The Next World is a survival/strategy game set after your colony ship crashes on an alien planet. In the aftermath of the crash, you take command of the ragtag group of survivors as you search the wastes for supplies and attempt to build up your base, all the while searching for answers to explain why your mission went so wrong.
A great deal of the game and its story exists in visual novel segments featuring character sprites overlaid on a number of backgrounds. The charm of this particular art style shows through in the shading styles and coloring that illustrate a deserted, gritty world. The roughness and utilitarian style fits perfectly with the survival aspects of the title.
While the story isn’t very long (we’ll get back to that), The Next World has a relatively tight narrative that stretches the player’s resources thin. The game’s story serves to put pressure on the player to not only survive on the planet, but also to placate the populace by providing answers about your mysterious crash on the planet. Juggling exploring, scavenging, and retrieving vital tech from the crash site is a delicate balance that requires a great deal of thought.
Speaking of the story, the narrative is simple by most standards, but it very much fits with the overall tone of the game. In between strategic thinking, you’re greeted with visual novel-esque dialogue scenes that expand on the characters and their lives before the journey, all the while trying to piece together exactly what went wrong with your voyage. It’s not revolutionary or life changing, it’s just quiet and perhaps a bit introspective.
As a survival-strategy title, The Next World is all about building up the small base you’ve created with stuff you find around the crash site. Habitats, reactors, mining equipment, it’s all important to creating a self-sustaining colony. A great deal of this is very strategic, as picking which modules to install when can mean the difference between losing the game or managing to hold on for another week.
Even so, the battles later in the game and the exploration mechanic, things that seem like they should be strategic in some way, are mostly RNG (random number generation) based and can go either way without any real input from the player.
I played through the game several times in preparation for this review. To me it seems that there are two sorts of playthroughs in this game. In some plays, you’ll find yourself slaving away, desperately trying to claw your way to self-sufficiency, and watch your colonist die off in mass numbers, all because you had a lot of bad luck at the beginning. These plays are long, and a bit disheartening.
And then there are the playthroughs where everything goes completely right. These playthroughs are over within 6-8 hours, and it feels like less.
You are a slave to RNG in The Next World. While there is definitely a great deal you’ll learn on different plays of the game, a great deal of the game manages to become about how lucky you are in the first two weeks. As a result, this game will kill you. Repeatedly. It will be painful, and it will definitely hurt.
Tutorials can only get you so far when that rover can’t find the damn reactor pod. Worse yet, you only have so long to get your base up and running before you’re hosed.
All in all, The Next World is a quality survival-simulation that depicts a small group of people (particularly after you lose a bunch of them getting the base up and running!) trying to survive on a faraway planet. The story, which is delivered through visual novel-style dialogue segments, is quiet and simple, but appropriate for the setting.
Problematically, the story is relatively short overall, with most playthroughs rarely lasting much longer than 7-8 hours if you’re taking it slow. In addition, it’s very linear, which undercuts the importance of dialogue choices available throughout the story. This exacerbated further by the relative importance of random chance in the gameplay. While your decisions definitely have an effect on morale and resources throughout the game, luck will end up doing you more good in the long run.
Even so, with a solid story and gameplay that is as robust as it is, The Next World has more than enough merit to warrant a look if you’re a fan of difficult strategy games, or a story gamer looking for something short and sweet.
You can purchase The Next World on Steam.