Hands-on with Endzone, currently available on Steam Early Access and GOG
Even though I’m not very good at them, I’ve always had a soft spot for city-builder sims. It started with SimCity for the Super NES and exploded with Caesar III on the PC. My latest foray into the genre is Endzone: A World Apart by Gentlymad Studios and published by Assemble Entertainment.
Here’s the gist: Following an apocalyptic nuclear incident, the few surviving humans are forced to live in underground facilities called “endzones.” The game takes place 150 years later, as humans are emerging from the endzones and back onto the surface to begin… well, you know: city-building.
As of this writing (May 2020), EndZone is available on Steam Early Access, and is still under development. That said, the current iteration is entirely playable and runs smoothly. I encountered no bugs, but the developers are still working on balancing the game and adding more content.
Gentlymad has made it incredibly easy to submit bug reports, too. They encourage their community to publicly submit requests to their forum, where other players can agree with the request. It’s pretty cool, and it makes you really feel like they’re listening to us.
Graphics and Sound
The music in EndZone is definitely worth a shout. If ever there was a post-apocalyptic groove to set a city-building rhythm, EndZone has it. The music is somehow chill and intense at the same time. Very nicely done.
The graphics in EndZone are nice. There are plenty of environmental effects like rain, fire, and dust storms that look really good when you zoom in. The building models are jam-packed with detail and every individual person walking around is fully rendered with animations that reflect their situation.
My biggest complaint about the graphics is the limited color palette. The color choices the devs made are all very realistic. Brown dirt. Green trees. Rusty buildings. They look good, but it can be hard to distinguish one building type from another. It’s not a deal breaker because it really does look good. But a few pops of color here and there would go a long way especially in regards to differentiating buildings from each other.
Also, the limited color choices sort of hamstring some of the better environmental elements. I especially love the lighting effect from bonfires, but you’ve got to zoom in really close before you can appreciate it. I would love to see a bit more embellishment with those kinds of effects.
The gameplay itself is good, too. A bit frantic at times, and it seems like the AI can get pretty finicky. I have occasional problems getting my workers to perform specific tasks, but overall everything comes together well, despite how many moving parts and variables are constantly in effect.
You’ve really got to plan ahead when building your cities. You begin the game with limited resources and a very small population. But in my first few games, the population began to boom quickly and I could not keep up with the number of children my randy citizens were producing.
Eventually the population outstripped their resources and I had to start a new game. No big deal. Try again.
The biggest issue with EndZone seems to be balancing. When planning your city, you’ve got to plan for the fact that scarf-making will comprise roughly a quarter of your entire economy. Because clothiers can only produce a limited number of the scarfs needed to protect citizens from radiation, you’ve got to make sure your scarf production can keep up with your baby production.
But don’t worry. Remember, Gentlymad is taking an active role in the continued development of Endzone and actively soliciting opinions from the community. It’s constantly under development, so I fully expect the balancing issues to be ironed out soon.
The bones of EndZone are great. You can tell that Gentlymad really loves their project. Inspect any of your building models and you’ll see how much love and detail has been poured into them. They show off their models on Twitter like proud parents showing off their kiddos. It’s cute.
Despite the few balancing hiccups, EndZone is a fun challenge with deep and nuanced gameplay. Things like explorable ruins and radiation patterns across the map really nail home the post-apocalyptic theme.
I have enjoyed my time with Endzone, and the dedication of the developers really shows. Remember, it’s still in Early Access. By the official release, this game is certain to gobble up your free time.
It’s definitely worth checking out!
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