Ant colony management game, in a fast-paced real-time strategy style. The player excavates their nest underground, constructing tunnels and chambers to store food and raise brood. On the surface, the ants claim territory, gather resources, overwhelm fearsome arachnids and clash with other colonies.
Recent Reviews:
Mostly Positive (56) - 71% of the 56 user reviews in the last 30 days are positive.
All Reviews:
Very Positive (707) - 92% of the 707 user reviews for this game are positive.
Release Date:
Dec 1, 2017

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Early Access Game

Get instant access and start playing; get involved with this game as it develops.

Note: This Early Access game is not complete and may or may not change further. If you are not excited to play this game in its current state, then you should wait to see if the game progresses further in development. Learn more

What the developers have to say:

Why Early Access?

“Since releasing our first demo in Spring 2016 we have received mountains of feedback from the community, which has been constantly shaping the game’s core mechanics and features.

We feel this has ultimately resulted in a better overall game and we want to continue moving forward with help and suggestions from players.

A side effect of this iterative community focused development, is that whilst we have been putting more time into tweaking the game’s inner workings to create the ideal mix of ant colony realism and compelling gameplay, it has put us behind schedule in terms of producing a final product that we can label as “complete”.

We have now reached a point where we are able to release something far grander than the original demo. However, while we are confident about the state of the game’s mechanics, and the amount of playable content currently available, there are additional game modes, creatures and abilities that we are still working on. All of these will need balancing, and that process works best with player input.

It seems to make little sense holding back the game’s release for what could be another 10-15 months of development whilst we work on additional levels, and features. We would much rather continue our work in the same manner as we have done for the past year: with the help of our enthusiastic ant-loving community.”

Approximately how long will this game be in Early Access?

“We estimate 10-15 months of further development with community engagement.”

How is the full version planned to differ from the Early Access version?

“The main difference between the full version and early access versions will be the number of playable missions. New missions will be introduced over the course of Early Access, and these will feature new ant species, enemy creatures and environments.”

What is the current state of the Early Access version?

“We have re-structured some parts of the game specifically for early access. The early access version includes four stand-alone missions with unique creatures, music and narration as well as a short “formicarium” story mode. This content is considered to be complete and unlikely to be added to between now and final release (except for potential bug fixes, performance updates etc). Therefore the experience should be similar to the final product. Over the course of early access, we plan to introduce new content as blocks of complete missions, ready to play.

Bugs are also an inevitable possibility (the software kind), however we are beta testing separately and will make every effort to resolve issues before pushing early access updates.”

Will the game be priced differently during and after Early Access?

“We have no plans to change the price when we leave early access”

How are you planning on involving the Community in your development process?

“We try to facilitate community feedback and engagement wherever possible. Since we released our first demo last year, we have received over 1000 feedback messages that are publicly visible on our Stomt page. We read all of these and they have significantly shaped the evolution of the game - especially when we start to see the same point raised more than once. Longer discussions take place on our forum and we always respond to Facebook messages, as well as anywhere else we find players who want to get involved with the game’s development.”
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Recent updates View all (9)

March 12

February 2018 Newsletter

Hi all - gosh, March already! Time flies when you're having fun - and for that reason it certainly flies when you're developing a game about ants. We've recently been assessing the way we tell you all about the future of the project, and we realize there's a deep need for us to communicate better - as we posted in a mini-update a couple of weeks ago. Although we have been developing Empires of the Undergrowth for several years, we only launched on Steam in December and therefore we're new to having a big community that we have responsibilities to. We want you guys to feel justifiably assured that things are progressing well (as they are) - and for this reason we're going to be doing our best to communicate here. We've been doing these newsletters for some time - but this is the first time we've worked out that we can actually post them properly formatted to Steam, rather than just a link to elsewhere. Always learning.

Screenshot credit: Garenator on Steam

We're certain that we don't want to rush - and that's always been the case. Our modus operandi has been quality first - ultimately, we're making our dream game here and we want it to be great just as much as you do. Given our limited resources (our team size is 3) we've made decisions - like not releasing small, incremental updates and instead focusing on the bigger picture with larger updates. That's because the whole process of an update is a drain of resources and time. In a larger team or for a game of lesser scope, this might be doable. We feel we're in the right place here.

With that clarified, due to many understandable requests, we've made what is often referred to by makers of early access products as a "road map".

Road Map

A road map refers to a rough outline of how a developer intends their project to progress. It's usually an abridged version of the internal plan the developer has, as it is in our case. This is ours for the remainder of 2018.

