CiviliZation? Emerge: Cities Of The Apocalypse Demo

Emerge: Cities of the Apocalypse [official site] suffers from a condition that is becoming more and more common. Experts call it Ludorum Malitituli, which is Latin for “Bad Game Titles.” It’s been spreading so quickly, lately, we don’t know how to stop it. There is no cure.

However, if you’re one to look beyond appearances, you may find love, or at least a good time, where you least expect it. It’s a strategy game that combines turn-based planning à la Civ with real-time tower-defense combat, and it’s doing its best to survive on Steam Greenlight. I tried the demo – but it’s not safe to talk about that here. Follow me to the safehouse, on the other side of this barricade.

Here we’re safe. We don’t have to worry about them.

Emerge: CotA is a post-apocalyptic game about surviving the zombie apocalypse together with the few survivors you find along the way. After creating your character – gender, picture, class and starting weapon – the game begins, and it feels almost exactly like a Civ game. You have control over a single district of a city that needs to be scouted out. Immediately a lot of gears start turning: there is a research tree with 3 major branches (science, technology and commerce); there are two currencies as well as various resources that cannot be stacked from one turn to another, like technique and science; each area you control provides some of these resource, as well as space to build improvements and defenses. In short there is quite a bit going on. Most of these systems should at least be familiar from other strategy games, but the tutorial does a good job of going over each of them in turn.

That’s the macro level. On the micro level you have to manage your character as well as your allies. You can buy weapons and assign them to each person according to their ability to wield them, which can be improved with experience points. Also, while you’ll be directly controlling your character, you can set some guidelines for how the AI of each individual ally should behave. These two parts of the game come together during the fights against the Undead.

Each turn you have a number of Action Points which can be spent on various action, most importantly scouting a new area, or trying to gain control of it. At the end of your turn, the zombie horde will also move. Whenever survivors and zombies clash on the same zone – whether they attacked you or you came to them – a real-time fight begins, which will see your party on the right against the zombie horde on the left, separated by a barricade. At that point it’s a matter of clicking on their bodies or on their heads and killing them before they destroy your barricade and overrun you, all the while managing your resources and dealing with the zombies’ different abilities.

This seems to be the main gameplay loop. If you want a small recap of all that, this trailer will be your friend.

I actually quite like the aesthetic in the pictures, especially when it comes to humans – the cool and scrappy cyberpunk of a dark future.

Impressively, Emerge is made by one chap, solo dev Emilios Manolidis.

I know what you’re thinking: that you’ve seen some free flash games that do the same thing. And you’re not entirely wrong, but I haven’t seen one myself that does it this well, or that has this much going on. It doesn’t look particularly innovative, but the time I spent with the demo has left me feeling like it’s a solid game, one that does old things quite well. Of course, you can always try the demo for yourself.

Just don’t come back if you get bitten.

21 Comments

  1. jonfitt says:

    The strategy layer sounds good. I’m not too sold on a realtime clicky combat minigame. Even the battles in Endless Legend and Elemental get tired after a while. This sounds like it might become tedious quickly.

  2. TWChristine says:

    This sounds like a souped up version of a game I played for a while back in 2007 or so. It was a text based (I think?) internet game where you chose to either be a survivor or zombie (and if you were bitten, you became a zombie). You had a certain amount of terms every hour, and you could collect items, move around and search buildings, build barricades, etc. Occasionally zombies would find your barricaded buildings and try and break in to kill you. It was kind of fun..I guess mainly due to the stress of “I have to go to work/sleep now, and I won’t know if I survive until 8 hours from now.” The main downside was the griefing caused by A. Giant hordes of zombies that would sweep across the map, and B. Living people that would tell their friends on the zombie side where large groups of survivors were holed up.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    MelodyMeows, is that you?

    • Melody says:

      It is me. Hi :3

      • April March says:

        Melody! You made it to the other side of the comment barrier! I’m so happy for you! Think of us when you’re sipping absinthe in the Horace-shaped couch (yes, the couch is infinite – that’s why there’s only one).

      • Hobbes says:

        I like the look of the game, and the cut of your jib. I shall investigate, oh, and excellent writing on your blog \o/

  4. braven5 says:

    resolution! grrrrr

  5. SVW says:

    The top screenshot reminds me delightfully of Chaos Overlords, one of my favourite games ever. In some ways this sounds a lot familiar to it as well.

  6. Palindrome says:

    I tried the demo and the combat is not only uninspired it is also horribly balanced and not much fun, to the extent that it completely spoils the rest of the game.

  7. AngoraFish says:

    Sounds almost exactly like Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville, which I can’t recommend highly enough – with clicky combat added. I’m not sure that clicky combat’s going to be a great addition to what’s essentially a 4X game, but I’ll add this to my watch list.

    In the interim, back to playing Rebuild!

    • froz says:

      Sounds almost exactly like The last stand to me ;). Or maybe a mix between rebuild (turn based strategy) and the last stand (real-time action defense, but it also had strategy turn-based layer on top, though not very complex).

      Anyway, sounds worth checking, both games I mentioned were good.

      • John O says:

        Yea i was getting very strong “Last Stand” vibes as well. There’s several in the series, each offering something good, but I mostly remember part 2 and blasting Zombie faces for hours

  8. The Librarian With No Name says:

    I had no idea Rebuild 3 existed, so thank you! I loved the original flash version, and wished there were more to it.

  9. megazver says:

    I don’t like it. I’m pretty sure he designed the entire economy by picking numbers at random. Here’s the most obvious example:

    Tier 1 workshop/lab/trade post costs 500. Tier 2 costs 900. But what if you want to upgrade 1 to 2? Well, you can click upgrade and pay 650 to upgrade for the total of 1150.

    Or you can demolish it for a refund of 250 and pay 900 to built a tier 2 for the total of 750. There are no other costs – time, action points, anything – that explains the difference.

    Everything else had as much design thought put into it.

    • froz says:

      So, as you noticed in the other post, upgrading from tier 1 to 2 costs 650 in both cases. What exactly is the problem with that?

      • megazver says:

        It just takes the 650 in addition to the 500 you’ve already spent. So it’s 900 if you buy it new, 1050 if you use the upgrade button and 650 if you scrap and buy it new.

        • froz says:

          Unless I’m still missing something, your logic is incorrect. You are adding the starting cost to build tier 1 in one case and not in another, hence the difference.

          Scenario 1:
          – you spend 500 to get tier 1
          – you upgrade it for another 650
          – you spent 1150 total

          Scenario 2:
          – you spend 500 to get tier 1
          – you delete it and get 250 back
          – you build tier 2 for 900
          – you spent 500-250+900=1150, same as scenario 1.

          So, the total is exactly the same.

          It’s definitely not random, I would rather say it was designed intentionally that way, so that when you upgrade to tier 2, you pay full price – refund of tier 1.

  10. megazver says:

    Blah. It’s 650, of course.

  11. vdweller says:

    Hey thanks a lot for the article! It’s very hard to become noticeable in this endless sea of games!