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Empires Of Undergrowth Review (PC)

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Empires Of Undergrowth Review

I've always had a fascination with ants. These tiny creatures can build dunes that are more than ten times their size. Their sheer determination to turn grains of sand into towering structures is awe-inspiring. So, when Slug Disco Studios launched their game in early release in 2017, it instantly caught my attention. Everything, from the mechanics to the visual presentation, was captivating. 

Now, the studio has released the full game, and it is nothing short of breathtaking. If you're an ant enthusiast like me, you'll easily spend hours engrossed in this game. Even if you're not or have a touch of arachnophobia, you can still have a blast with this title. How, you ask? Read on to discover all the features and mechanics of this sandbox game. Without further ado, here is our review of Empires of the Undergrowth.

Tiny Titans

ants vs scorpion

Empires of Undergrowth is not just a game. It's an educational journey into the world of ants. It's like having an ant farm, where you can observe the ants start from surface level and burrow their way down, creating intricate tunnels. This virtual experience, created by the team at Slug Disco Studios, is a testament to their dedication to providing a unique and educational gaming experience. It's a game that lets you walk—or, shall I say, crawl—miles in these creatures' shoes. 

The game has four modes: tutorial, story, custom game, and arcade. If this is your first time playing the game, you'd naturally go for the tutorials. This eases you into the title, making your experience wholesome and worthwhile. The story mode is interesting, as it also features humans and, of course, their borderline diabolical wishes. This serves as the game's primary mode, where you play from a formicarium. 

You start with a queen and a few ants under the careful observation of two scientists. The game doesn't give them names, but I'd like to call them the Sinister and Wily. Sinister, the female, is like a Roman emperor who wants nothing more but to be amused.Even though it entails the ants being torn limb from limb by larger creatures, Wily remains a timid yet cunning scientist who faithfully obeys his master's commands.

Your mission is to expand your colony by digging more tunnels, expanding food resources, and spawning more ants. The game's intuitive interface gives hints in the form of falling lightbulbs that appear to the right of your screen. If you skipped the tutorial, you could still figure your way around the colony.

Busy As an Ant

ants working

In Empires of Undergrowth, the possibilities are endless. Before spawning new ants, you need to stock up on food resources. To gather food, you must expand your colony. The map conveniently points out where the next food resource is, which are often worms shaped like tiny croissants. However, beware of the red exclamation marks that indicate enemies nearby. These creepy crawlies have an insatiable appetite for your little friends. Fortunately, with enough ants, you can defeat them and add them to your food pile.

You can earn more resources through documentary missions, similar to the formicarium challenges but with a twist. These missions feature a documentary-style narration and standard ants, meaning you can't apply your customizations. Each mission introduces a new species and unique challenges you must overcome. Beating these challenges grants you more resources. It's interesting how this mode reuses enemies from previous levels to keep things challenging. If you're worried about repetitive gameplay, Empires of Undergrowth offers a wealth of content to keep you engaged.

Moreover, the game's campaign is divided into experiments or formicarium challenges. Each level varies in difficulty, testing the strength of your ants against enemy creatures. The first and second experiments introduce wave attacks that will ruffle your feathers. The next experiment ramps up the difficulty with encounters against an enemy colony. In the final experiment, you face off against the Titans. By this stage, your ant colony should be composed of the toughest breeds. You can do so by keeping track of your different species from the adaptations menu, which gives you a glimpse of the various ant tiers in your colony.

Bugging Out

colony

Empires of Undergrowth's core gameplay loop revolves around expanding your colony, fetching more food resources, and keeping your queen safe. Expanding your colony is seamless if you have enough tiles, which you can acquire by completing more missions. You can choose the purpose of the tile from the bottom-right menu. If you wish to add more food storage, the icon with cutlery creates tiles meant for that. You can also set up breeding grounds for your ants to hatch. Notably, this comes at a cost. The more formidable the ant species, the higher the cost. Additionally, you will need male ants to fertilize the eggs. Once ready for hatching, bringing these creatures to life will cost you some of your food resources.

