It doesn’t take long after stepping into the frozen wastelands of Los Angeles that are depicted in After the Fall to feel overwhelmed. After meeting the main cast of characters, learning how to handle weapons and items, and eventually setting off on the first Harvest Run, stuff gets really intense really quickly. The friend I was playing with audibly chuckled when I gasped at the size of the first horde in our very first mission.
After the Fall is a game built with co-op in mind, but it’s not required. Regardless of your preference, when you load into the lobby and your device is connected to the internet, the area is filled with other real-life Harvest Runners. This makes it easier than ever to find people to play with because you can wave and say hello, invite someone to your party, or just quick match at the mission terminal. The game feels alive and populated without sacrificing the dilapidated and desperate story premise.
If you want to roll solo for a while instead of playing with friends or matchmaking in the lobby, your group for a Harvest Run will be filled in with AI companions. They’re pretty capable Runners that can fend for themselves, fight off a decent number of Snowbreed, and even revive you if you go down during a mission. It certainly beats playing entirely by yourself.
More important than your companions, though, is the arsenal of weapons at your disposal. Things start out modestly enough with a simple pistol at your side to get you through the first mission, but during runs you’ll find things like pipe bombs, shotguns, assault rifles, and more. You can holster up to two weapons on your hips, and ammo is stored in the vest on your chest, but if you get creative then you can hold two weapons and keep two more in the holsters.
Back at the base camp is where After the Fall’s secret sauce becomes apparent. There’s a shooting range full of targets so you can try out weapons — and there’s even an upgrade bench where you can spend the Harvest credits you earn on runs to craft upgrades for each weapon. The trick here is that you can only unlock upgrade recipes by finding the various floppy disks scattered across levels and then finishing the level to save the new loot.
From the workbench, you can create mods to attach to your guns, like new barrels, better grips, magazines, sights, and more. And then by completing challenges like getting enough kills with each type of gun, you’ll unlock new paint patterns as well. The gameplay loop itself is already fun, and when you add all of this on top it feels even more robust as a fully-featured game. It’s a good, addictive system that encourages replaying levels on higher difficulties to get better upgrades and new skins.
These are the most frantic undead hordes you can find this side of Left 4 Dead and Back 4 Blood. Throwing dozens of relentless, clambering face-eaters at you in quick succession is a tried-and-true method to elicit anxiety from players, and it’s no different in After the Fall. The first time I saw a horde spilling out from the tops of buildings and crawling out of crevices and from beneath wreckage, I could tell it would be the type of game that required staying mobile. You really need to keep your head on a swivel if you want to survive.
There’s a competitive PvP arena mode as well called the Thunderdome, but I haven’t had a chance to test my mettle against other players yet. I can only imagine how intense firefights probably get since the need to stay behind cover is far greater than it would be against undead creatures that only run straight towards you.
The brilliant thing about After the Fall is that structurally from a game design standpoint and narratively in terms of the story, it’s perfectly set up to facilitate new levels, new guns, new enemies, and more for a very long time. As new content is produced, Vertigo Games has the perfect delivery system with the way missions queue up and it’ll be easy to drop in content across the game seamlessly thanks to the mission-based segments and separate lobby area.
More content is on the way in its free Frontrunner season, including character customization options as well, so After the Fall seems like a game that will be worth leaving installed to check in on over time for quite a while.