Video Game / Cataclysm

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/cataclysmstart.jpg
As good a start to a spring as any.
Cataclysm is an open-world post-apocalyptic roguelike in the Zombie Apocalypse genre, although its enemy list also features killer insects, triffids, giant spiders, graboids, killer animals, turrets, entities from the Cthulhu Mythos, and probably lots of other things, just to be sure. You're an average person left alone in this hostile world, and your survival depends on your wits and what resources you can scavenge.

While bearing a few similarities to Rogue Survivor, Cataclysm stands out by leaning much more towards the simulation end of gaming than most roguelikes (indeed, most role-playing games, period). Your character's inventory is limited not only by weight, but by the storage volume their clothes provide. Instead of the usual Class and Level System, you learn different skills independently of each other, and they only improve through study and use. The sheer volume of different weapons, food, drinks, tools, clothing, armor, drugs, bionic implants, traps, and just plain clutter in this game is one of its proudest features. Monsters hunt by sound as well as sight, and a single non-silenced gunshot in an infested area can bring a zombie horde right to your location. Perhaps most importantly, the wound system in Cataclysm is very harsh. There are no exploding HP or easy healing in this game - characters can feel pain and be seriously impaired by wounds, and if you have no medicine or first aid skill, you'll probably be making a new character very soon. You can also abuse, get hooked on, and suffer the side effects of a wide variety of non-medical drugs.

Another unique feature is that the game's world map is randomly-generated as usual, but also permanent. New regions are generated as your current character explores farther from their starting point, but it's possible to re-discover regions where your previous characters explored and died.

While its wiki (and links to downloads and the official forum) can still be found here, Cataclysm fell out of active development in late 2012.

However, the project is now back in active development under the title of Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead, using the original source code and several popular mods as a base. It can be found here. Unless otherwise noted, the tropes listed here refer to this fork of the project.

Whales has confirmed his definitive abandonment of the original game and begun working on the sequel, Cataclysm 2, with a different focus than the original and DDA, and a different design perspective which will hopefully help with performance. Check the progress on the official Tumblr

Examples:

  • Abandoned Hospital/Abandoned Hospital Awakening: Available as a starting scenario. Considering it's not entirely abandoned, you'd better be fast on your feet or else it's going to be a really short game.
  • Abandoned Laboratory: Along with mines, abandoned laboratories dot the land and serve as the game's dungeons. Except that they're not always abandoned.
  • Abnormal Ammo: Incendiary and full metal jacket in some calibers. With enough skill, you can craft more exotic rounds, like HE shotgun slugs and acid 40mm grenades.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Sewers are generally 5-7 spaces in width. If the game went by d20 rules (which, for the most part it doesn't), one space would be 10 feet in width, length, and height, which would make it less of a sewer and more of an interstate freeway.
  • Action Survivor: The player character, by default. Especially if you never acquire the rather steep medical/mechanical/electronic skills needed to install your own bionics.
  • After the End:
    • And about 20 minutes after the end, from the looks of things.
    • It's actually exactly 8 hours after the end. Nice to see an apocalypse that keeps its appointments.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: The I'm a Humanitarian recipes. Examples include Cooked Creep, Niño Nachos, Jerk Jerky, Hobo Helper, and Soylent Slices.
  • Alchemy Is Magic: Introduced in an official mod, added to the experimental builds. In it are several craftable magic items, and the easiest ones to make are potions referencing the Opus Magnum.
  • The All-Seeing A.I.: The way this is handled is very fitting: most monsters, including zombies, can track you by smell or by sound, even in the dark. The game simulates your scent so that it spreads more if you stay on a place for too long, so zombies won't detect you immediately in the dark. They might find you by sound, but you can mislead them by throwing items away.
  • An Interior Designer Is You: There's a huge construction interface for remodeling any building you like into a somewhat secure fort, or even build your own from scratch. You can also build an array of pits, traps and furniture to decorate or entrench your home.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Justified and intentional, as most of the enemies are zombies. You can funnel zombies into a window sill and they'll just climb on top of each other trying to get to you, only to take a crowbar to the face for their troubles. They are also unable to grasp that stepping in and out of a broken glass window hurts them and causes them to bleed out. Throw down a molotov, and zombies will try to shamble through it, only to die after a few steps in.
    • NPCs and non-zombie creatures increasingly avert this trope, however, as the team continues to refine the AI.
  • Apocalyptic Log: What you find in some of the unique locations, which provides some of the sparse hard canon lore.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Safemode, which will refuse any input except one specific key wherever a hostile monster is found. Auto-Safemode reenables it after a set number of turns without enemies on sight. This has saved the lives of a LOT of characters which otherwise would experience "death by boredom". Both can be adjusted. The game will also prompt when the player is about to step on a dangerous square such as a fire or a (known) trap.
  • Atomic Superpowers: Radiation and mutagenic substances can give you mutations. If you're really lucky, they might even be good.
  • Armor Is Useless: Maybe not useless, per se, but you'll have to decide whether the protection and storage space is worth the torso encumbrance.
