Scratch your post-apocalyptic gaming itch with picks from the ROG team

Articles: Gaming
Jul 04, 2020 Written by:Eric Born

The Playstation-exclusive The Last of Us 2 has turned more than a few heads around the ROG office (and around the world) of late. In the week after its launch, it seemed like the gaming community talked about little else. Did it live up to the high standard set by its predecessor? Was its ending satisfying? How did they manage to program the incredible in-game rope physics? The discourse just didn’t quit.

Those of us without a Playstation in our entertainment center have had to sit on the sidelines of these discussions. If you've got a gaming PC, you don't need to let it sit idle while you hope for a PC port of The Last of Us 2. If all that chatter has you itching for a post-apocalyptic adventure, there are plenty of incredible PC games set in the rubble of civilization to choose from in the meantime. Here are a few of our favorites.

Protect your colony from a new ice age in Frostpunk

PC gamers have been building cities and civilizations for decades, but the genre has seen a transformation recently in games like Frostpunk. This colony sim tasks you with the delightful busywork of planning roads, making buildings, and managing an economy, but instead of pitting you against enemy AI civilizations, as Civilization does, Frostpunk challenges you to defeat nothing less than the unforgiving elements of an entire world frozen over.


Image source: Gamesplanet

Every moment is a battle against starvation and cold, and there are no simple answers to your problems. Hastily constructed tents will offer temporary protection from the cold, but once storms start sweeping through you’ll need to have more substantial structures with full stockpiles of food and coal if you expect your colonists to survive.

The game’s genius really becomes clear once you start digging into its legal system. You can solve some problems by declaring new laws for your struggling outpost, but don’t expect your colonists to be happy about the results. You can stretch the colony’s rations by serving your colonists soup, for example, but that will lower your people’s morale. Test their patience too far, and they’ll throw you out into the cold without hesitation.

Frostpunk is like a leadership seminar with rewarding gameplay. The game’s excellent and affordable DLCs offer inventive twists on the main game’s premise, so if you see the full bundle on sale doesn’t hesitate to snatch it up.

Nier: Automata pits androids against alien machines in the ruins of civilization

Set in a post-apocalyptic future, Nier: Automata follows the story of 2B and 9S, two androids battling against alien-made machines to protect humankind. At first glance, the plot seems pretty straightforward: Aliens invaded the world using mindless machines of destruction, and the humans created an army of lifelike androids to fend them off. As you progress through the game, you’ll find out that the real story is even more complex than the title’s own lineage.

nier automata

Image source: Gamesplanet

Nier: Automata is the sequel to Nier, and takes place thousands of years in the future. Nier is itself a spin-off from the Drakenguard series, and it takes place after the events of one of that game’s several possible endings. Don’t worry if it sounds like you need to do a lot of extra homework before you can dive into Nier: Automata, though. There is virtually no narrative connection to any other games in the series, making it easy for anyone to pick up.

Like many action role-playing games, the combat is primarily hack-and-slash. You’ll chain lighting-quick light attacks and slower, but more powerful heavy attacks as you fight your way through mechanical foes. You’re also assisted by a small Pod, a helper robot that has your back with a variety of ranged attacks. Occasionally the game will thrust you into the role of mech pilot, where the game plays more like a top-down arcade shooter, adding a pleasant variety to the gameplay.

Nier: Automata continues to get more complex the longer you play it. The game gradually introduces you to new attacks, weapons, and abilities that make the combat more exciting and varied. As you continue through the plot, the story begins to unravel, and your world gets turned upside down. It may not be your typical post-apocalyptic story, but the ruined cities and scraps of humanity that you discover along the way tell the tale of a world ravaged by war and time in a way that keeps you invested from start to finish.

Hold out against the undead hordes in They Are Billions

Zombies and post-apocalyptic games go together like popcorn and movies. They Are Billions cleverly combines elements of real-time strategy and tower defense games in a world swarming with the undead. Your goal is simple: survive. Establish a perimeter around your command center, recruit some colonists, and build some powerful defenses, because every round ends with the arrival of a massive zombie swarm.

The game’s brutal survival mode caught the attention of many gamers during its early access period. It officially moved to full release with the launch of a single-player campaign, but survival mode is still where it shines. There are several unique map options, each with their own unique challenges, and also several tools for adjusting the difficulty. Notably, you can select the starting density of the undead on the map as well as the amount of time you have before the final swarm arrives. Don’t wimp out on these settings—getting a high score on the global leaderboard requires you to take some risks with the difficulty.

