Upcoming post-apocalyptic survival strategy game Homeseek, set to release in the late summer or early fall of this year, has a demo out on Steam that's surprisingly savage. You really just... don't get to save everyone.
In the world of Homeseek your region of Earth, at least, has become a dried-up dusty wasteland where water is precious and food is scarce. What little water you can find is often tainted, radioactive, or poisonous, and your little settlement is always on the brink of collapse.
Where in other games that's often just a thematic threat, Homeseek is broken up into missions, each of which has an objective, and resources are well and truly scarce. Just playing the demo gave me a sense of that: What little water we could pump from wells and food we could scavenge from bushes was often consumed that same day. The last few stragglers from the day's work often went hungry.
By the time we'd found a way out of the valley towards a new home, one with hopefully more water, I'd say only about 20% of those who joined my settlement were still alive. Your settlement resources have a carrying capacity, and it's on you to find it. (I did not find it, clearly.) It's an attitude that the game embraces. "Remember, you can’t save everyone, but you can ensure that every lost citizen has contributed as much as possible before perishing," says one blog post by the developers.
It was frankly quite cool to see a post-apocalyptic city builder that's built a world where you actually want to turn away people seeking to join your village, or avoid contact with larger groups in order to preserve your resources for the people you have now. On the other hand, sometimes however you need to bring in new people so that someone can operate the water purification system you just built.
As has become a staple in the genre, you can send out expeditions into the world around your village. That often means equipping them with some of your precious food and water for overnight journeys—which is really thematically rich. Sometimes people at home will need to go hungry so you can send food and water with the explorers who'll be finding a future for the group as a whole.
I quite enjoyed the demo for Homeseek on Steam, and I hope that with some more polish and mechanics refinement, along with a clearer explanation of how its game systems work, it'll make a nice contribution to the survival strategy genre.