    • Averted with crafted armor; while expensive, a survivor suit will let you shrug off most attacks and lets you carry more than most regular items of clothing.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Shotguns in general, more particularly in Dynamic Spawn mode and/or with Wandering Spawns on. They are incredibly loud and a single shot will draw the attention of all neighboring zombies; unlike other guns, this is unavoidable, as silencers are off limits to them. They also have their dedicated skill and as such they are hardly useful outside emergencies due to lack of training. Most of them also suffer from being a Short-Range Shotgun. Ironically, the most useful of them all might be the Sawed-Off Shotgun, thanks to its decreased weight and volume and its status as an emergency weapon.

      On Static Spawn, with hordes turned off, Shotguns are more useful as you don't have to worry about zombies spawning out of nowhere. Instead, you have to know if there are any dangerous zombies in the area that could be drawn by your fire.
    • The coilgun is essentially the nailgun on 'roids. It has triple the range of the nailgun, fires easily-accessible nails, and it's near silent. However, it weighs a ton, requires electronics 3 to craft, and requires a powered and bulky UPS to fire. Unless you luck out and find one earlier, you are studying electronics to level 5 to craft yours. Each shot drains battery from the UPS, and dries a 100-battery charge after about 50 shots, requiring anywhere from 4 to 10 shots to kill a regular zombie. Moreover, a silenced .22 handgun fills the same purpose and its about as easy to find and keep loaded. It's also semi-automatic (the nailgun has burst fire).
    • Powered Armor protects you from almost anything, but is cumbersome unless you find a UPS and the batteries/fuel cells to power it. It also blocks the use of backpacks, sheaths, or any other items that can be strapped to you, and it has very little storage space unless you find a rare lifting frame. You also need to have both the helmet and the armor with you if you intend to use it. All this means that in most cases you're better off with lighter gear.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: Among the toughest vehicles in the game, though their limited field of view makes them Awesome, but Impractical. This is fairly easy to fix, however, for any character with a few levels in Mechanics and a welding machine, making them an excellent base for the rolling fortress of your dreams.
  • Badass Biker: One of the professions the player can start as. In addition, the Hell's Raiders are an NPC faction of biker bandits.
  • Badass Bookworm: Since reading books is the most efficient way to learn new skills, and a viable early game strategy is "Find a library and read the skill books until I've exhausted them", many successful characters end up evoking this trope at least a little. With the version 0.A release, this applies more than ever, where many skill books have over a dozen valuable crafting recipes, many of which will give you much easier access to rare and very difficult to find items.
  • Base on Wheels - The end reward of many hours of scavenging and a leveling a character up in the fabrication, mechanics, and electrical skills is the ability to construct one of these from scrap metal and duct tape. The latest experimentals and bundled "official" mods have taken this even farther by adding a slew of additional mounted weapons, reinforcement options, and utility parts, making it possible to assemble massive Mobile Factories studded with turrets and armored solar panels. Maniacal cackling as your gasoline-chugging building-sized mass of steel spews forth Bullet Hell upon legions of undead before crushing them and anything else in it its path beneath roller drums and caterpillar tracks before delivering the slurry of loot and pulped remains into waiting cargo containers optional.
  • Bare-Fisted Monk: There are many martial arts styles, each with its own pros and cons. They synergize well with "natural weapons", such as claws from mutations or retractable blades.
  • Bears Are Bad News: And zombie bears are even worse news. You can become a bear yourself with the Ursine Mutation branch.
  • Big Badass Rig: With a little luck and some mechanics skill, the only better mobile base is an RV. More often than not they're just wrecks cluttering up bridges.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Giant insects and arachnids are some of the many enemies you will encounter in this game.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: The zombies are stated as having jet-black eyes with a look of Unstoppable Rage.
  • Blackout Basement: And batteries are in high demand during the apocalypse.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: The "Monomolecular Blade" bionic upgrade, which the Bionic Assassin class starts with.
  • Blob Monster: Dungeon feature. Logs left behind by scientists imply they are some sort of alien Grey Goo, and are what causes zombies to rise from the dead and mutate. You can become one yourself by crossing the Slime mutation threshold.
  • Body Horror:
    • As in most Roguelikes, mutations exist. Some are good, some are bad, some are double edged swords. You can also modify yourself with bionics, many of which are visible. After several augments and mutations, your character will barely look human.
    • Several of the enemy types are quite grisly in their descriptions, especially once-human enemies such as the Broken Cyborg.
  • Body of Bodies: Jabberwocks are titanic monsters that are described as an amalgamation of corpses. They move faster than you, can attract more enemies with their roars, and can knock you down. Fortunately, they're hostile to any other monsters, including other jabberwocks. Unfortunately for you, you'll usually encounter them in sparsely populated environments. Lucky you.
  • Boring but Practical:
    • Part of learning to survive is figuring out productive uses for all the clutter objects you find.
