Against the Storm - Roguelike City Builder (Early Access on EGS)

AKA, “Banished meets Slay the Spire” (the devs’ terrible description)
AKA, the other game with Beaver-people
AKA, a game to taunt both EA and EGS haters with!
AKA, the procgen builder that isn’t trying to be another Dwarf Fortress
AKA, “Hey, guys? What if Frostpunk, but rainy?”
AKA, the most innovative city-builder since… well, probably Frostpunk again
AKA, the game most likely to make you say “Just one more city”
AKA, the best use for that Epic coupon you have (assuming you already have Beast Breaker)

I got this game over the holidays and enjoyed it but also got a bit frustrated by it. Then I played it this weekend, started winning consistently (as opposed to getting stuck in what I thought were impossible dead ends (but probably weren’t)), and fell hard for it.

In this game, your Queen sends you out repeatedly into the stormy wilderness with a crew of humans, beaverfolk, and lizardfolk to establish settlements that can survive long enough to feed the capital city with some of the resources it needs.

Each trip out goes to a unique randomly generated forest. By clearing out the forest around your starting space, you open up new clearings. These might have new resource pools, farmable land, caches to unlock, or in some cases, dangerous challenges that attack some aspect of your town until they’re dealt with. To gather resources, farm the land, or deal with events, you assign your workers to work slots. New workers show up regularly (right after the also regular Blightstorms that erode your workers’ morale and tests your supplies of housing and clothing).

It’s not just the terrain that’s random in each session. The queen offers you choices of goals to complete, with a wide assortment of individual objectives. Similarly, she gives you a choice of new building blueprints as the start of the session and after each goal is completed. That means in each game, the buildings you’ll have available to you will differ.

Which is both what’s cool about the game and potentially frustrating–at least until you get used to it. If the queen doesn’t offer you a Tavern… well, then maybe avoid taking the goals that have to do with keeping your populace happy. This need to stay on your toes and make parallel choices of goals and blueprints is what makes the game feel a bit like an RTS or some Euro board games: You can’t follow the same build order every time; you have to learn to be reactive to the moment’s specific circumstances.

It may be hard to imagine a city-builder where you don’t get half the buildings available. The way AtS makes this work is that buildings make multiple things, and their uses overlap. You can make Planks from Wood at a Crude Workstation, a Carpentry, or a Lumber Mill. But the latter requires less wood to make more planks. It also produces tools and (a little head-scratchingly) flour. If you really need flour, you would do better to make it at a Provisioner.

Oh, except the Provisioner is one of many buildings that isn’t even available at the start of the game. Between each settlement session, you return to an overworld map, with the queen’s capital city at the center. That’s where you go to spend some of the rewards from each more-or-less successful expedition to unlock new buildings. You can’t extract that copper ore from the ground until you’ve unlocked mining, or gather mushrooms without an Herbalist’s Camp. And so the breadth of possibilities in each trip expands and expands.

There’s a lot going on in Against the Storm, though I found that the UI manages to show you almost all of it in a surprisingly effective manner. The indicator showing you how many Beavers you have in your populace (and whether they are working and whether they have homes) expands out to show you the dozen+ factors that determine their Resolve. (When it gets low, they take off.) Resource pools on the map tell you with a mouseover which several buildings allow them, to be extracted. The multitude of icons on every screen almost always have tooltips to explain them. It’s a lot, but for an Early Access game, the UI already has a high level of refinement.

My number one tip for anyone who gives the game a try: Don’t miss the fact that most refined resources can be created from multiple primary resources. Just like with buildings, there’s a lot of overlap. So you can make flour from grain (which is usually farmed). But if you don’t have farms in a particular city, maybe you can harvest roots or mushrooms. They also can be processed in to flour. The key is to notice the round resource buttons on the manufacturing screen. You can click on these to bring up a menu of all your options for resource inputs.

