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 (24) - 95% of the 24 user reviews in the last 30 days are positive.
All Reviews:
Very Positive (954) - 91% of the 954 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 (23)

November 6

September / October Newsletter 2018

Winter is... approaching. Since the last newsletter we’ve released what we’ve called the “interim update”, version 0.13 - interim meaning between Freeplay and the upcoming major update. That update introduced the planned challenge modes to the 2nd tier Formicarium levels, added a new level to Freeplay, addressed several issues, and included a spooky spider-based extra that you guys seemed to have a lot of fun with. In the meantime, the guys have also been working solidly on the next set of levels for the game, which of course will feature leafcutter ants. Let’s dive in and see how we’ve been doing!

V0.13- Interim Update

Our intent when releasing the Interim Update was to fill in some clearly missing gaps in the game as it stands, consolidate the game systems for future updates (and deal with issues arising from those system changes sooner rather than later), as well as giving you guys some fun extra stuff to do in the meantime. We also re-designed the main menu for clarity, going back to a more traditional system.

Tiger Beetle Larvae

The 2nd tier Formicarium levels (2.1 Rising Tide, and 2.2 Queen of the Hill) have gained their own challenge mode. In the 1st tier levels, activating challenge mode introduced a new creature to the fray (the mole cricket). In keeping with that spirit, the 2nd tier introduces the beach tiger beetle larvae - the juvenile form of the tiger beetles that are found in these levels. They live in small burrows in the sand, hiding away for safety but listening for the vibrations of a suitable meal. They will snatch ants away one at a time, then quickly kill them - and it is in that brief moment alone that they are vulnerable.

All about the beach tiger beetle larvae

We’ve particularly enjoyed seeing some of our more seasoned players reacting to the difference the presence these critters makes to the level experience - on higher difficulties, the number of larvae that spawn can be huge! As always, there’s a way to overcome these difficult odds with skill and experience.


Towhead is a brand new Freeplay level. It’s set on a small island or sandbank near the mouth of a river, and has some features that make it an entirely different experience to The Dunes (our first Freeplay map). Firstly, it’s a lot smaller which makes the experience of jostling for resources significantly more intense. It also has a unique element - a periodic flood, which will purge the lower level of the map of all creatures. This is an optional addition to the map, but if activated it adds an extra thought and planning element to your food collection.

Towhead in all its glory

The release of Towhead also saw some necessary balance changes to Freeplay in general. After listening to some feedback by players, we’ve changed it so that at lower difficulty early game time, only lower-level creatures will spawn. This change happened in patch 0.133 - click here to read the full notes from that patch.

Minor Improvements System

The Minor Improvements System has been added as a way to spend spare Royal Jelly. Some players have been sitting on a cache of jelly with no way to spend it, and some players find themselves with some left over after they’ve purchased their desired upgrades. The MIS allows players to spend initially small amounts of jelly to make improvements to their ant’s stats. The amount of jelly this costs will increase exponentially after multiple purchases, so there is a practical limit to how much a colony’s ants can be upgraded.

The Minor Improvements System in action

To access this new system, open up the Royal Jelly Tech Tree Menu from the top-left of the Formicarium hub. Select the icon of the kind of ant that you’d like to improve, and choose the jelly icon that pops up.

Please don’t feel that you need to grind for Royal Jelly to use this feature; it really isn’t intended to be used that way (hence the increasing cost for additional improvements)! It’s more a way of spending left over jelly efficiently before you progress to the next Formicarium tier.

Extra / Improved Dialogue & Audio

We’ve recently done our recording sessions for the third Formicarium tier levels with our three voice actors. It all went swimmingly, but while we were at it we asked them to record some extra bits and pieces that we felt were missing from the existing game content. This is most apparent in Freeplay, where the narrator now introduces your fledgling colony to its world when the game starts.

Scientist #2 will also give some vocal indication when he drops food on the Formicarium surface during the gateway missions, and we’ve re-recorded Scientist #1’s voice lines entirely with better recording equipment. Whilst doing that, just about all the game’s audio has gone through improved filtering for consistency and clarity.

Ant Movement / Swarming

In preparation for the aforementioned major update, the code that governs the movement of ants about the nest and above ground has undergone an extensive re-write. Leafcutter ants, which will feature in the major update to come have a complex, multi-caste society and getting them moving efficiently around their environment has necessitated the creation of several new systems for movement and swarming. These are now also driving ant movement in the current build of the game - but you shouldn’t notice a huge difference right now. We’re laying the groundwork for the future with these changes.

Swarming ants

Hungry Spider Level

It was a pleasure to be able to have a little surprise ready for you all in time for Halloween! We’re delighted with how well the Hungry Spider level was received. For those who didn’t catch it, a cobweb appeared on the main menu, which when clicked would take you to a special level where you play as a ravenous wolf spider, with your aim to consume everything in your path. It’s a devilishly difficult level, with not many managing to complete it.

