Surviving the Aftermath helped me cope with depression – now it’s leaving early access




Pandemics suck. Not that anyone was disputing that before COVID 19, but the last 20 months have been like choosing “nightmare” difficulty mode for real life.

Oh you have a job and people you care about and personal things going on? Let’s throw in a literal plague to add some extra challenge.

The point is, we still have to face our everyday lives even when the world’s on fire. And that takes practice.

I think a lot of people find it difficult to “switch off” after a long day at work or dealing with challenging people and events. For me, this led to lingering anxiety and, ultimately, depression.

I felt stuck in place. I spent every day frozen in a never-ending thought loop where I recognized that there were dozens of things I needed to be doing, but felt incapable of taking a single step forward.

Normally, this is the part where you’d expect someone to sell you a cure or enroll you in an executive leadership course. But my solution ended up being super-duper simple: I played video games.

Specifically, I played the hardest video games I could find. I wrote about it here on The Next Web. I wanted to take back my mental state and regain a sense of control in my life.

And, as it turns out, taking control over every tiny detail of World War II, or deciding the fate of an entire dynasty of rulers during the dark ages, or trying to keep a group of freezing apocalypse survivors alive is a fantastic way to do that.

Fast forward to today and we’re on the cusp of one of my favorite pandemic games finally seeing a proper launch.

Surviving the Aftermath is coming out of early access on November 16 and I absolutely recommend it to anyone who wants to bury themselves in somebody else’s problems for a while.

Iceflake Studios has taken full advantage of its two years in early access by implementing more than 20 major updates based on player feedback.

That’s no small feat. It’s one thing to add features to a game that’s still in pre-alpha, if you screw things up you can just fix it. But when the game’s already on Steam and consoles and you’re pushing live updates, it becomes a high wire act.

Check out this short documentary on the process:

What’s most interesting about Surviving the Aftermath, to me, is that it’s not one of those games that doles out strategy by the numbers until you get a sense that everything’s going to be okay.

Because everything is definitely not going to be okay.

It’s the end of the world, the apocalypse happened, everything sucks, and your job is to try and keep as many people alive as possible despite the odds being wretchedly against you.

In other words, Surviving the Aftermath can sometimes feel like a game where the deck is stacked against you and everything’s pretty much hopeless.

And that’s why it provides me with so much comfort! If I wreck an entire community and have to sit there and watch as dozens of hopeful survivors die, one after another, I can just start over.

If I get COVID-19 and infect my family or lose my job because the pandemic put my employer out of business, there’s no reset button. You just have to deal with that shit.

But, Surviving the Aftermath lets me start a new game whenever I want. It also gives me a real challenge. Not just real in the sense that it’s actually hard to balance everything the game throws at you in real-time, but also “real” as in: it makes sense.

The premise is simple: build a colony. You have land. You have metal, plastic, and wood. You have people and they need food, shelter, and water. You start from there and just… try to survive.

Surviving the Aftermath is a real-time colony sim with an expansive over map. During the course of play, you’ll recruit specialists, delegate work, and use Civilization-style tech trees to unlock new buildings and features for your community. Each person in your colony is responsible for carrying supplies, building new facilities, and operating existing placements.

And, because it’s the aftermath, life is harsh and both the environment and enemy outsiders pose a constant threat to your little society.

Instead of a relaxing upwards climb towards utopia, Surviving the Aftermath is a hellish descent into a complex, punishing world.

That might sound like something that isn’t fun, but it’s a wonderful distraction. And it’s nice to be taken seriously by a game studio. I want the challenge because, honestly, nobody should expect the apocalypse to be easy.

A few hours of Aftermath and I’m able to appreciate the problems I’m facing in my real life.

Paying bills and getting my kid to eat his dinner doesn’t seem so tough after watching dozens of tiny digital people die of starvation because I was so worried about getting my research going that I forgot that crops don’t grow in the winter.

And eventually, after learning from the many, many mistakes you make, Aftermath does yield some fantastic rewards. Those brief moments where your planning, cunning, and execution pay off, or when a lucky windfall sends the perfect specialist your way exactly when you need them, are as good in this game as any other colony builder.

In fact, they might be even sweeter in Aftermath because you work so damn hard for them.

At any rate, the game’s upcoming exit from early access is supposed to come with all-new Endgame content, which is worth being excited about.

Let me know (on Twitter, or via email) if you decide to pick it up, I’d love to hear about your experience.

You can still pick the game up in early access right now, but Surviving the Aftermath officially launches for PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch November 16. It’s also forward-compatible with PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S consoles.


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