I love the sub-genre of games referred to as “Survival-craft”. They are games built around my favorite parts of gaming. Exploration of an open world, management (Of your stats, health, hunger, etc.), using your wits to figure out what to do and how to do it instead of having your hand held. Truly they are my favorite genre.
That said I’ve never been able to get into roguelikes. ASCII graphics are painfully obtuse, the controls of such games are at best difficult and at worst impossible, and of course managing all of the required stats with basically no GUI is a gargantuan task usually. There are some that try to alleviate this somewhat. Tile-sets, easier controls, less stats to manage, but in my opinion it usually takes away the fun of it all (other than the ASCII graphics. I’m not hardcore enough to like them.)
My love for the survival-craft genre goes further than my distaste for roguelike and adding in a zombie apocalypse for good measure just peaks my interest further. That’s what Cataclysm Dark Days Ahead is about.
Cataclysm Dark Days Ahead (Henceforth just CDDA for ease) is a roguelike survival-craft game with RPG elements set in a zombie apocalypse, sort of. At it’s core, it has brutal difficulty, ASCII graphics, perma-death, and can be rather difficult to use the controls and GUI. You have to manage several stats including hunger, thirst, morale, and focus among other things I’m sure. You also need to be mindful of a handful of weather, the day night cycle, seasons, and various environmental hazards both natural and man-made. That isn’t even counting the zombies and other horrible monsters.
In my first play through I had to contend with rain before I saw my first building (besides the one you start in). Rain isn’t so bad right? Well after a short while it became acid rain. That particular storm wasn’t painful, but I shudder to think what could happen later in game. I took cover in a gas station that was surrounded and filled with buried landmines. Trying my hand at diffusing one to get into the cabinet on the other side, I set the bomb off, and wounded my right arm. Out behind the gas station, I found many logs, a hack saw, and an axe, which I took to replace the metal pipe I was using. On my way further down the road I was attacked by a pack of wolves that I beat off with my wood axe, but was heavily wounded and subsequently clawed to death by a ‘Jabbawock’. If fantastical creatures and hell spawn aren’t your forte though, there is an option to use only classic zombies and normal wildlife (wouldn’t have saved me from the wolves though).
In typical roguelike style, making your character involves choosing normal RPG stats, traits, a pre-apocalypse career, and skills. I believe my first character was an unemployed asthmatic, forgetful, insomniac with a bad back and jittery hands but beyond all that was basically a ninja (including training in ninjitsu). You chose these traits, stats, and skills by starting with a small pool of points. Everything takes a certain amount of points, but you can get more points by taking bad traits. While there are only a few occupations you can choose, and just 4 stats, there are a wealth of traits and skills you can use to customize your characters.
All in all it is a typical ASCII roguelike with a variety of option and gameplay styles you can use. The setting and the survival elements really sell it for me, though I don’t know if it is something I’ll play all day every day. It, like most rouge-likes with a lot of features, is a game that is more fun to talk about and hear about than to play. It is currently in development, so it may get more features in the future though don’t hold me to that. The game is open-source, free, and on Linux, PC, and Mac, so if any of what I mentioned interests you even a little bit, I’d suggest getting it.
Published by Christopher Howell