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:
Very Positive (26) - 88% of the 26 user reviews in the last 30 days are positive.
All Reviews:
Very Positive (884) - 91% of the 884 user reviews for this game are positive.
Release Date:
Dec 1, 2017

Sign in to add this item to your wishlist, follow it, or mark it as not interested

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.”
Read more

Buy Empires of the Undergrowth


Recent updates View all (18)

July 23

June / July Newsletter 2018 - Leaf Cutter Progress!

Greetings everyone! This has been another one of those months where the general timings and various circumstances have meant we've not managed to get the newsletters done to the regular schedule - so enjoy this newsletter for both June and July! The biggest news since the last newsletter is obviously the release of Freeplay mode on the main branch. It's been available for everyone for several weeks beforehand in beta form, so those of you who were most keen are likely to have been fairly familiar with it when it finally landed for everyone on 2nd July. We've also got some great progress to show you with our next Formicarium update - Leaf Cutters ants!

Freeplay Released!

The reaction to Freeplay has been very positive - you've been enjoying these longer-form games and the ability to save your progress in it has been welcomed warmly (even if getting the save system working has accelerated John's aging process!). There's still plenty we are planning to do with Freeplay mode - balance changes, more maps, more environments, more creatures, fully autonomous enemy ant colonies - all that good stuff is still in its future. For now, John has joined Liam and Matt to crank up development on the next set of levels, but Freeplay will be revisited soon. After new content is created for the next set of levels, it will be integrated into Freeplay like the content from the first two Formicarium tiers is currently.

Some crazy late-game Freeplay action here from Steam user Jumbo6565

It's been great fun seeing your Freeplay setups, from those who just want a nice chilled out, slow base-building experience to the fearless guys who crank up the difficulty all the way from the start! The current documented high score for a finished game that starts at max difficulty is very nearly 4 million on our official forums by Balanite - can you do any better?

Leaf Cutter Progress

Those of you who have been following us on our social media accounts likely know that we're deep into the creation of the next set of levels now, and we have plenty of art assets that the talented Matt has been working on. Leaf cutters are our next species of ant - Atta cephalotes to be precise, a South American species with some impressive traits. They're fungus farmers - they gather leaves from the surrounding environment and place them in chambers in their nest, where a fungus that has a mutualistic relationship with the ants will grow. The ants ensure the propagation of the fungus, and the fungus provides the ants with food.

Boasting four different worker castes, introducing this species to the game promises to bring some much-needed natural increase in complexity as the player progresses through the Formicarium campaign. Below are all of the completed ant models and a description of the caste they represent. Please note that in these pictures we've put the ants in the beach environment, for the sake of having them not floating in space - in their final levels they'll inhabit an entirely new biome - the rain forest.


No leaf is safe .... bow down to your Queen.

The mighty Leaf Cutter queen

Despite forming some of the most complex societies on Earth, Atta cephalotes is not a multi-queen species as many ants are. There is one queen who can live for up to fifteen years and she's rather large. Below you can see her compared to our fictional Formica ereptor queen (the species that inhabits your Formicarium).

The Leaf Cutter queen compared to the Formica ereptor one


The smallest members of Leaf Cutter society - the minims - are positively dwarfed by their mother. These tiny ants rarely, if ever, leave the nest - instead they work tirelessly to tend to the fungus gardens the Leaf Cutters rely upon to survive.

Minims are tiny compared to all other castes - here's one with the queen

In our current design the minims are not directly controllable by the player - in fact they're so tiny that enemies will practically ignore them too; but they can get damaged by crossfire. Rather than having their own brood chambers, a number of them will spawn for each brood tile placed for another caste. They're not just there for decoration, though - they have an important role in mulching the leaves gathered by other castes into the final form that can grow fungus.


After the minims, the next members of Leaf Cutter society are the minors. Being substantially bigger than the minims, these ants join the foraging trails, tend to larvae, cut and collect leaves, and help defend the nest from predators and other threats.

Minors will take on the EotU worker-like role

Leaf Cutter minors will take on a very similar role to the worker ants from the current species. Versatile units which form the backbone of the work force.


Next are the medium-sized media ants. These bad girls are much bigger than the minors, and they pack a serious bite with their slicing jaws. Formidable fighters in their own right, they're perfectly adapted for a life of cutting and collecting foliage for their colony's fungus gardens. A solid combat unit with strong resource gathering potential.

