by Emma Kostopolus, Video Game Columnist
I’ve got a soft spot for post-apocalyptic games. I can’t help it – I just love the idea of fending for yourself and repurposing the ruins of the world around you to help you survive. Maybe it’s a form of tough-guy wish fulfillment, since I’m certainly too soft and squishy to make it in any real-life apocalyptic event. But post-apocalyptic games don’t just come in one flavor – genre-based mechanics like resource management and crafting lend themselves to a broad spectrum of gaming experiences, from triple-A titles to the indiest of indie games. This week I’ve gathered for you some of my favorite post-apocalyptic titles, so you can choose the world-ending scenario best suited to you.
Fallout 4 (and the Fallout franchise)
“Fallout” is one of, if not the, most popular post-apocalyptic gaming series. What started out as an isometric gaming experience in “Fallout 1” and “2” turned into a sprawling 3D experience in “Fallout 3,” followed by “Fallout New Vegas” and most recently “Fallout 4.” The open-world of the latter games really opens up the Wasteland (as the game calls it) to players, who can explore and interact with the world at will, taking on quests and fighting bad guys to their heart’s content. I’ve specifically chosen to talk about “Fallout 4” because of its extensive crafting system, where you can build weapons and armor from the seemingly useless objects you pick up in the world. But that’s not all, “Fallout 4” has a settlement management aspect to it, where you can build and improve upon living grounds, and take care of (ie, grow crops, set up security measures, etc.) the people who live there. While this is an entirely optional venture, and you can continue to quest around the Wasteland like in previous games with no thought to settlement management, having the option to help out other Wasteland citizens in this way adds hours of gameplay, and almost changes the face of the game itself. Add this to the franchise’s trademark dark sense of humor, and you’ve got yourself a well-fleshed out open-world game in which to explore the end of the world.
Often compared to the “Fallout” franchise, “Metro” takes a more serious look at life after total nuclear annihilation. In the game, Russian civilization has retreated into old subway tunnels, and journeys up to the surface world are fraught with radioactive material (necessitating a gas mask with filters that need to be replenished) and mutated monsters. “Metro” follows a more linear storyline than the open world of “Fallout,” and the game’s strength lies in the tension it builds as you navigate your character, the young Artyoom, through dark tunnels infested with nefarious creatures. “Metro” also adds tension through its resource management mechanic; bullets are in short supply, so you have to aim carefully, or you risk being caught without a weapon in a dangerous encounter. This lends a sense of realism to the gameplay, because you are forced to make choices based on the scarcity of needed items, much like players would presumably do in a real post-apocalyptic situation.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
This game has possibly the most interesting post-apocalyptic aesthetic among triple-A titles today. Instead of dark and dingy ruins, “Horizon” takes place several hundred years after the apocalyptic event, and nature has taken over, leading to lush and brightly colored landscapes. In this world, society has reverted to a mixture of primitive tools and technological remnants, leading to interesting combinations like mechanical plating for armor. The world is also populated with animal-like machines that pose a threat to the player, who can hunt them with a bow and arrow. “Horizon” also utilizes an open-world format, but with limited fast-travel (you have to craft a special pack that contains resources in order to fast-travel between campfires). The player must also engage in resource management, making sure that they have harvested enough resources from nature to keep their health pack full and to be able to make arrows. The game also contains crafting and modification, but everything is easily accessible and not terribly complex, since the game has a heavy focus on telling stories.