They Are Billions thankfully gives you unlimited time to pause and plan, because every moment is tense. If a zombie reaches your colony’s housing, your game is almost certainly over. Colonists hit by zombies turn infected themselves, so a small incursion rapidly turns into an all-out infestation. Good thing you’ve got a full array of soldiers, barriers, and defensive structures to call on. Construct some walls, first of wood and then of stone, and surround them with spikes. Build guard towers, and fill them with merciless snipers. And late in the game you can reap the rewards of your investment in research by deploying massive death-dealing robots, soldiers equipped with flamethrowers, and massive towers that discharge electrical bursts through rank upon rank of the enemy.

Surviving your first swarm won’t be easy, but it’s absolutely worth it. As the game’s name implies, the final zombie hordes fill the game map with an astonishing number of units. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of watching the defenses you built with blood and tears get swarmed by a sea of undead enemies—and hold. After you get comfortable with the game’s systems, there’s plenty more to hold your attention. The granular difficulty settings offer rewarding challenges to overcome, and you can try to claim the top spot on the leaderboard for the weekly map challenge.

Solve the puzzle of consciousness (and also lots of puzzles) in The Talos Principle

Perhaps you’re hoping to sharpen your mind in humanity’s ash heap? You’re in luck, because there’s a deep catalog of post-apocalyptic puzzlers for you to explore. Portal and Portal 2 loom large in this space. For something a little more off the beaten path, the Q.U.B.E. games, The Witness, and Antichamber all offer a garden of puzzle-solving delights, though they’re all only loosely set in post-apocalyptic worlds.

talos principle

Image source: Gamesplanet

The Talos Principle more cleanly fits our post-apocalyptic theme. The development team behind the classic Serious Sam games had some puzzle ideas that didn’t quite fit into Sam, so they spun them off into their own title. In The Talos Principle, your character is a robot with some degree of self-consciousness. You’re given puzzles to solve by a disembodied voice named Elohim, but computer terminals scattered throughout the area tell the story of humanity’s downfall and suggest that there’s a greater purpose at play in your tasks than Elohim suggests.

The story is thought-provoking and engaging, and The Talos Principle’s puzzle mechanics set it apart from the pack. The game starts with the staples of the genre, like beams of light and movable cubes, but once you experience the game’s implementation of time travel you’ll understand why it received so many accolades. Often, you’ll need to pass through an area twice, deliberately setting certain elements in motion in just the right sequence so that you can overcome obstacles the second time through. Even though the final puzzles get quite complicated, the game has a smoothly increasing difficulty curve that culminates in an encounter that’s satisfying both for how it wraps up the storyline and for how it employs all the skills you developed along the way.

Connect with classic PC gaming through the Fallout series

Need we introduce one of PC gaming’s most storied franchises? The Fallout games have captivated gamers since the launch of the first title back in 1997. They offer a compelling open-world role-playing experience in the dusty ruins of a society destroyed by atomic war.

fallout nv

Image source: Gamesplanet

Fans of the series argue passionately about the merits of each Fallout game. Our consensus is that Fallout: New Vegas is an amazing piece of storytelling that’s still worth a playthrough, even if its engine is a bit behind the times. Those of us who played Fallout and Fallout 2 back in the ‘90s can’t quite let the newfangled versions take all the glory, though. Fallout 76 had a rocky launch, but many gamers report that the new Wastelanders expansion is a welcome step in the right direction. Other members of the ROG team cite Fallout 3 as a formative gaming experience, and if you love shaping unique weapons and settlements among the ashes of civilization, you'll love Fallout 4.

Whatever Fallout game you choose, you’ll find grim environments, Googie architecture, hostile creatures, and humans twisted by radiation and black humor. You’ll have to make many choices as you traverse the wastes. In the wake of the most crucial moments in Fallout games, you may wonder long afterward whether you made the right decision—assuming you don't just take advantage of the series' freedom to revel in dishing out chaos and destruction. Right and wrong get blurred in the desperate struggle for survival. You might find yourself playing through a Fallout game several times just to try out a few different personas and play styles, and with hundreds of hours of content potentially at your fingertips in each one, you can stay lost in the wastes for a long time.