Set in the irradiated 2080s, Postworld is a post-apocalyptic shooter that takes a bit of Fallout and blends in a scoop of survival RPG and a helping of third-person shooter. Still in early access, Postworld comes from indie Russian developer Screwdriver Entertainment and although it has a solid premise and a few mildly original ingredients, the game is still very rough around the edges and unfortunately, deep into the core as well.
Survival games are characteristically frustrating in the early hours of gameplay due to the relative weakness of the player character. This is certainly the case in Postworld, where enemies are unrelenting bullet sponges and the player can be eviscerated by a single shot or melee strike. Players often gripe about the lack of realism in shooters, where there is nothing like the kind of real-world damage that even a small caliber round can cause. Postworld attempts to raise both the level of gore and “realism,” but proves that neither are entertaining or fun if they’re clumsily integrated into poor weapon mechanics and unfair enemy placement. AI — which is primitive and utterly lacking in tactical smarts — is only one undercooked aspect of Postworld’s enemies, most of whom are simply nonreactive, static props until triggered.
Postworld’s core gameplay consists of moving from location to location on an overworld map of the wasteland in the service of completing main story and side quests from NPCs. Either through player choice or an enemy encounter, play shifts to a third-person camera and morphs into a traditional shooter RPG. Resource collection and crafting, buying and selling consumables, armor and weapons work in the usual ways with a couple of unique elements. Since weapons and armor pieces are modular and cobbled together from scrap and salvaged parts, it’s possible to craft a huge variety of unique firearms and melee weapons. Postworld attempts to replicate Fallout’s body part-specific targeting and destruction. The results are less successful, though, in part to the game’s imprecise combat which has almost no real feeling of weight or impact, despite the gouts of pixel-heavy blood and bone. From character movement to melee animations, barren, detail-poor landscapes and structures, Postworld looks and plays like a last-gen product, and not in a cool, “let’s have fun with a retro feel” kind of way. Graphics are everything, but Postworld’s concept hinges at least in part on immersion.
Assuming one can survive the first few, frustrating hours of Postworld, the player character can join one of three factions — Cultists, Slavers or Railwaymen — and this sets in motion a long series of faction-specific quests and story beats which are presumably unique. Unfortunately, Postworld’s very rough and sometimes nearly incomprehensible English translation creates a pretty big barrier to entry when it comes to caring about the NPCs or the story. Although it can be amusingly weird in the moment, the poor localization just adds to the feeling that Postworld isn’t nearly ready for a wider audience.
It seems that small team indie games are most successful when they have a clear, unique vision and they scale their ambitions back to being achievable at a high level of quality. In the case of Postworld, the intention is obviously to create a convincing post-apocalyptic landscape populated by all manner of survivors and things to make, do or fight, motivated by interesting stories and characters. At least in its present state, Postworld isn’t quite working in any of these key areas.