    • The fire ax isn't as glamorous as a broadsword or katana, but it has decent swinging power behind it and can knock back and stun enemies. It's also easier to find than the more exotic blades, as fire stations and firefighter zombies occasionally have at least one on hand.
    • Similarly, the combat knife lacks the punch of the fire ax or katana, but swings quickly and accurately. More importantly, though, it's easier to find than the former two: manhacks and soldier zombies drop them, and occasionally a military surplus store or gun basement will have one.
    • The quarterstaff is not very exciting as a weapon, but it is easily-made (a pair of two-by-fours and 2 leather patches), swings relatively quickly, and works with multiple martial arts styles.
  • Bottomless Bladder: Toilets exist in the game, but you never need to use one. Instead, they provide a source of water.
  • Car Fu: Anything larger than a motorcycle is good for running over enemies (and usually insta-killing them). Cars are just the beginning. Wait until you get a semi-truck. Without a suitably large vehicle, however, a zombie hulk can stop your ride dead in its tracks at low speeds. And then proceed to smash it, shortly followed by smashing you.
  • Cats Are Mean: Cougars, which are a hair better than wolves stat-wise, but luckily hunt alone. Some of them have also joined the ranks of the undead.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Skills have more weight than raw stats for determining success, so any character can get good enough at a particular skill with enough grinding, with only Skill Rust there to stop you (and then there's the Memory Banks bionic, or, you know, disabling Skill Rust altogether). Throwing is probably the worst offender; at high enough levels, it's easy to one-shot turrets well beyond their firing range with a wooden spear.
  • Cobweb Jungle: Some parts of the forests are those, and are home to Giant Spiders.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Now averted. Stepping near lava pits will cause your temperature to rise, depending on how close you are. Getting too close will cause your skin to blister.
  • Cool Bike: While rolling bases on wheels are a popular choice of vehicle, souped-up motorcycles are also common, being easier to navigate in cities. In addition, experimental builds add a version that can spawn with a beefier engine than the norm.
  • Cool Car: Raising your mechanics skill takes you beyond plain repairing your ride and allows you to turn it into a huge steel behemoth on wheels capable of speeds in excess of 150 mph, covered from top to bottom in spikes and blades, having several pairs of automated turrets and with more storage space you could ever use. Oh, and you can put a bed and a caravan-style kitchen inside.
  • Cool Clear Water: Averted. Boil it or enjoy puking. That goes double for toilet water.
  • Cool Tank: Added via a mod in the experimental versions, complete with main guns comparable to the tank drone's main gun.
  • Crapsack World: Aside from the Zombie Apocalypse scenario, all the illegal drugs you can find laying around in the abandoned houses paint an unflattering picture of pre-apocalyptic life in this world.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Zigzagged; while you do have health points, there's a set amount of them for each body part (and losing all of your head or chest HP equals death), but the pain mechanic reduces movement speed as the character receives damage, eventually stunlocking you at high enough levels.
  • Crowbar Combatant: Players who find (or make) their own crowbar. And for good reason, as crowbars are not only good for bashing zombies, but they can also pry open locked doors, windows and manholes, making less noise than bashing them open.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory: In-game example, the Vehicle Additions Pack changes the standard mounted weapons to be manual-only, using the ability to manually fire turrets introduced in the experimental builds. This regularly trips players up.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Somewhat. One of the items the player can find in the world is a vibrator that can be used to get a hefty mood boost. The description calls it a "massager".
  • Deadly Lunge: A few zombies (and animals) can pull this on the player, though a harmless "leap" ability to close the distance is far more common. The experimental builds add feral predators, an upgrade to the feral hunter with a very nasty version that can knock the target over and inflict blood loss.
  • Death Trap: You'll find these laying around here and there, and picking up a few levels in traps skill (plus the right components) will allow you to set some of your own. Characters with perception below 10 are going to have a short and miserable life, however.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • When trying to interact with furniture and there is an object in the way, the game will say "There is an <item> in the way!". If you attempt to close a door while standing in the frame, you get "There is a buffoon in the way!".
    • Similarly, if you attempt to pry the square you are standing in with a crowbar, it results in the message "You attempt to pry open your wallet, but alas. You are too miserly."
    • Everything, no matter how inconsequential, can be used for something. Take the deputy badge, for example. If you're wearing one and there's an eyebot in the area, it will recognise you as a police officer and will not summon a police/riot control robot.
  • Disability Superpower: Certain "bad" mutations are not necessarily bad. Some of them can actually mutate further into useful ones. For example, you might become carnivore and able to eat only flesh; further mutation might allow you to eat tainted flesh (for example, zombie flesh).
  • Drunken Master: One of the advantages boosts your melee skills whenever you're intoxicated.
  • Dungeon Crawling: Labs and mines offer this, if you're in the mood for a more traditional roguelike experience.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Averted with pot— smoking a joint is good for morale, with only mild drawbacks. Fully enforced with all other recreational drugs, though. If you manage to get hooked on booze or cocaine, the withdrawal penalties will spank you hard. On the other hand, if you have a safe place and enough food, it's safer to use the hardest drugs for their boosts as the easiest and most reliable way to get rid of the withdrawal syndrome is to ride it out.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: Other than replacing nails, adhesives or soldering in many, many recipes, you can use duct tape to reinforce windows and fix any part of your cars: engine, fuel tanks, turrets, frames. Truly the most versatile item in the game.
