LGR – Afterlife – PC Game Review
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LGR – Afterlife – PC Game Review

February 8, 2020


♪♪ [typing] Have you ever been playing
Sim City 2000 by Maxis and just thought to yourself, “Man, this game would be great,
if it would just go to Hell?” Or go to Heaven. Or hang around in Limbo for a while. Well, you would not be alone. In fact, there was a game publisher that you may not expect
to have come up with this idea. [VO]
Afterlife, developed and published by
LucasArts Entertainment in 1996 for DOS, Windows and Macintosh computers, although we’ll be looking at the
DOS and Windows version here. “The Last Word in Sims,” claims the box art boldly, and being a game by Michael
Stemmle, it has good reason to, being a designer at Telltale Games nowadays, and previously co-designer of LucasArts
classics Sam & Max Hit the Road and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. “Afterlife: Create the hereafter in the here and now.” A phrase so catchy that it
probably gave some copywriter an erection worthy of an emergency room visit. And to be fair, a vast majority of the game
revolves around puns and clever wording like this, so don’t expect it to end with the marketing blurbs. In fact, the box continues its cunning
antics with the package design itself. not only mirroring the logo to represent Heaven and Hell, but opening in the middle to reveal the contents. Encased within, you’ll find the game on CD-ROM, the twelfth issue of LucasArts’
product catalog, The Adventurer, “The Last Word in Technical Manuals” addendum, ads for the official strategy guide, and the jewel case manual. While this is helpful for understanding the
basic concepts of the game and interface, it leaves something to be
desired in terms of explaining the finer minutia of the game’s deeper concepts. Afterlife launches with a
before death intro cinematic, showing some poor alien
being operated on by a doctor that seems more interested in
swearing and hitting on his assistant than actually performing surgery. ASSISTANT: We’ve lost him. DOCTOR: Damn! DOCTOR: So… you wanna go out for a drink? This is Afterlife, a game where you don’t play doctor at all, but we already rendered this cool
animation and it was expensive, so we’re leaving it in there. Anyway, the game then presents you
with a decidedly average-looking menu, allowing you to start a new game,
load a saved game or scenario, watch the self-proclaimed cheesy video again, and a button that lets you quit if you want to, lets you leave your friends behind. Yeah, and if you want to jump right
into the game and start playing, you can choose a scenario, but you’re
gonna get boned by hard gameplay truth, unless you know how everything works first. So for that, you may as well start a new
game on easy and begin the tutorial. Not only do these eight sequences
show you how Afterlife plays, but they also introduce you to your two advisors: the demon Jasper Wormsworth and the angel Aria Goodhalo. ARIA: Hiya, Wormy! JASPER: Oh, look what the cherubs dragged in. We’ll discuss my compensation later. ARIA: Oh, pooh, don’t be such a meanie! LGR: These two are with you
throughout the entire game. Always available for a bit of comedic bickering, as well as functioning just like
city advisors in Sim City 2000. In fact, the entire freaking game functions
more or less the same as Sim City 2000, starting with the user interface itself. You’ve got scroll bars, drop-down
menus and a toolbar off to the left filled with all the main building,
viewing and informational controls, and the graphics imitate SC2K
and many other games of the time using a zoomable and
rotatable diametric perspective to simulate 3D graphics in 2D. So the basic gist of the game
is you’ve got a randomized map representing Heaven, Hell
and the space in between. It’s your job as demiurge of the afterlife to manage each of them to
give souls from the nearby planet somewhere to exist,
either in pleasure or in pain. Naturally, those in Heaven need
places to go to be rewarded, and those in Hell need
places to go to be punished. You’ve got angels and demons acting as workers but they’ll need souls to work with, so the first thing you’ll want to do is place a gate to both Heaven and Hell. And, yes, you need to place these
buildings in both realms separately, although there are some that
exist only in between realms, but we’ll get to that. Once you have gate, you’ll need to place roads, because apparently the afterlife is restricted
by the same Newtonian physics as Earth. Although, the manual makes it clear that
the nearby planet that the souls come from is not Earth, but is in fact a fictional alien world. Convenient, then, that the planet’s ethically
mature biological organisms, or EMBOs, are labeled with the same sins
and virtues we have on Earth, specifically in traditional Christianity. Which means you’ve got souls in Heaven
that lived by one of the seven virtues: contentment, charity, temperance, diligence, humility, peacefulness and chastity. And souls in Hell that lived by
one of the seven deadly sins: envy, avarice, gluttony, sloth, pride, wrath and lust. As such, you’ll need to zone areas for the dead that is appropriate to how they lived. You just click and drag to place
them wherever you have a free tile, and as long as you have resources,
transportation and demand, the zones will begin to develop on their own. These developments are known as Fate Structures, and each of them are creatively
designed to fit their sin or virtue, and often contain plenty of delightfully
dark humor in their descriptions. It’s very satirical, sometimes twisted, and often downright cynical, but it’s definitely one of
the best parts of the game. Reading about a place where
souls are always winning Publishers Clearing House-style prizes, or a torture device for gluttons that
works like a demonic human centipede, just makes me smile. Now you may think that all this talk
about souls going to either Heaven or Hell is oddly preachy or narrow in scope. After all, for being a game
