Cataclysm's Current Level of Difficulty

Right, first post here and I’m not positive if this is the right place to post. Move it if it isn’t. I’m currently playing experimental and most of what I’m about to say is experience from the experimental updates for the past three months.

So I’ve played CDDA on and off for about two years now, and I can say that the game isn’t nearly as difficult as it should be. After playing some of the most recent updates, the only way I ever die is due to either A. my own explosives, B. Turrets and C. Turrets. Never am I killed due to being overwhelmed, outplayed, or unprepared; I always end up dying to some turret in the dark or turret I drove too close to.

Now, this isn’t a complaint about turrets in general. Really, they’re fine as they are. What I want to bring attention to is the game-play itself. A lot of the updates this and last year brought realistic changes to the game, and sure, Cataclysm is great with realism. But can we please please please have the option to swap between “Realistic” and “Balanced”. And no, I know that you can up enemies and lower loot spawns in the world generation, but those settings don’t work nearly as well as I want them to.

At 100% spawns, I can find 15 days of food in a single house and a dozen guns with 100 bullets in an armory. At 10% spawns I can find 1.5 days of food and a few guns in an armory, but maybe only ten bullets for those guns. In theory, that kind of makes guns useless. But actually, the problem exists with what you do with those ten bullets. With those ten bullets, you can either use them to kill a few soldiers at a crashed helicopter for more ammo and food, or you can use them on a turret for three thousand more bullets. Either by shooting out of range, shooting in the dark, or even shooting before you can be shot, turrets aren’t really a threat unless they catch you off guard in a rare instance.

So pretty much what I’m trying to say is that the difficulty and sheer amount of items aren’t fixed by lowering the loot amount. No matter what number you put it at, unless it’s 0, you won’t be starving, ever. And every single common / uncommon enemy that you can fight isn’t a threat to you as long as you have a M4A1 with ammo or a vehicle. (Actually I’m not positive about that as I almost always reset my character before the second year)

Nearly always I start my world off by looking for a vehicle, driving to the nearest military zombie / crash site, driving over zombies, taking guns, looking for turrets, killing turrets, and then grinding for better gear. The grind is interesting and there are dozens of different ways to get stronger: crafting, CBMS, mutations, looting, and acquiring followers. But after a few in-game months of grinding, it always hits me that there is literally nothing incentivizing you to get stronger. No “big bad” (From what I’ve found) Only fringe threats that might instant kill you depending on your luck.

What I would absolutely love to see is a new difficulty / setting that really changes it to as if you were actually trying to survive in an apocalypse. Something that really uses mechanics like sound, scent, and finding a proper safe location to sleep. Something that lowers food, water, ammunition, and weapons to their own respective drop numbers while increasing dangerous threats as well as a plethora of other changes. I want to defend my crappy hole five tiles from a town from being ransacked in the night by a horde of stealth bionic zombie werewolves holding teleporters and buzz-saws. I want to see the refugee center constantly under siege by swarms of wall-climbing, leg chewing toddlers that travel miles to any noise made. … Maybe not those two examples, but I want to see anything that will make surviving a month a miracle and getting into end game an achievement. While that may be difficult, honestly, games like Cataclysm should always start off extremely difficult and the settings are then used to make it easier. Not the other way around.

[Changes I’d like to see]

Lower the food / water spawn rate. (I want to struggle to survive, not permanently be done stockpiling food after my first house. Same thing applies to military loot even if the purpose of such high loot is realism).
Tone down turret ammo in all forms. (Obviously turrets having a large amount of ammo is realistic and I’m not fully against it, but there aren’t many reasons for that ammo to exist besides clearing towns. Same thing marginally applies to looting military vehicle and plane guns for ammo as one would before turrets dropped so many bullets).
More dangerous mobs in the mid / late game. (Headless horrors from aftershock are cool, but skeletal juggernauts are just zombies that take x5 more bullets. Zombies that I can’t press f,p,f,p,f,p to end a fight with are welcome. Maybe even hordes of skeletal juggernauts or zombies that can’t be killed by .223).
Season temperature spikes. (I’m not sure if there’s something wrong with the experimental updates, but I’ve never been killed or even threatened by the weather. At worst I have to warm my water. Make winter dangerous).
Make wandering hordes threatening. (Right now the hordes that wander feel more like a semi-interesting gimmick than anything else. They wander something like eight tiles from their original location leaving it undefended only to never be seen again. If they could track you or move faster than 1 tile per week, it might be more interesting. Ideally they would travel rapidly in the last seen direction you went while following any scents/noises at a much faster speed).
Make wandering hordes threatening-2. (Massive wandering hordes. I imagine that this has probably been recommended a lot. If not, ideally I’d like to see a massive horde of perhaps a thousand or more zombies moving in a random direction. It could be a rare event that forces players to vacate the premises or an update to the wandering hordes that make them group up to even bigger groups)
Science key cards should have more uses or be rarer. (Military key cards now have dozens of different uses and are arguably rarer than the dime a dozen Science key cards. Often by my first month I have 50+ science cards).