  • Early Game Hell: Depending on your starting scenario, profession, chosen disadvantages, and enemy spawns, the first few days of the Cataclysm can be the deadliest part of the game. Taken Up to Eleven by the "Really Bad Day" scenario, which grants you a whopping 10 points for character creation but spawns you in a burning building surrounded by enemies while depressed, drunk, sick with the flu, and nursing an infected wound.
  • Eats Babies: YOU, if you want to.
  • Elite Mook: The Zombie Necromancer and Zombie Master. The Zombie Necromancer stays back and revives any unbutchered zombie corpse in the area. The Zombie Master "promotes" any normal zombie into a much nastier type.
  • Elite Zombie: Many types, including a few that don't quite fall into any category.
    • Brutes— The aptly-named zombie brute, the shocker brute, and the dreaded zombie hulk.
    • Armored Zombies— SWAT zombies, soldier zombies, and the rare armored zombie, which wears Powered Armor.
    • Hazmat Zombies— The hazmat zombie. It doesn't explode, but drops items like Geiger counters and iodine pills.
    • Ferals/Hunters/Stalkers— The feral runner, feral hunter and feral predator.
    • Undead Animals— Bears, moose, cougars, wolves, dogs and pigs all have zombie counterparts.
    • Screamers— Shrieker zombies scream, drawing the attention of any nearby zombies. Survivor zombies can also do this, and an upgraded version can scream loud enough to cause disorientation.
    • Vomit Zombies— The Boomer and Spitter zombies, and their upgraded huge boomer and corrosive zombie forms.
    • Boomers— The bloated zombie explodes into a cloud of toxic gas if it gets too close or when it dies.
    • Child Zombies— A reasonably common early-game opponent. Killing them gives you a morale debuff. Several variants of this zombie, that cross into other zombie types, exist: Ferals (sproglodyte), Boomers (snotgobbler), and Screamers (shriekling, howling waif).
    • Test Subject/"Enhanced" Zombies— The shocker zombie and shocker brute are wreathed in electricity from their bionics, and the zombie bio-operator has a bionic part inside of it that allows it to use martial arts on you.
    • Other— The zombie hollow is a boneless-looking zombie that's hinted to be the blob wearing the skin as a suit. The slavering biter's teeth have distorted its mouth, and allows it to perform a nasty bite. The smoker zombie constantly spews a cloud of thick smoke around itself (though it lacks its Left 4 Dead counterpart's snaring tongue). Grabber and grappler zombies can catch you and hold you down or drag you off, and the shady zombie is invisible in darkness. Finally, the zombie necromancer and master have anomalous abilities no other zombie has.
  • Exotic Weapon Supremacy: Several of the more unusual weapons can be quite effective. However, most of them are Awesome, but Impractical if you lack a martial arts style that works with them, and the weapon skills to use them effectively.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: The few that work, anyway: you might want to check the damage on that gasoline tank before ramming into something. The lore says this is because nitroglycerin has been added to gasoline to lessen pollution.
  • Everything Breaks:
    • Both you and the monsters can break through or burn down the buildings in this game with the proper armament.
    • Your clothes get damaged as zombies wail on you. Your shoes and pretty much everything else can only be destroyed by acid. Most glass items will break if you hit a zombie with them. You can find items on zombies that are invariably in tatters.
    • Acid rain is very bad for your stuff. Don't leave it in the open.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: As usual for a roguelike, Cataclysm plays this trope to the hilt.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Especially when you're the dinosaur. One of the mutagen types you can learn to synthesize is code-named "Raptor", for self-explanatory reasons. The also game comes with an optional module to include several types of Stock Dinosaurs as enemies in your Cataclysm world.
    "Look at those TEETH!"
  • Expy: Several monsters are ripped from other media, the more uncommon zombies reference Left 4 Dead, and the way zombie animals are presented recalls the T-Virus.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Once your food runs out, you have to switch to butchering and preparing your own meat from corpses. Zombie meat is pretty much a last ditch move until you learn how to cure it, but rat, ant, and slug meat are all fair game. Currently, the game doesn't consider where the meat came from, as long as it's not from a zombie, so your character can eat cooked slug meat and enjoy it. Even human meat is viable as a source of food (except for babies), so long as you don't mind feeling horrible for the rest of the day.
    • The Internal Furnace bionic allows the player to consume anything that catches fire for fuel.
  • Eye Scream: Be careful around that Auto Doc or else you might get a syringe of stem cell treatment straight to the eye. Enemies will also sometimes attack your eyes, which has a chance of blinding you temporarily.
  • Final Death: As usual for a roguelike.
  • Fragile Speedster: The Avian mutation branch. You can hardly take a hit, but you can outrun anything and nothing can escape your detection.