Now we're getting to the big girls!


In awe of the size of these ladies. Meet the Leaf Cutter majors - the deadly tanks of Atta cephalotes, and the largest of their species with the exception of the queen. These absolute units are huge soldiers - whilst they will collect leaves for the fungus gardens their main role is to fight and protect the colony. Huge muscles are housed in their heads which power mighty crushing jaws - they can easily cut through leaf, chitin and skin alike.

A Leaf Cutter major slicing effortlessly through foliage

Leaf Cutter majors will have either a "taunt" or a "stun" ability (player's choice, in the same way as rapid fire or mortar for the wood ants), representing their imposing presence on the battlefield. Taunt will make enemies want to attack them preferentially, whereas stun will temporarily disable nearby foes. Combined with their high health pool, this means they can efficiently distract whilst other units such as mediae get in extra damage to the affected creatures. They will also have an extremely powerful attack - although it is slower than that of their smaller brood mates.

A comparison of all of the Leaf Cutter castes

As you can see, Atta cephalotes is our first truly polymorphic species, with clear caste divisions throughout the colony. Although we do have "workers" and "soldiers" in the existing species, we've taken a little artistic license there since most Formica species are relatively homogeneous. Leaf Cutters show true diversity, and we're excited to get that into the game properly.

We're always a bit hesitant when it comes to estimating release dates for things - in no small part because we've proven ourselves to be pretty terrible at it. The plan on our road map says late summer - and that's still our aim. As always, this is not a promise - software development is such a complex subject that you can easily spend much longer on a problem than you thought you'd need to (and vice versa). That said, Liam will be recording with our voice actors soon and is making daily strides with his systems for fully-fledged enemy colonies, John is feeling energised after being able to work on something other than Freeplay and getting stuck into some Atta cephalotes AI action, and Matt is pumping out artwork and novel solutions to difficult stuff like vertical ant movement like it's his job. Which it is.

Screenshot Central

We sometimes like to show off some of the more aesthetically pleasing screenshots uploaded by our community - do it through Steam (F12 by default; it'll give you upload options when you end the game session), or you can email them to

Good capture of Devil's Coach Horse beetle using its spray attack by KLOGO-hoPPeR

A rather pleasing nest layout from Roflcopterkklol - almost looks like a beetle!

The low light of dusk, a splash of colour from the marker, a pleasing snap by Sammiday
26 comments Read more

July 2

Freeplay Mode Launched!

Freeplay Mode Added

Customisable - play your way!
Freeplay is a highly customisable game mode giving the player full control over what creatures and landmarks can spawn, how hard they want the game, how the difficulty of the game will change as time goes on and much more.

The Dunes Freeplay map – a monster of a map!

The Dunes is the largest map in the game to date, made possible through optimisation of the surface tiles allowing us to get more for the processing power. It boasts:

  • 4 possible start locations for the player’s colony
  • 120 by 120 surface tile grid (the previous biggest being 96 by 126)
  • 80 locations for landmarks to spawn and 25 locations for creatures to spawn


Freeplay colonies can be saved and returned to later, allowing you to take your time and even try that horrible attack wave again. For now saving is manual and there is no backup; we are planning on introducing backups in a future update.

Landmarks – let’s make this interesting!
Landmarks are various interesting points on the surface. They are randomised in look, functionality and location, will appear and disappear as your game progresses and scale with the difficulty setting.
    Aphid Farm
    • Has between 2 and 4 patches of 10 aphids
    • Has randomly generated plant decoration
    • Ladybird attacks increase with difficulty
    Poppy Plant
    • Will intermittently drop poppy seeds; the dropped seeds have a limited lifetime
    Funnel Web Nest
    • Generates dead creature chunks
    • Contains funnel web spiders that will kill nearby enemy creatures (from the player’s colony… or anything else it is big enough to take on!)
    • Number of spiders increases with difficulty
    • Has randomly generated stones nearby
    Dead Fish
    • A large source of food
    • Will attract enemy ants
    • Attracts large group of enemies of a specific type
    • This large group stays around the central point
    • The size of the group increases with difficulty

Creatures fight each other
In Freeplay mode creatures on the surface will duke it out with one another. However, they will not just attack anyone! Some of them will not attack larger creatures, or will ignore the smaller ones. In Freeplay every creature has a list of other creatures they do not want to fight.