You'll notice that it's rather vague - this is deliberate; as we'll talk about later in the newsletter - software development is so unpredictable that even the most seasoned veterans have real difficulty in pinning down exact release dates. However, you can see that we plan on releasing the third tier of the Formicarium in the summer (Major Update 1), and the Freeplay mode before that. All of this, by necessity, comes with the caveat that it's subject to change.


John, after moving house, has been continuing his work on Freeplay mode. He's recently been working on the vast amount of options that the mode will allow - the difficulty slider will feed in to many different things that affect how the game will play. In this stream recorded in February, you can see him tweaking things such as creature temperament, and connecting all the disparate systems that need to work in harmony in order for this game mode to become a reality.

A poppy head "landmark" - this will drop seeds for your colony in Freeplay

It's clear from the complexity of Freeplay that a lot of its enjoyment factor will come down to the setting of parameters - and for this reason it's definitely going to be a mode that will be balanced and tweaked extensively. We're going to need your feedback on that one - and that brings us to the matter of when we release it. As mentioned earlier (and is discussed more extensively below) deciding on an exact release date in this line of work is folly until you're sure - and even giving vague guesstimates is usually pointless. The best we can give on this is "a few weeks". We hope you guys understand why.

A tiger beetle guards a dead fish in Freeplay

John is continuing his streaming after a short break for the aforementioned house move - it's usually on a Thursday afternoon, Greenwich mean time. For now, John is working the notice on his day job and that will continue until the Easter break. After that, he's a bona fide full-time Empires of the Undergrowth developer and the streams are likely to become more scheduled and regular.

A landmark occupied by aphids - landmarks can take a wide variety of forms.

A Little About Leaf Cutters

As previously announced, the next species of ant added to the game will be Atta cephalotes - a South American leaf cutter ant. These ants don’t eat meat - although they can give you a particularly nasty defensive nip with those huge mandibles, they're in it purely for the leaves. The colony forms distinct trails as it searches for suitable leaves, before cutting them down in a variety of ways and transporting them back to the nest. Here, the leaves decompose due to a mutual relationship the ants have with a special kind of fungus - and it is the fungal growth itself that the ants feed upon.

Although we've had a bit of variation of sizes between ants before (between workers, soldiers and upgraded ants) that's just peanuts to leaf cutters. Atta cephalotes is a very distinctly polymorphic species - meaning it has within it several "castes" of ant that exhibit obviously different traits. The "minors" are undeniably tiny compared to the "majors" - which can be several times as long and more than 100 times the mass of the minors. They have unusually-shaped heads that house the huge muscles needed to power their slicing jaws. There is also an intermediate "medium" caste.

An Atta cephalotes major, giant mandibles and head muscles visible. Photo by Alex Wild.

In our game, the majors will certainly be formidable in combat - huge, imposing and a target for enemies (we will be introducing a "taunt" mechanic that makes enemies want to attack them preferentially). However, all 3 of the castes will be intrinsically involved in what leaf cutters do best - cutting leaves. Each one will have a distinct role that, when used efficiently, will speed up production of your colony-sustaining fungus. We don't want to spoil it too much, so we'll leave it there for now!

Dealing With Delays aka "when it's done"

So, a bit of self-reflection and commentary on development as a whole for this section of the newsletter. "When it's done" has become a meme relating to game development for good reason. We suddenly have a large audience - and with that comes expectations. That’s been a bit daunting but we'd like to think we're learning quickly from the experience.

Delays are frustrating for both developers and consumers. It’s a considerable risk to even give an estimate of when a feature or product will be ready without total certainty. A recent example of that unexpectedness for us is the way that we've been decorating our levels - the Unreal Engine that powers our game has changed in such a way that the method we were using is no longer viable. So, Matt has been working on a custom plugin to help him do the artwork - as a necessity, but it's a drain on time we couldn't have predicted before it happened. On the plus side, in this case - the new method comes with a performance boost.
In 2015 we failed our first Kickstarter - and took a philosophical approach to our failings. We're always learning.

Communication is key - from the point of view of our small team of 3 developers and 1 social media guy, 3 months is not a long time between updates - however, in the eyes of the consumer who is used to quick patches for their games, it sets off alarm bells that the game is abandoned (we've heard that word used more than once in concerned forum posts). This isn't the case - we're just a smaller team and things are going to take time to be done properly. We don't have the resources of the team behind the excellent Factorio, for example.

In a small way the early access model doesn't help these concerns - people know they are paying for an incomplete product and therefore have to have some faith that the investment they're making now will be returned by a great complete product. We'd just like to assure you all that things are progressing well, and the deep transitional phase that Slug Disco is currently undergoing will soon be finished. Once is it, we'll have 3 full-time developers working on Empires of the Undergrowth.

