Against The Storm Early Access Review (PC) – The Calm Before
The skies are pleasant, but your people are wary. The forests hold many dangers. Your fellow villagers busy themselves around the settlement, making good to trade and consume and partaking themselves at the tavern. Always remember, though, that Wint…. Storms are Coming. Hence the name I guess: Against The Storm.
Against The Storm is a dark fantasy city builder and villager management game, set in a unique rainpunk setting. In it, you’ll take charge of small settlements and over time, explore and expand in a unique world full of mystery’s. The ruins of the great civilisation litter the land, and in-between the ever present storms you’ll have chances to access these caches for supplies and treasure. Trade, exploration and villager management are all vital in your attempts to once again tame the wilderness.
The People Have Needs
The core gameplay loop of Against The Storm is simple – you’ll start with a small group of villagers, and from there expand over time. You need to construct buildings to harvest and refine resources, as well as providing housing and fulfilling the various needs of your population. There are 4 types of pops – Humans, Beavers, Harpies and Lizards. I’m really happy that Harpies especially are in the mix, and it’s a welcome change to many games that go for staples such as elves and dwarves. The different pops have different requirements they need fulfilled to be happy and to gain resolve, and happy pops can produce more goods (with certain perks) or produce more reputation based on the amount of high resolve they have.
In Against The Storm, the needs of the populace vary – all have different types of food they like, although a couple of species tend to like any specific good. For example; lizards love skewers, but both humans and lizard enjoy pie. This also applies to services – lizards have fun when brawling, but both humans and lizards like to practice religion at a temple. At the start of a settlement, you get to choose what population to bring in from randomised caravans, and bearing in mind what species have similar needs is important if you intend to keep your populace happy and don’t want to split production chains too heavily.
A Forest Full Of Wonder
Reputation is the mechanic with which your missions are timed. Once you reach a certain threshold for reputation, the mission is over and you head back to the campaign map to buy upgrades for your next runs, and then choose where you wish to try and found a city next. The timer, however, is impatient; you need to make sure that you don’t earn the ire of the queen, so over time a ticking bar will fill up which denotes how impatient she is. If this reaches full, you’ll have a small amount of time to try and reduce her impatience, and if you’re not able to achieve this the settlement will be a failure and abandoned.
The Impatience of the queen in Against The Storm can be reduced by completing orders, which have the benefit of also gifting you various bonuses or resources as well as reputation, to push you towards that all important threshold to complete the settlement and move on toward the next. Some orders are a lot easier to complete than others and the task vary in what they require – some may need you to provide certain needs for your pops, others encourage exploration, and others may need you to make certain goods or trade for money, which in this case is represented by amber.
Exploration is also a way to earn reputation – there are 3 types of glades to explore, which are cut open by chopping down trees via woodcutters camps. Small glades don’t have any dangerous events, but generally contain small amounts of resources and possibly even a couple of villagers to recruit, or a small crate to loot once you have the prerequisite tools to open then. Dangerous glades have events you need to solve, to avoid a problem for your settlement – this could be dealing with a malfunctioning rainpunk building or cleansing a hostile temple. Once dealt with, these events generally give a good chunk of resources or some buildings can even be repurposed for various benefits, such as a buff to resolve or a more efficient way to make certain types of goods. Forbidden glades are the most dangerous, but also offer the greatest reward – many treasures await you in the forest, if you dare.
Building Your Way to Success
There are many buildings in Against The Storm, but you’ll only be able to use a small chunk of these each run. As you complete orders, you can choose blueprints so that you can be able to make certain types of goods or fulfil services. Alternatively, if you’ve earned enough amber you can occasionally buy blueprints from traders, and occasionally you’ll also find blueprints whilst exploring, but in general you will always be limited and you won’t have full access to every production tree. These limitations can be negated for the most part by just buying the goods instead, or if you’re lucky getting stockpiles from crates you open or orders you complete. Sometimes, it can get a bit frustrating if you just don’t find that exact building you need.
The World Map allows you to choose where you want to found your settlement, and also contains the citadel. The Citadel is where you’ll be buying various permanent upgrades and options for your future settlements – these take various forms, such as additional resources to choose from when sending your caravan to found a settlement, or unlocking more choices to choose from with cornerstones. In addition, the citadel contains deeds – these are small achievements that you’ll unlock over time, which can unlock buildings, traders, or just experience. Levelling up with experience is important as it is used to unlock more buildings, orders, and cornerstones and gives additional options in future runs.
Next up, cornerstones – cornerstones are an important way to specialise your settlement, and are extremely useful in many ways. They can be used to secure a steady guaranteed supply of food, or increase the amounts of a particular type of product being produced, all the way up to generating citadel resources as required above; there are many cornerstones, and all have there uses although some are better than others. After each storm, and at the start of a settlement, you’ll get a chance to choose a cornerstone and it can heavily impact your plans for the settlement and how you want to build it. It’s a really intriguing system that I had a lot of fun with.
An Immersive Experience
Against The Storm has a wonderful graphical style, set in a unique rainpunk dark fantasy setting that evokes fear of the storms to come. The ambient sounds and music are excellent and really add to the atmosphere – they bring relaxation in the scant few dry periods and worry in the many storms to survive. The entire graphical and sound parts of the game mesh very well and had me very immersed in the game, several times I played long periods and just got lost in the game.
The game does have a couple of issues; to begin with it does feel like it gets a bit repetitive after you’ve done a few settlements. Some new mechanics unlock over time and there will always be new challenges to complete, but you’ll always be at the same start each time, with the same limited building selection. New buildings are unlocked quickly, but only a limited amount. In addition, for players who don’t like timers in games, the queens impatience bar will be a bit annoying. It’s a core part of the gameplay, and similar to those who had issues with timers in other games like XCOM2, I do wonder how much it’ll be a dealbreaker. Easier difficulty’s you play will help, but if you do play on easier modes you earn a lot less resources to spend at the citadel and greatly adds to the grind – I don’t like this as an idea, and I think it penalises those who want a more relaxing experience with the game.
Against The Storm is a very good new entry into the city building genre, but for different reasons than most; it’s a unique game that does things differently to its competitors. It does many of these things very well, but does have a couple of potential problems for people. For this reason, I do think that the game will possibly polarise a little more than others, but I’ve had many an enjoyable night playing the game and I look forward to seeing what the developers achieve as early access adds more content moving forward.
Against The Storm is launching into Early Access on PC via Steam on November 1st, 2022.
Developer: Eremite Games
Publisher: Hooded Horse
Disclaimer: In order to complete this Early Access Preview, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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