Random start location
The player will start in a random pre-prepared start location. These undergrounds are similar in the resources that are available but the locations of resources are different, including where they start on the surface.

Day / night cycle and spawning
If turned on, the game will slowly tick from day to night and back again. When day turns to night nocturnal creatures will come out, and diurnal creatures will hide. Some creatures are about in both time periods. A full 24 hour cycle lasts 30 minutes in game-time.

Food spoiling
Creatures killed in Freeplay mode have a limited time to be harvested before they “spoil” and disappear (3m). Additionally, food generated by funnel web and poppy plant landmarks do the same so as to not cause too great a buildup of food.

Uber creatures – oh boy, it’s a big one!
Ubers are souped-up versions of some of the larger creatures. They can be identified by a red glow, increased size and will be announced in a message when they spawn. There are 4 types that are as difficult as each other and all provide 1000 food when killed. They take much longer to spoil than other creatures because of this (10m). The 4 types are uber hermit crab, uber beach tiger beetle, uber devil’s coach horse adult and uber beach wolf spider. Enabling Uber Creatures increases your score.

Attack waves
Up for a real challenge? With this enabled waves of enemies will spawn every 5 minutes after an initial setup period of 12 minutes. These wave will get stronger over time and do not drop food. How many can you survive? Enabling attack waves increases your score significantly.

Difficulty settings
Difficulty is handled differently in Freeplay mode. The difficulty changes as the game goes on and affects things such as the spawn rate of enemy creatures, how aggressive they are, how much food dead creatures drop and the difficulty of landmarks. You can set the start point of the game difficulty and how you would like it to change as the game progresses. There are several options.

  • Constant – the difficulty remains at the value initially set and gets no harder.
  • Ramp – the difficulty gradually increases at a steady rate.
  • Spikes – the difficulty remains constant however it will spike up in difficulty every now and then. It spikes for a
  • random amount and for a random length.
  • Ramp with spikes – the difficulty steadily increases as the game progresses but will every now and then spike up in difficulty. It spikes for a random amount and for a random length.
  • Scale With Colony – as your colony size increases so does the difficulty, meaning you should always feel a bit pressured no matter how well you are doing.
  • Random – every so often the difficulty is randomised and stays there for a random amount of time. Note you may end up starting at some very hard difficulty.

Nest entrance can be dug out, and are hidden until done so (visible on minimap)
In Freeplay, your route to the nest entrance is not dug out to begin with - giving you the freedom to plan your nest your way. You will know where the entrance is from the minimap, however you will need to tunnel to it to reach the surface.

Select your species
Choose from one of the species from the campaign (currently black ants or wood ants) or chose one of your Formicarium colonies to play Freeplay with! If you choose one of your formicarium colonies all the upgrades you have chosen for that colony will be available for your Freeplay colony (note the ants themselves do not transfer, just the upgrades).

Fog of war
Enemies and food will be hidden from you unless you are nearby, what will be lurking for you in the shadows? Fog of war greatly increases your score!

Soft population cap (Upkeep)
After a certain number of tiles have been built, further tiles will begin to increase in cost. This makes the end game more challenging whilst also keeping performance high. Workers have a seperate population. This can be disabled in setup.

So, what’s the point?
  • You are free to build up a colony and try and survive as long as you can! You can also try to score as high as possible as you will be given a score on defeat. This score is affected by several options:
  • Nest invasions increases score by 50%
    Uber creatures increases score by 10%
  • Attack waves increases score by 10%
  • Fog of war increases score by 150%
  • Disabling population upkeep reduces your score by 60%
25 comments Read more
See all discussions

Report bugs and leave feedback for this game on the discussion boards

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

What Curators Say

25 Curators have reviewed this product. Click here to see them.
Customer reviews
High Volume of Reviews Detected:
Exclude  or  View Only
Review Type

Purchase Type


Date Range
To view reviews within a date range, please click and drag a selection on a graph above or click on a specific bar.

Show graph

Display As:
Review Beta NEW!
When enabled, will sort reviews by new Helpfulness score. Read more about it in the blog post.
Show graph
Hide graph
Review Helpfulness Beta Enabled
There are no more reviews that match the filters set above
Adjust the filters above to see other reviews
Loading reviews...