Screenshot Central

We like to trawl through the Steam screenshots of EotU every so often. Here's a few of our favorites from the past few weeks! To get some great screenshots yourself press F9 (by default) in-game to enter Photo Mode.

It's all about that butt - because that's where the eggs come from. Credit: Serafine

Invaders! Credit: Charles the Bald

Sorry, but our queen is hungry. Credit: vervedan
44 comments Read more

February 25

What We're Up To Right Now - How EotU Is Coming Along

Hi ant fans! We're increasingly hearing complaints that we're not being communicative enough. We do our best - but we're new to this, so we're always learning. This isn't going to be a full newsletter (that will likely come next week) but just a bit of a round-up of what we're up to currently.

We've heard a lot of people fearing that the project is abandoned or in trouble due to a lack of updates - far from it! In fact the game has been successful enough on Steam that all 3 of our developers have been able to quit their day jobs and will soon (but not yet) be working full time on the game! Given the small size of the team we prefer to release larger, more complete updates rather than lots of smaller ones. Every time we update development is slowed for the testing and compiling processes - so you can see why this is our preferred model.

All 3 of our developers will, from April, be working full-time on the project. Naturally the pace of work will speed up then, but please be aware that 2 of the 3 are still working their day jobs up until then. So please welcome John and Liam, the newest full-time Slug Disco employees!

Thanks to Exquisite Bolagnese for this screenshot!

We'd hoped to get Freeplay mode out to you in February, but that is unlikely now and it's looking more like March. These things happen all the time in game development (as I'm sure you're aware - even the really big developers have trouble pinning down release dates for features) and although it's frustrating we're not going to give you something we feel isn't fun and worth playing.

We are doing some new stuff for Freeplay - check out this poppy head model! This is one of several "landmarks" that can appear in a Freeplay map - the landmarks will take random forms on loading. The poppy heads will drop seeds for your ants, giving you a regular food supply - but free food won't go unnoticed.

We've recently finalized our plans for the third formicarium tier - which will feature leaf cutter ants (Atta cephalotes). The mechanics they'll use to harvest leaves for food will be integrated closely with the different castes that exist in their society - which includes really huge Major ants, as well as Medium and Minor castes. We're excited to be adding some more complexity to the game mechanics in the levels going forward.

And finally, we're working on the challenge mode for 2.1 and 2.2. "Ant" and "lion" should rarely be uttered in the same sentence, let alone the same word!
66 comments Read more
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About This Game

"Your queen has set up home beneath a rotting log. She is fat, and vulnerable. Her first brood will need to move quickly if the colony is to survive. Their priority now is to find food, and there is plenty around; but there are other hungry creatures in the undergrowth. The workers will need to be vigilant."

Empires of the Undergrowth is an ant colony management game, in a fast-paced real-time strategy style. The player excavates their nest underground, constructing tunnels and chambers to store food and raise brood. On the surface, the ants claim territory, gather resources, overwhelm fearsome arachnids and clash with other colonies. Nest design, army size, composition and attack timing are key to securing victory.

Missions are narrated from the perspective of a documentary film maker studying the ants, who offers intelligent insight into the goings-on of the colony and the undergrowth beyond. The primary game mode in early access is Formicarium, where you take ownership of a home colony of unique DNA-harvesting ants as they work to assimilate the desirable traits of their foes. You can upgrade them by playing one-off missions, sometimes with your home colony and sometimes with other ant species.

  • Carve out and construct your underground nest to suit your strategy
  • Engage in fast-paced colony versus colony combat above ground
  • Play as different ant species and explore their unique traits and weaknesses
  • Encounter and overpower dangerous beetles, arachnids and other awesome arthropods
  • Grow your pet formicarium over time by completing missions

System Requirements

Mac OS X
SteamOS + Linux
    • OS: Windows 7 64-bit or higher
    • Processor: Intel Core i3-4340 / AMD FX-6300
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: nVidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB / AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB
    • DirectX: Version 11
    • Storage: 2 GB available space
    • OS: Mac OS X 10.12.6
    • Processor: Intel Core i3-4340 / AMD FX-6300
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: nVidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB / AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB
    • Storage: 2 GB available space
    • OS: Any reasonable new Linux distro (Ubuntu 16.04)
    • Processor: Intel Core i3-4340 / AMD FX-6300
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: nVidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB / AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB
    • Storage: 2 GB available space
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