  • From Bad to Worse: Having 99% of the population zombified or dead by the time the game starts isn't good, but what you find happening to the world as you advance through the game doesn't paint a pretty picture of the biosphere's fate.
  • Game Mod: In addition to community mods, the game has a format for enabling mods when generating a world, and comes with several popular mods already ready to use, especially in the experimental builds. These range from new monsters (Animatronic Monsters, DinoMod) to vehicle additions (Boats, Vehicle Additions Pack) and item additions (Mythological Replicas, More Survival Tools), in addition to various mods that remove certain content or change other things.
  • Genre Shift: Starts as your standard zombie apocalypse but takes a gradual turn into Lovecraft Lite.
  • Giant Spider: One of the many categories of enemies. Along with centipedes, wasps, bees, slugs, ants, and mosquitoes.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language:
    • What's a Ganz-Rüstung, you ask? Why, a siege crossbow of course. Who doesn't know that?
    • The description for the Flammenschwertnote  is entirely in German.
    • Likewise, the description for the Jacqueshammernote  is in French.
  • Gun Accessories: A good amount of them, and currently you may have any amount of modifications on your gun, for your inner tacticool commando.
  • Hardcoded Hostility: NPCs associated with the Hell's Raiders faction will shoot the player on sight, regardless of what other factions they've allied with.
  • Heal Thyself: First aid kits, bandages, and disinfectant fix damage to your body parts, stop bleeding, and prevent infections from setting in. Medications for managing pain are also available, ranging from the common aspirin to the highly-addictive oxycodone and morphine.
  • Healing Factor: Several flavors at different rates are available, but the Rapid Metabolism mutation is the purest example. Broken limbs heal overnight, anything less with a short nap... at the cost of having to eat every few hours.
  • Hell Is That Noise:
    • "Heard a noise! Stop crafting/reading/eating? Y/N"
    • "The eye you're carrying lets out a tortured scream! You hear screeches from the rock above and around you!"
    • "From the west you hear a child wailing!" This is one of the random noises a Mi-go can make.
    • "Tekeli-li!"
  • Hide Your Children: Averted. Zombie children are common, and the player takes a hit to morale for killing them.
  • Hollywood Healing: Mostly averted, with the notable exception of the Fast Healer trait. Stepped on a landmine? Face half-ripped off? No problem! Just take a nap and you'll be back at full health when you wake up. Mutated characters can take this into Healing Factor territory.
  • Hollywood Silencer: You'll want to use these a lot. Fortunately, they have a relatively easy crafting recipe.
  • Homage: The main zombie types reference the Left 4 Dead series.
  • Hostile Weather: Full acid rain can melt down a battle-hardened survivor in a handful of turns. Thankfully the much less lethal acid drizzle happens beforehand, which serves as a warning. Acid rain has been mercifully disabled in versions 0.C and beyond, however.
  • Hybrid Monster: You can become a hybrid monster yourself with the Chimera mutation.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: With a mutation of the same name, excess nutrition is converted into direct healing. Of course, this mutation also comes with the heavy price tag of requiring a lot more food even under normal circumstances.
  • I Am Legion: We are the Mycus. And we can be joined.
  • I Love Nuclear Power: There is a chance that your character will mutate when exposed to radiation, but it's far less common than simply dying. This can be toggled in world generation.
  • Incendiary Exponent: The player can modify several weapons into their fiery counterparts, such as the Flammenschwert and Rising Sun.
  • Infernal Retaliation: Some tough enemies if they stand in fire for long enough. For example, bears.
    Remember, only YOU can prevent forest fires!
  • Inventory Management Puzzle: Not only does your character have a weight limit of loot to work with, but he is also limited by the size (volume in game) of his loot. Each piece of clothing available may have a set amount of storage space which must be managed separately from weight. Going above your weight limit will slow you down; going above your volume limit will increase your encumbrance, which usually will slow you down as well as other penalties.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Your mistakes are not the only source of human corpses in this game, and if you get desperate enough...
  • Immune to Bullets:
    • Anything with a thick enough skin, at least to .22 and 9mm bullets. Some monsters are hard to shoot and automatically dodge 3 out of every 4 shots.
    • Harshly averted for the player. Pray you don't encounter robots or other survivors with guns. If you do, and you don't have Kevlar armor or higher, you're going to have a very bad day.
  • Improvised Weapon: Since using guns without a silencer can often be suicidal, it pays to learn which objects make good melee weapons. (Hint: smash one or two of the benches in the starting shelter, then go outside and grab a rock so you can make a nail board.)
  • Item Crafting: The game's item crafting system is very robust, and gaining the proper skills to make things is highly recommend if you want to extend your character's lifespan.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: The katana is one of the best melee weapons available. If you manage to find it, even at low "cutting weapons" skill you will block most of the attacks and one-hit-kill most enemies. The Nodachi takes this a step further by virtue of being the BFS of katanas, and even outclasses the diamond katana despite being easier to obtain and/or create.
