The year is 2667, and North America is just starting to recover from the end of the world. Feudal societies and strange religions dominate the continent in its neo-medieval age. This is the setting for After The End, one of Crusader Kings II’s most popular and comprehensive total conversions.
Inspired by (among other things) the 1960 post-apocalyptic scifi novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, After The End welds a convincing Fallout-style America to the Crusader Kings 2 mechanics. The initial release included only the East Coast, with the modding team gradually working west. After a surprisingly short period of development, Calfornia is playable and the entire map is filled out, from Bermuda to Seattle, the Arctic to Guatemala.
The actual event that caused the downfall of the United States 600 years before After The End is only hinted at – it could be plague, or nuclear war or something else. What is known is that it massively depopulated the continent and set civilization back thousands of years. Only by the 2600s is the recovery truly underway.
After The End’s developers milk their fantastical setting as far as they can, filling the map with great flavor. My personal favorite is the work they put into the religions. The various forms of Christianity form a plurality, of course, though with some tweaks and oddities (ask Pope Praised-Be, who reigns in St. Louis, for more details). But the fracturing of society means that more fringe beliefs have exploded in popularity. There are the Rust Cultists, who scavenge for old-world relics and prize the technology of the ancients. Consumerism is a radical new belief whose adherents worship the Almighty Dollar and tirelessly perform the ritual of Shopping.
My favorite might be Americanism, which worships the Founding Fathers as gods and includes the President as a sort of democratically-elected Freedom Pope. Players who run for president can spend their ducats to hold opinion polls and
launch attack ads dispatch Attack Heralds to demonize their opponents.
Also quite fun to play are the Atomicists of the Southwest, who hold holy the relics of the nuclear age. Those who receive the Blessing of the Atom earn the respect of their brothers in the faith – and also, probably, radiation sickness.
Of course, it’s not just the former United States featured in the mod. In Canada, Ursuline Catholics, High Church Anglicans and neo-First Nations groups like the Haida battle for dominance, all the while contending with the piratical Brethren in their lairs along the coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Mexico mostly follows the mystical Catholic-derived Sagrado Corazon religion, though neo-Aztec beliefs are spreading in the south.
Part of the fun is something that Europeans have enjoyed about CK2 for some time: digging around, finding your home county, and turning Podunk City into the capital of a sprawling empire.As an example, my home of Oklahoma is a divided, multicultural land, with white Texan and Dixie cultures ruled over by resurgent Comanche and Cherokee tribespeople. Local sports teams are often reincarnated as mercenary bands. Look out for the cavalry charges of the Brave Men of Atlanta, or the California-based Cult of the Apple.
The mod is loaded with easter eggs and references from American history, pop culture and folklore. This Reddit post compiles many of the best, and players can almost always spot a new tidbit of local flavor. Look for Kate Beaton in the Maritimes, the Always Sunny crew in Philadelphia, and Lovecraft references galore in Occultist New England.
This wonderful, engaging setting is welded on to CK2’s already excellent gameplay. The latest versions of the mod take advantage of the new Horse Lords mechanics, with Tribal and Nomadic governments roaming the northern Great Plains, and Silk Road-style trade routes splayed across the continent.
There are a few flaws and bugs that occasionally crop up, as you’d expect for a mod that is constantly in development. Still, I can’t help but be honest about this: I have genuinely enjoyed After The End, and plan on playing it quite a bit over the coming weeks. If you’re interested, the places to check out are the CK2 modding forum thread and the Github repository.
Expect to see After The End streamed on our Twitch sometime soon!