently working there, its power usage, how many resources are being stored, and even some production statistics, but it separates them with tabs that are easy to access and don’t flood you with information. The construction menu sorts buildings by category and then by how advanced they are which is incredibly intuitive. The professions menu lights up when there’s a new profession that doesn’t have a settler assigned to it yet and you can update the professions from there, or from the respective buildings that those professions relate to. You’ll often see various icons hovering above your buildings to indicate some sort of problems like a lack of resources or workers, this means that as long as you frequently check over your city, you’ll always know when there’s something that requires your attention.

Then there are the overlays that show you the radiation, soil moisture levels, electricity status, and are attractiveness. You can open the soil moisture overlay during a rainstorm and see how it changes color as the water drenches the earth. I’ve seen many management games that were ruined by a horrible UI but in Endzone – A World Apart this was one of the standout features.

AUDIO – GROOVY MAN

The soundtracks do a good job of filling in the background but there were some that were a bit trippy, like something the hippies of the 60s’ would listen to after taking some groovy pills. The sound effects are limited but those that are included were rather good. Most buildings emanate some sort of sound but in some cases, they can be a bit overwhelming like the bees buzzing around your farms. 

My bustling industrial zone

My bustling industrial zone

I loved the sound of the rain hitting the ground and if you zoom in on a building then you’ll hear the rain bouncing off the tin roof, a sound I find mesmerizing. 

The only voice acting in the game is found in the narration of the tutorial. Now, I greatly appreciate when instructions are narrated and you don’t have to read an entire book to learn to play the game, but the acting felt a little lifeless. 

EARLY ACCESS ISSUES

It’s weird to play a game in early-access and not find any actual bugs, however, there are some annoyances I would like to be addressed while development is still in motion. 

Let it grow

Let it grow

Certain buildings have options that can be adjusted like the collection area for a Scrap Yard, or the type of resource a Recycler will produce. However, you can only adjust these after construction has completed. Since construction tends to take some time, I often ordered something to be built but then got busy elsewhere and forgot to update the settings. 

There was something I found even more troublesome though. When your population dwindles and you no longer have enough settlers to fill all the professions, the game automatically decides which ones to decrease. Usually, it has a good sense of the least important ones so this is handled well. The problem comes in when your population regrows and the game doesn’t reassign settlers to those posts again, leaving you to wonder where they should go. 

Endzone - A World Apart | Early Access Release Trailer (EN)

We received a Steam review key from Assemble Entertainment.

Summary
For an early-access game, I found very little to fault in Endzone - A World Apart, one or two annoyances aside. The developers are still putting in a lot of work and I love that you can see what's being planned in upcoming updates. The audio and visual design is acceptable while not blowing me away in any shape or form, but the fantastic UI more than makes up for this. The gameplay is well balanced and should provide a fun experience for players of all skill levels. However, the game doesn't offer enough randomized speedbumps to keep you on your toes and I fear that this could result in players figuring out the best build orders which will remove all challenge and kill replayability. If you enjoy city-builders, then I honestly think there's much to enjoy here but I would recommend waiting for a few more updates to ensure your money is well spent.
Good
  • Fantastic user interface
  • Fun and challenging gameplay
  • Few problems for early access
Bad
  • Replayability could be limited

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