Some members of our community have written fantastic guides on how to tackle this fiendish level, which was unexpected and awesome. If you didn’t get a chance to play, don’t worry - the cobweb will return whenever there’s a full moon!

It was great for me (community manager - Mike) to get a cameo in the game as the voice of the hungry spider!)

Leafcutter Progress

Whilst all this has been going on with the interim update, of course the guys have been hard at work with the third tier Formicarium levels. In the last newsletter we showed you all about the different castes that leafcutter ant society has, but this time we'd like to focus on their environment. As previously mentioned they will feature leafcutter ants, and are set in the subtropical rainforests of Ecuador. Our artist Matt has been hard at work producing some beautiful landscapes for our leafcutters to inhabit.

One of the beautiful Ecuador maps in all its glory

The above screenshot is from level 3.2 - we’re keeping the level names to ourselves for now, but you can see the detail that Matt has included to make these levels entirely unique to the beach environment that is featured in 2.1 and 2.2

Isn't it kind of cheating to use this?

As for the question of when we expect the leafcutter update to be ready, we have to be careful - history has repeatedly told us that we’re not very good at judging release dates, but we’re in pretty good company in that regard - even the really big studios have trouble pinning it down. Rest assured, Major Update 1 (as it’s described in our internal plan) is in good hands, and we appreciate the kind patience of you lovely bunch.

Leafcutter Enemies - Trap Jaw Ants

Leafcutters share their rainforest home with many other impressive animals. Trap jaw ants are one of their many foes, boasting the fastest-moving predatory appendage in the animal kingdom. Their jaws are so fast that they can close within microseconds, maiming their targets, or even using them to catapult foes or themselves away.

The leafcutters will encounter these ants in their various trials, and they're fearsome opponents.

YouTuber of the Month - Dad’s Gaming Addiction

DGA is a long-time follower of Empires of the Undergrowth and we always enjoy watching his relaxed, considered gameplay. He was one of the first to put up a play of the Hungry Spider level on YouTube, and although he may have been a little surprised at how hard the enemy wolf spiders bite, he came back for more anyway!

Freeplay High Score

Let’s introduce a little competitive element to Freeplay. The current highest-documented Freeplay score belongs to JaXm at 6,360,777, and he posted the screenshot on 31st July 2018 to prove it. Can you do better? Upload your screenshot to Steam or post it on our forums to let us know if you’ve unseated the current champion!

Screenshot Central

In making these newsletters, it’s always a cleansing experience to have a gander at the screenshots you lovely people have been uploading - because when captured at the right time, Empires of the Undergrowth can be a very pretty game. If you’d like to participate, submit your screenshots to Steam (F12 by default) or email them to !

A boquet of beetles by Martino

How could we pass up Limey21 with a total mastery of golden hour screenshots?

We couldn't ignore the beautiful layout of Enablin's base - look at the minimap to see what we mean!

10 comments Read more

October 31

V0.133 Released

Happy Halloween! That and a few more changes to 0.13 make it the perfect time to try out the Hungry Spider level (click the cobweb on the main menu - before it disappears!). We've also made a few other changes. Notes below!

General Updates and Fixes

  • Added warning text above the play button in level setup telling the player what they must click on to allow them to press the play button
  • Fixed an issue where root aphids would be spawned at 0,0,0 (causing ladybirds to fly to a very strange location in top left of Towhead)

Freeplay Balance and Fixes

  • Some balance changes have been added to Freeplay. This should allow players struggling to start a colony to get off the ground before harder creatures are about. For example setting the starting difficulty to zero will give player 15 minutes where only devil's coach horse larvae, wood worms and woodlice will spawn making the surface a lot more manageable.
  • Medium creatures will no longer spawn below 20% difficulty in Freeplay until 15 minutes have passed
  • Large creatures will no longer spawn below 40% difficulty in Freeplay until 30 minutes have passed
  • Removed the word none from freeplay scoreboard
  • The underground spider in Towhead has been replaced by a devil’s coach horse adult
  • Fixed and issue in Freeplay not displaying the green outline of tunnels to surface before dug out
  • Renamed map option in Towhead to Flood
  • Fixed an issue that would flood Towhead immediately at the beginning of every play (removing all food including fish from the lower level)
  • Fixed death sequences on Towhead (and the ghostly queen)

Hungry Spider Balance and Fixes

  • Slightly increased the spider's attack and Venom Strike speed
  • Fixed an issue that would cause the keyboard controls to stop working when trying to use an ability that is on cooldown
  • Fixed an issue with the spider's projectile causing some particles to fly off to the bottom right
  • Fixed a spelling mistake on the hungry spiders bite ability

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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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