made by a secular company about an alien species, this is a suspiciously Christian outlook. Well, the game takes that into account, too, featuring a belief system on the planet that affects how things go for you as demiurge. The souls on the planet have
different tenets in their belief system, where what they believe in life dictates what happens to them in death. For instance, some believe
ONLY in eternal damnation, some believe that they’ll punished and
rewarded for all their sins and virtues, some believe in reincarnation, and some believe in nothing at all. This can also be affected by the
goings on of the planet over time, so keeping an eye on the development
of the species can be just as important as keeping an eye on your
heavenly waters and lakes of fire. Over time, the species will grow as a culture, so if they stop believing
in the afterlife or go extinct, you’ll be out of a job. Conversely, if some terrible calamity
happens or a huge war breaks out, that’s great, and it means you can
expect a fresh batch of dead people soon. I can’t say I’ve played many games where
a plague or a violent uprising is good news, but Afterlife is certainly one of them. Beyond the fate structures, you’ll also
have to worry about transportation. Not just roads, you’ve got boats and docks to get
across the rivers of water and fire, as well as karma stations and karma trains where souls can travel to be reincarnated, if they believe in such a thing. These happen to exist in between Heaven and Hell, so even though the entrances are in each, they just kind of float in the ether. If you don’t have the appropriate structures around, you can also risk souls getting lost, and lost souls are bad for your bottom line. Limbo bars are one solution to this where souls can hang
around in Limbo drinking beer until you build the needed
reward or punishment for them. Likewise, if you don’t have enough
angels and demons working for you, you’ll have a problem of eternal significance, so it’s wise to build utopias and dystopias for angels and demons, respectively, which allows them to live near their workplace. But importing this spiritual workforce
from other afterlives is expensive, so it’s a good idea to build training centers to train certain souls to
become angels or demons that do your bidding without
having to travel from other realms. There are also other building like banks that provide loans if you get into trouble, as well as ad infinitum ciphons, which connect to rocks on the
eternal planes of Heaven and Hell and act like power generators, giving Fate Structures an extra boost. You also have to worry about
the “vibes” of your creations, since bad vibes in Heaven are bad and good vibes in Hell are bad. This works a lot like crime in Sim City, so it can be alleviated by
balancing out your Fate Structures and placing buildings that emit the needed vibes. Once you eventually reach population milestones, you’ll receive one of six special
reward structures for each plane, granted to you by the powers that be. Once again, just like Sim City 2000, these work like gifts and arcologies, and can be plopped anywhere
to help further your goal of creating a perfect afterlife. Lastly, you’ve got bad things, because bad things happen. And these work exactly like Sim City’s disasters. You’ve got Hell Freezing Over, the Paradise Pair of Dice, Hell in a Handbasket, Disco Infernos and more, that can all happen to your
planes at random unless disabled. And these serve as welcome distractions because, honestly, the biggest
complaint I have about Afterlife is that it gets incredibly tedious and samey. A lot of this has to do with the graphics, because while they feature
colorful and complex pixel art, they also feature colorful and complex pixel art. After a while, it all jumbles together and
makes it hard to see just what’s going on, and even if you disable Fate
Buildings from being rendered, there are plenty of others that can’t. And micromanaging the
balance of Fate Buildings and the needs of souls and workers is quite vague as well. Even looking at all the graphs and knowing
what to do once you figure everything out, it just often feels more like a chore rather than any kind of real fun for me. Apparently the official
strategy guide, that cost extra, goes into more detail as far
as how to balance everything, what to look for and what
to do when things go wrong, but it really should have been
included in the manual to begin with. And unlike a lot of LucasArts games, there is no specific end-goal, but there are certainly ways to lose. If you fail to balance your checkbook, or work your population for too long, you’ll have things like the
Four Surfers of the Apocalypso come surfing through and
wiping out the entire map with lava, or angels and demons getting fed up with unemployment and staging a war between Heaven and Hell. And while these things are fun to witness, it’s also far too easy for them to happen, unless you just stay fastidiously
on top of things at all times. And that is it for Afterlife,
and wow, what a game! While it may fall flat in terms of long-term playability for me, it makes up for a lot of that by luring me in with its endearing satire and atypical aesthetic. This game is just unique. There’s really something exceptional about planning the perfect row of torture chambers while one of the fantastically etherial compositions
by Peter McConnell plays in the background, and wondering when the next good flood will happen so you can just get more souls to pester. While it straight up duplicates a significant
amount of mechanics and style from Sim City 2000, I also think it’s enough of its own
thing to stand out, even to this day. Unfortunately, this game is not for sale anywhere at the time of this review, but if you do run across a copy and enjoy city builders, or just comedic treatment of death and eternity, Afterlife is a game to die for. Okay, maybe not. I just wanted to stick a death
idiom in there before this was done. ♪♪ And if you enjoyed this review and would like to see more
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