  • Late to the Tragedy: The player, evidently. How exactly you ended up as one of the last people alive in the region is left to your imagination. Later on you might find dead squads of soldiers and scientists, as well as military and scientific infrastructures which are invariably overrun by the undead.
  • Le Parkour: Eligible trait at character creation, cuts down the speed penalty for moving through tables, windows, etc.
  • Lethal Joke Character:
    • Several of the more underwhelming professions are surprisingly useful. For instance, the tailor is Boring but Practical simply because it gives a head start on the tailoring skill, which is used for repairing and reinforcing your clothes and armor. In the experimental builds, the broken cyborg is notable for starting with every single faulty bionic, but also gains full-body alloy plating and fingertip razors.
    • The "Joke" monsters: the smoky bear, Thriller, and (actual cannibal) Shia LaBeouf. All of them are Shout Outs to pop culture, but they are every bit as deadly as non-joke monsters.
  • Level Grinding: Or Book Grinding, rather.
  • Lovecraft Lite: Grim as the fate of humanity may seem, a well-equipped, competent character can still face the worst the game has to offer and potentially come out on top. In addition, the Nether monsters who are out-and-out Shout Outs to Lovecraft are one of the least insidious monster factions. They don't subvert the land itself or bring the alien equivalent of Gaia's Vengeance. They don't subvert and re-animate mundane wildlife. They're also regarded as different from the Unearthed Horrors that tend to reference other media. They're simply a disparate group of otherworldly creatures, with varying degrees of apparent intelligence and malevolence, with only some of them having outright anomalous abilities.
  • Luck-Based Mission:
    • The game is mostly fair. Your starting location and climate not necessarily so. Spawned next to a fungal bloom and a swamp? It's better to roll a new character. Acid rain until day 4? Sucks to be you.
    • A very effective early game tactic consists on setting bushes on fire and bait zombies to tumble across them, which both slows them down and heavily damages them. It's great for thinning out the horde and obtaining supplies from their corpses if you can get them before they burn out. Some zombies drop alcohol or explosives.
    • "John Doe gives you a mininuke (active)."
  • Michael Jackson's "Thriller" Parody: There's a a zombie version as a joke monster. It can turn nearby zombies into non-hostile yet Nigh Invulnerable dancers, but killing the Thriller turns them all into hulks.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Ursine mutation branch. You're gigantic, slow and extremely cumbersome with a bad temper, but strong as all hell with giant claws.
  • Molotov Cocktail: The most easily-improvised bomb in the game, readily available to any player who has a bottle, a rag, some gasoline/alcohol, and a lighter.
  • Mooks Ate My Equipment: Whacking enemies with a cutting or piercing weapon can cause it to get stuck, which in turn can cause you to drop the weapon. Technician Zombies also have a special attack that grabs your weapon.
  • Mook Medic: The Zombie Necromancer can bring back unpulped or unburnt zombies from the dead. This can make killing it first rather hard.
  • Mook Promotion: The Zombie Master can transform a random zombie in its vicinity into a nastier zombie.
  • Moose Are Idiots: Moose will wander straight into hordes of undead. What has made them the Memetic Badass of the game, however, is that they can wander out the other side covered in pulped zombie. And then charge the player.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Happens to your character if you kill a survivor in cold blood, kill a zombie child, eat human flesh, or mutilate a zombie corpse to create an undead slave. Unless you're a psychopath.
  • Nintendo Hard: It's a roguelike, using a gun carelessly can get you killed, your character doesn't get more max HP as they gain experience, and healing is much slower? Yes, it's hard.
  • No OSHA Compliance: In the labs, rooms guarded by automated turrets are often randomly placed next to bedrooms. And dissectors are put in the middle of many rooms.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: After you've survived long enough, you can go long stretches without seeing any enemies. But if you have dynamic spawn or Hordes active, you know they're still out there...
  • No Zombie Cannibals: The zombies in this game will chase you to the end of the world and maul you, but they never seem to have an appetite for their own kind.
  • Obvious Beta: The game was initially released as a candidate for a 7-day dev contest, which doesn't help much. Even after years of development and fixes, seasoned players still back up their saves regularly.
  • Our Elves Are Better: One of the mutation paths.
    "You are the tree under which humankind will shelter during these dark times."
  • Our Zombies Are Different: They seem to be of the fast variety, as they move at a deceptively quick pace, and then there is the even faster zombie dog. Also, the Left 4 Dead inspired zombies.
  • Painful Transformation: When gaining mutations, your character will feel a large amount of pain and often pass out. You can eventually get to enjoy the feel of it
  • Panacea: Royal Jelly cures all in-game illnesses.
  • Piņata Enemy:
    • Triffids, at least the rank and file ones, make the ideal neighbours for your fort. They're not that tough, more tame than most enemies (as in, won't immediately charge at you on sight from 5 screens away), and unlike zombies, they leave behind raw vegetable matter that any character can safely eat without needing any preparation whatsoever. Queen triffids, on the other hand...
