Empires of the Undergrowth review – everything that doesn’t kill us will be eaten

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Empires of the Undergrowth review – everything that doesn’t kill us will be eaten

Empires of the Undergrowth is a hands-on survival strategy game in which players take control of a real colony of ants. You will have to think through a system of underground passages, help your charges resist threats, store food for future use, monitor the population and, of course, protect the queen. We’ll tell you more in the review.

  • Developer: Slug Disco
  • Publisher: Hooded Horse, Slug Disco
  • Platforms: PC
  • Release date: June 7, 2024

In Empires of the Undergrowth, you lead an ant kingdom, and like Dungeon Keeper’s Dungeon Master , you must clear hexagonal cells by telling the worker ants which ones to remove.

In these cells you build various ant nest structures, such as nurseries for soldiers. Building nests and hiring new ants is paid for with food. The worker ant brings the egg from the queen to the manger, from which a new ant hatches. After this, the worker brings another egg in case the ant dies, so that it can be immediately replaced by a new one.

Empires of the Undergrowth review - everything that doesn't kill us will be eaten
Empires of the Undergrowth review

You also build storage units to store food. By default, the amount of food is limited, so the ants move their prey to storage rather than to the queen. Food is the single most important resource necessary for the survival of a colony. But all living creatures, if your charges deal with them, are ultimately converted into food, so it is very important to weigh your forces before drawing dangerous ant trails.

All built cells can be improved, but for this there should be no open spaces next to them. Moreover, cells of the same type must be adjacent to others in order for their improvements to affect each other.

Empires of the Undergrowth review - everything that doesn't kill us will be eaten
Empires of the Undergrowth review

Thus, in order to grow a large and strong ant of the third level, there must be at least several cells of the second level around its nest. For the construction, improvement and hiring of ants, food is charged – the only resource of the colony, so its availability must be monitored especially carefully.

Ants are controlled through pheromone groups. One of the groups takes care of the nest and consists of working ants. These ants dig tunnels, collect food and care for brood. To continuously complete tasks, you must always leave some ants in this group. Direct commands cannot be given to them.

Empires of the Undergrowth review - everything that doesn't kill us will be eaten
Empires of the Undergrowth review

For groups that can be controlled directly, you indicate the route to follow using pheromone tags. For example, soldiers can be sent to collect provisions. Having set a mark, ants from this group will follow it and collect food until the mark is removed.

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During underground construction and on the surface, your colony will encounter many different creatures – from various larvae and pupae, and harmless woodlice, to adult beetles, assorted arachnids and wasps. Sometimes the colony will have to confront real giants, such as dragonflies, scorpions, mantises and even reptiles. To defeat the latter, your ants will have to literally surround your opponents, constantly inflicting fatal bites on them.

Empires of the Undergrowth review - everything that doesn't kill us will be eaten
Empires of the Undergrowth review

You will also be in charge of a wide variety of ant species – from the most common types, to tropical leaf-cutter ants and termites.

Empires of the Undergrowth review - everything that doesn't kill us will be eaten
Empires of the Undergrowth review

The main campaign is centered on the formicarium, and in order to progress through it, your colony must participate in sometimes inhumane experiments by scientists. A development system will help you overcome them, which will allow you to endow the ants with new properties, significantly strengthening or speeding them up, as well as unlocking new species for the main colony.

For these purposes, the game provides tests where you temporarily take control of another colony of ants, for which the developers set a variety of tasks – from arranging a nest in a rotten log to destroying a hostile colony or a particularly large enemy.

It’s funny that when you go through these tests, a voiceover comments on the events, as if the action is developing on the screen of a popular science program. This way you also get tips on game tactics – an interesting and very atmospheric solution.

Empires of the Undergrowth review - everything that doesn't kill us will be eaten
Empires of the Undergrowth review

With the release, many interesting innovations have been added to the game. First up is the final stage of the Formicarium story mode, which includes three new documentary missions with full voice acting and new artwork, as well as a final climactic challenge.

Additionally, playable Matabele ants and termites will be added to custom game modes, as well as many new creatures for single player, custom games, and arena mode . There will also be New Game Plus, which will allow you to replay the campaign with additional improvements and increased difficulty.

Empires of the Undergrowth review - everything that doesn't kill us will be eaten
Empires of the Undergrowth review

Among the main shortcomings of Empires of the Undergrowth, one can note the not very successful implementation of indirect control of ants, which is why sometimes, although extremely rarely, your pets become stupid and enter into battle very late.

The main problem for me personally was the inability to save while completing tasks. Some challenges can last over an hour, and a single mistake can cause the game to fail . It would be nice to be able to create checkpoints for this case.

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