The neat part is that every ant born in the same nest belongs to the same pheromone group. This means that after they hatch, they get right into sourcing food. You can, however, assign pheromone groups to specific tasks or areas using place markers. 

Ideally, it is an integrated system that keeps you hunting for more, showcasing how busy ants can be. There is simply no rest. This gameplay loop keeps you engaged endlessly. At no point would you want to see your colony suffer from a lack of workers, right? Plus, you have enough space for expansion and food resources waiting in your vicinity.

Critter Chaos

ants vs fish

Besides the campaign mode, Empires of Undergrowth features an arcade mode where you can set up death matches. It's ideally an arena for critters where you take on other creatures twice your troop size. In real life, it's typical to see a group of ants devouring a worm or locust, and you can't help but wonder how they did that. Well, arcade mode gives you a front-row seat to the action. You can test just how strong a creature is when pitted against another. The game allows you to execute these attacks manually or on command. 

Moreover, the game treats you to extra levels where you earn rewards, such as new playable units or enemies. The levels have specific objectives that guide the gameplay. For instance, babysitting, the other foot, Extremis, and Excavators levels are meant to survive waves. The rest of the levels are divided between resource management and unique gameplay. 

One of the standout aspects of the gameplay is the different species of ants you can control, each with unique abilities and characteristics. From the robust and aggressive army ants to the agile and resourceful leafcutters, each species requires a different approach.

However, it's no surprise that even if you complete the first mission, you still fail to protect your queen. You won't know you're ready until an army of black ants strikes your colony and takes out your ants in a jiffy. This means you'll need to rethink which upgrades or ant species you need to unlock first. 

The Good

Ants Empires Of Undergrowth

Empires of Undergrowth knocks it out of the ballpark. From the presentation to the various modes, the title does an excellent job of keeping players engaged. The narration also touches on realism, with scientists eager to perform experiments and witness the outcome. As a fan of both strategy games and nature documentaries, I find myself irresistibly drawn to this innovative real-time strategy game. Empires masterfully combines the strategic depth of classic RTS titles with the fascinating intricacies of ant biology, delivering an intellectually stimulating experience.

Moreover, the game's art direction perfectly balances realism and stylization. This feature makes the underground nests and surface environments believable and aesthetically pleasing. The underground sections feature meticulous detail, showcasing the complex tunnel networks and chambers that ants construct in real life. Plus, watching your ants scurry through these labyrinthine structures, carrying food or engaging in combat, is incredibly satisfying.

The game's impressive visuals are complemented by its sound design. The ambient sounds of nature, from the rustling of leaves to the distant calls of birds, immerse you in the game's world. The sound effects, such as the crunch of mandibles during combat or the scurrying of tiny legs across the ground, add a layer of realism that enhances the overall experience.

Finally, Empires of Undergrowth offers a high replay value. The variety of missions, strategic depth, and continuous introduction of new challenges ensure that players will return to perfect their strategies and expand their colonies further. 

Verdict

scorpion in Empires Of Undergrowth

Empires of Undergrowth carves its niche into the crowded RTS genre by offering a unique blend of strategic depth and natural realism. Its engaging gameplay, stunning visual presentation, and immersive sound design combine to create an entertaining and educational game. Whether you are a strategy enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply looking for something refreshingly different, Empires of Undergrowth deserves your attention. Slug Disco Studios has crafted a gem that entertains and inspires a deeper appreciation for the tiny yet remarkable world of ants.

Empires Of Undergrowth Review (PC)

Ant-astic Strategy Fun That Will Have You Crawling Back for More

Empires of Undergrowth combines RTS and simulation in a fast-paced environment. It’s an exciting outlook into the world of ants that draws you in with its diversified gameplay, which keeps every experience refreshing.

 

Evans I. Karanja is a freelance writer who loves to write about anything technology. He is always on the lookout for interesting topics, and enjoys writing about video games, cryptocurrency and blockchain and more. When not writing, he can be found playing video games or watching F1.