    • Shocker zombies have a nasty projectile attack that is just about guaranteed to hit you, and striking them bare-handed or with a metal weapon will injure you as well. However, with a high enough survival skill, butchering them can yield some very valuable bionics. Shocker brutes are similar, but can also send you flying with a punch.
    • Cop and soldier zombies also consistently hold (damaged) riot gear, armor, and military-grade weapons. They're also a bitch and a half to kill at lower levels because of said armor.
    • Scientist zombies have a wide arsenal of surprises, but yield a few rare and valuable crafting components when they die. You can also butcher them to harvest their bionics.
    • Technician zombies are a significantly easier source of bionics, lacking any special attacks save for one that pulls your weapon out of your hands. Their drops are often include a disproportionate bounty of power storage bionics as well as work clothing.
    • Survivor zombies are tougher versions of the shrieker zombie, and drop a wide array of goodies including non-perishable food and survivor gear, which is usually a step up from the average stuff you find off other zombies.
  • Point Build System: Character creation involves a tabletop-style system where you select stats, skills, advantages, and disadvantages out of a pool of points.
  • Post-Apocalyptic Dog: By giving a stray dog food, you can make a cataclysm friend. Or two. Or five.
  • Properly Paranoid: Smashing, butchering or burning all enemies you kill will prevent them from rising back up later, and is the only way to make a zone safer.
  • Punched Across the Room: The zombie brute, shocker brute, and zombie hulk all have the ability to hit you so hard you go flying. This is obviously quite painful.
  • Pyromaniac: Subverted and played straight. It's subverted in that there are NPC arsonists that will torch buildings (such as that sweet gun store you were casing), but in-game dialogue reveals that they do it to salvage the rebar for the fledgling post-apocalyptic economy. Played straight in that nothing is stopping you from lighting the entire game world on fire, and is a worthwhile tactic when confronted by superior enemies.
  • Quicksand Box: Part of the fun resides in just trying to survive for the first days. After securing a safe house, players might stumble around the game world for (ingame) days on end before finding neat stuff like science labs or bunkers.
  • Raising the Steaks: Most notably, Antlered Horrors (zombie moose, named so for good reason) and Zombears, though essentially anything (formerly) living thing from the size of dogs on up can be infected.
  • Rare Guns: A fair share of them; you may find the Saiga semi-auto shotgun, a revolver grenade launcher and the American 180 (a 60s sub machine gun that can hold up to 165 low powered rounds). You can craft an electromagnetic gun that fires nails at incredible speeds. And then there are more technological stuff.
  • Reviving Enemy: Zombies in general. Butcher the corpse, smash it, or simply kill it so hard there's no corpse left. As of 0.C you can also render a zombie corpse harmless with a cutting tool, presumably by removing its jaw and limbs. You won't find out if the attempt was successful until after it gets back up.
  • Robbing the Dead: Of course. Most of your early-game (and mid-game, and late-game...) strategy will be taking everything from nearby houses and their (un)dead occupants.
  • Sand Worm: The giant worm, Graboid, dark wyrm, and yugg. Luckily they cannot break concrete.
  • Savage Wolves: Wolves are fast, hit hard, and come in packs. They're one of the worst non-zombie enemies, at least in the beginning. It gets worse when you encounter their zombified friends.
  • Scavenger World: You'd be hard pressed to find a vehicle that isn't severely rusted or beat up (let alone a working one). Many components are more easy to retrieve from broken vehicles or appliances than crafted from scrap, so in either case the player character tends to invoke this a bit.
  • Schmuck Bait: A stockpile of food in the middle of the road, just sitting there? Of course it's safe!
  • Sci-Fi Kitchen Sink: You have cybernetics, zombies, aliens and Powered Armor all in the same game.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: What you can find in certain labs and mines. You know, in case all the zombies and other horrors infesting the land aren't enough for you.
  • Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: Zombie pheromone, which turns nearby zeds friendly for a handful of turns, and causes them to attack enemies. Can buy you a lot of time and is the primary reason you raise cooking to 3.
    • Because in this game bullets know no friends, with some footwork you can get a hostile turret to shoot anything standing between you and the turret. This is as risky as it sounds, but it works.
  • Shock and Awe: The shocker zombie and shocker brute. A middle game weapon is a taser which isn't that useful against zombies.
  • Shoplift and Die: Don't barge into banks or pawn shops at the earliest opportunity. An alarm will sound, drawing the attention of every zombie in a two mile radius. If that didn't kill you, an eyebot will shortly appear to take your picture. If it succeeds, a copbot will follow to tase you to death.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Powerful, but also among the noisiest weapons. Still usable in a pinch if you run like hell afterward, or if you intend to clear out every hostile in the area.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: Temperature affects the player's body parts individually and uniquely (a head that gets too hot results in a pounding headache, for example). When the player's torso gets too cold, the game will advise them that maybe they should remove some layers. This may not make sense until one realizes it is characteristic of severe hypothermia for people to remove their clothes, speeding up heat loss.
  • Socketed Equipment: One advantage to using a gun is all the nice upgrades you can give them.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Houses are remarkably flammable. Gas stations and labs, strangely, even more so.