You end up spending maybe a couple hours with each settlement, which feels just about perfect. In that time, you’ll face a few unique serious challenges (from Dangerous glades). You’ll unlock about a dozen different buildings. You’ll sprawl across the map, repositioning harvesting camps in the latest opened glade once the last glade’s resources are depleted. You’ll have built specialized housing to keep the Lizards extra happy (they especially hate the rain, those coldblooded suckers), and started making their favorite foods (lizards like meat jerky; beavers like biscuits!). Those improvements steel your populace against the ever growing menace of the forest, which threatens to wear folks down until they can’t stay any longer.

If the rising danger doesn’t get you, the queen’s impatience might. Your rate of completing goals has to keep up with her impatience meter, which increases steadily. If you can’t keep up, you might find the queen calling you back home in disgrace.

I’m finding the game’s systems a lot of fun to steadily master. While it seems like you are always in danger of finding yourself at a production-chain dead-end, once you grok all the different ways to progress toward your goals, you will be surprised at how smoothly you can navigate to a victory.

Given that it’s Early Access, it seems likely things might get shakier as you move toward the end game (I would say that after about eight missions, I’m transitioning into the mid-game?). Time will tell, but I think the team has shown they have the skill it takes to sew up any loose ends before Q4 of this year, when they expect to launch.

Curious who else has given the game a try, and what their experiences have been. I don’t think I’ve found a city building game this compelling since Tropico 4. Frostpunk was too oppressive, and I would usually play a scenario for six or eight hours only to find myself totally unprepared for the final challenges. Surviving Mars and Per Aspera were good, but got pretty redundant and unmanageable after awhile. The session-based structure of Against the Storm doesn’t seem like an intuitive fit for builders, but Eremite Games seem to have made it work!

I really like this game. I love city builders but get bored with them quickly – a game where I have a fundamentally different build order each time goes a long way to addressing that.

That said, I have found a rough strategy that I follow every time:

  • Take extra beavers, build two woodcutters and have them non-stop cutting to glades for the rest of the game
  • Set up one service and one complex food for each species with as few building selections as possible, so nobody dies during the later storms
  • Complete contracts and resolve dangerous glade events until it’s won

I almost never get reputation from keeping the citizens happy, as the game’s usually over by the time I can consider spinning up a second complex food or service. Anybody else having a different experience?

Your wall of text confounds me. At least put the trailer! :P

edit: I find weird that for a game called ‘After the Storm’ that has 95% of the trailer raining, the danger comes from the forest and not from actual floods :P

TL:DR , 1 year EPIC exclusive. Going for $7 right now during the new years sale. Buy it.

Funny thing, the current sale puts the price of the game under the $15 threshold so I can’t use the coupon.

I liked this game. The systems used are unique and not found in other city builders, though it’s so far removed from traditional city builders that I almost hesitate to call it one.

One thing that stands out to me is that the more stuff you unlock the harder the game becomes. You only get a fixed number of blueprints/cornerstones every game, and the more you unlock the smaller the chance you get what you need/want. I unlocked most stuff by now and find I have to reroll choices frequently during my games.

Flour. Sawdust. Same thing!

Is it just called a ‘mill’? That’s the only sense I could make of it!

Your description sounds really interesting–I like the idea of no clear ‘build order’ as much as I did in Offworld Trading Company! I was struck by how well presented it all is in the trailer too.

Thanks for highlighting this Nightgaunt.

Ok, all you jokers got me. I am now $6.99 + tax poorer, with an extra marketing email subscription. Thanks. :/

One of us! One of us! ;)

:)

In all seriousness, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve re- and unsubscribed from both Epic and GOG’s marketing.

Unsubscribing is just a click away, my dudes!

Anyway yeah, picked this up myself on the strength of the demo (there’s an extensive, excellent demo, y’all!).

My only worry is about getting over the learning curve to where I’m not spending half or more of my time trying to figure out how to get from mushrooms to steam automata or whatever. I feel like there’s maybe some UX and design work ahead of the devs there, though as @nightgaunt said the UI clearly shows they’ve correctly identified that part of the game as something that requires their attention so I’m hopeful.

Could be just a player knowledge thing too that gets naturally mitigated over time. Either way, I am fine letting it marinate for a bit or at least until the mood strikes me again.