  • Subsystem Damage: Torso, head, and left and right arms and legs. Hits to the former two may kill you (and sometimes blind you), while damage to the latter will make you clumsier or slower. If any extremity is damaged below 0, it's forever broken, but there are ways to heal them.
  • Suffer the Slings: They are very easy to craft; ammunition is everywhere (mash rocks). Standard pebbles are weak, but as your character becomes more skilled a greenie can be downed in as low as 3-4 shots. Then you craft metal bearings.
  • Super Serum: The mutation-causing compound that you can find in labs or near dead scientists.
    • In 0.A, mutation serums are the only way to cross mutation thresholds, which give you exclusive, special mutations.
  • Superpower Russian Roulette: Mutation in a nutshell. Sprout super-sensitive cat ears and a fluffy tail, develop digestive problems, gain the ability to see the infrared spectrum, become a freakishly huge hulk that can't fit in a car but can benchpress one, degenerate into a Blob Monster... it's an endless series of surprises.
  • Survivalist Stash: What you can find in a house's basement, if you're lucky. And of course, you can make your own stash, and loot the stashes of your previously deceased characters!
  • Swamps Are Evil:
    "Swamp - AVOID THESE. IT IS AN INSECT INFESTED HELL WITH ABSOLUTELY NOTHING OF VALUE"
    /vg/'s Cataclysm FAQ on swamps
    • They are however a great source of salt water for cooking. Just watch out for the giant dragonflies. If you have the Dinosaurs mod on, dinosaurs can spawn in swamps in addition to wildlife field offices.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Dealing far more damage than the total HP of the victim will cause it to turn into a big puddle of blood instead of a corpse, which denies you of any drops. Against zombies, this is a viable alternative to smashing or butchering the corpse.
  • Throwing the Distraction: Monsters that track sound will follow the source of said sounds (usually your footsteps). Talking dolls, active radios, firecrackers; All of them make excellent decoys, although rocks can work in a pinch if you can reliably hit a window far away.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Most of the skill books you can find are decidedly not combat-related. But then there's the Spetsnaz Knife Techniques book...
    • The player will start off struggling to kill one zombie. As you level up, and as you as a player get smarter figuring out better and more efficient tactics, your character will be able to take on larger and larger hordes or deadlier foes.
    • Zombies will also take levels in badass as you play, transforming into nastier types. The zombie master has a skill that turns one zombie into a nastier version of itself.
  • Ultimate Life Form: The Alpha mutation branch is effectively this. You require a bit more food than normal and you're less tolerant of drugs and alcohol, but you require almost no sleep, you have heightened senses, and your base stats gain a pretty nice boost.
  • Undead Child: Zombie children, of course. Killing them results in a morale penalty. Unless you have the Psychopath trait. Additionally, the penalty per kill gradually lowers the more of them the player kills.
  • Unstable Equilibrium: Gameplay changes drastically the moment the player character becomes competent enough to defeat zombies one-on-one with little risk (read: either managed to get a silenced gun or became dextrous enough to avoid melee hits).
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential:
    • You can call for help to the factions in the game. Most of the time, they will send an armed NPC to help you. You can blow his head off and take his gear with little consequence.
    • Due to a programming oversight, some explosives still had trade value while lit. So yes, you could trade someone your armed C4 for their medkits and his gun and run like hell.
    • The wandering NPC's can be killed, their corpses butchered and eaten. With Internal Furnace installed, you can also eat all their clothes and set whatever is left ablaze with a lighter.
  • Wide Open Sandbox: The map keeps expanding and generating new regions as you explore it. There is no win condition, other than simply surviving for as long as possible and/or killing as many enemies as you can.
  • Wiki Rule: Here. It's usually outdated but still good reference for beginners. Veterans follow the github updates to keep up with the newest content.
  • With This Herring: The default character begins with a pocket knife and the clothes on his/her back. Subverted, though, as you'll quickly learn the knife is one of your most useful tools.
  • Wizard Needs Food Badly: And he needs water badly, too.
  • Yet Another Stupid Death: Like most classic roguelikes, part of the fun in Cataclysm is seeing all the inventive ways that you can get killed. Be prepared to die a lot starting off while you fumble around, decide the best tactics to killing a horde, what weapons are best, what to carry, what to eat and drink, where to sleep, etc.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The zombies in all their variants aren't the only type of enemy you'll face in this game, but they're the majority.
  • Zombie Infectee: "The bite wound feels pretty deep..." Averted, it's just a normal infection, the virus takes over after you die. It can be treated with antibiotics, or with prompt treatment of the wound with disinfectant or cauterization.
  • Zombie Puke Attack: In both blinding yet harmless and damaging acidic varieties, both referencing Left 4 Dead. The experimental builds also add variants of both monsters. Huge boomers add a long-lasting glowing effect that make it harder to sneak away from the horde, acidic zombies are closer-ranged (and FAR less annoying) than spitters, while corrosive zombies trade Area of Effect ability for range and rate of fire.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/VideoGame/Cataclysm