I got it on the strength of the Three Moves Ahead Podcast. I haven’t started it yet though.

But the sale ends February 10 and the coupon lasts until the 27!!! So you will be able to get the game discounted nevertheless.

This is an excellent trailer. Good VO work and solid little micro hooks into the worldbuilding have me salivating over a game that I think would actually annoy the dickens out of me.

Yeah, the voice-over reminded me of John Goodman.

That looks like an unfortunate side effect of different currencies! (You’re in Europe, right Turin?) In the US store, it is $16.99. Perfect for the under-$15 coupon.

I’ve been curious about this! It does seem unavoidable. I just dropped a whole bunch of resources into the tech tree, so I guess I’m about to see this in action!

I picked this up after hearing the Three Moves Ahead episode and seeing the EGS voucher could be applied to it.

First impressions weren’t great. It seems like there’s meant to be a tutorial there but other than one or two popups I kinda felt like I was left to my own devices, figuring out how stuff worked. That said, the UI is pretty good so I was able to stumble through and complete the first settlement without any issues.

The second run is presumably a continuation of the ‘tutorial’ as I could now see a breakdown of what was affecting each creature’s resolve. But again, I was mostly left to fumble around and finish the level.

It all seemed very easy though. I had assumed the weather and environment would push back on me, or the Queen’s demands would rapidly overwhelm my ability to hit milestones, but that wasn’t the case. I’ve read that things get a lot more difficult as you progress through the game, but I felt like these first two levels both provided no challenge and did a poor job of helping me understand how the economy was put together.

For instance, I was offered blueprints and the option to re-roll, but it was never clear why I needed to. The blueprint seemed fine and didn’t hinder my ability to complete the level.

I also never noticed that different buildings could produce the same resource ie multiple buildings able to make planks was the example given earlier in this thread. I don’t know if that’s just me being a numpty, or that I haven’t gotten access to those other buildings, but the game didn’t seem to make any effort to point this out.

Also wasn’t aware that some of the manufacturing resource buttons could be pressed to change the inputs!

So while being a bit “meh” about the whole thing, I was invested enough to start watching a let’s play on youtube last night to hopefully reveal some angle that I was missing. And then this thread popped up today! :)

Think I’ll give it another whirl after work with some of this new-found knowledge…

I bought this a while ago, using a coupon, not really understanding that it was going to be in EA for another year. I tried it for a bit, but had a similar experience – not having any idea what was going on, and not really seeing why I was succeeding or failing. And then they dump you into the meta-game without any explanation at all.

Given the response in this thread, I really hope they put in a strong tutorial and explanations of what’s going on, because it sounds like the game deserves it.

I’m just a little ways into my first run, but know a few of these.

You may want to reroll for blueprints if you are looking for a particular product to produce. I missed my chance to pick the blueprint to make one of the queen’s demands, and am now waiting for it to appear again. I’m also trying to get some amber, so I can afford to reroll and improve my chances of getting the blueprint I need.

The different buildings making planks will be more efficient (denoted by the number of stars) I think it takes 8 wood to make 2 planks with the worst building, and maybe only 3 wood to make 2 planks with the best. Also, those different buildings will also produce different products from the others. I think plank #2 building also makes training weapons maybe, and some sort of trade good?

I hadn’t noticed that you can change inputs, but did notice you could turn off some of the workflows. You don’t want some of your more precious imnputs that you might be able to eat, or keep warm with to make some product you have no use for yet.

I’m liking it so far, but have just started.

The current tutorial flow is really underwhelming, it doesn’t do a great job teaching the mechanics or even selling the game.

The game is at its least interesting in the beginning because the size of your deck is small and the easy maps don’t force you to compromise. You need to unlock more buildings and get to the harder levels before you regularly make interesting choices. It takes the game a bit too long to get to the point where you have thoughts like “okay, I’ll make flour with this abandoned sawmill that I discovered and then repurpose my forge to make biscuits so ghosts don’t kill my beavers next storm.”