TL;DR: game easy, plz make hard.


Well, the cataclysm just happened, so if you want food to be gone, set your starting day to 0 and your spawn delay to a high number. To further increase difficulty, lower item spawn rates, increase enemy spawn rates to something ridiculous like ×20, increase evolution rates, turn on wander spawn, play with Wayfarer/Illiterate or poor healer traits, unobselete the zombie night vision mod, use less guns and more melee, etc.

But I do get where you’re coming from. It would be cool to face Kevlar Hulk Fire Shockers and absolute monstrosities, where every mob would be considered a boss.

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Half of what you’e mentioned can be fixed via increasing zombie spawns and zombie speed.

This is from a run I did a while back, that’s with 4x zombie spawns, pretty rare with my settings but it does happen. There’s nothing stopping you from making this more common though since it goes as high as x50.

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The difficulty of this game goes in pendulum swings. Currently we’ve implemented a lot of the structure needed to allow NPCs to forage their own food and resources, but the NPCs aren’t doing their own scavenging yet. When that changes, the pendulum will swing the other way and we’ll get a series of complaints about how bullshit hard everything is, and on goes the cycle.


Thanks for the responses fellas, here are my replies to a lot of the feedback I’ve been given.

That still doesn’t fix the sheer number of MREs, vending machine foods, and infinite food sources whenever summer arrives.

My problem with the item spawn rates is that it doesn’t sync well with most of the other drops. I want food and ammo to be rare, but I don’t want ammo/guns to be nonexistent or already rare CBMS that require 10+ lab runs to find to require another 100+. At the moment, food can’t be rare without making everything else impossible to find.

I will genuinely try that in my next run; however, having every single tile in a town covered with zombies might make traveling to towns obsolete.

I’m curious as to if I’ve missed some end game enemy due to never being around for the third year. But just in case, I will definitely raise that in my next run

One of the points I made was that wander spawns are too weak right now. Maybe with x20 spawns, but right now, wandering hordes very very rarely dangerous. They often wander a few tiles from town into a river or some other location and disappear.

As I was writing that wall of text earlier, I was preparing myself for the advice that I would surely hear “Why not just handicap yourself to make the game harder? If it’s too easy, play with one hand / a spoon!” I don’t believe any game should require you to purposely hinder yourself in playing it to give a challenge. Maybe it’s just me, but I honestly don’t enjoy hindering my character purposely or setting rules for myself for more difficulty.

IMO it should start off extremely difficult and the settings are then used to make it easier. But that’s besides the point. Increasing zombie spawns, in theory, would just make combat require more time and ammunition. I’ll definitely try raising it to an absurd number in my next run though to see if that isn’t the case. Zombie speed, does seem nice, but it would probably force me into a meta of invisibility, roller skates, and vehicle spam for most of the early - mid game. Despite that, I will still try raising speed.

That really sounds exciting, having npcs loot and what not. I can see it being problematic for surviving if your nearby towns are picked clean, but military zones, zombies, and the absolute metric ton of food scattered around might make that danger quite weak unless you wait a dozen years.

I’m really hoping that the difficulty will skyrocket with those next changes. Thanks for the replies everyone.

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TBF, judging by the vast majority of games out there, game developers as a whole disagree. Just be glad that CDDA has such an intricate system to modify difficulty so you can set the challenge to what you want.

Well, for one it will make you a better player overall. Half the tricks I’ve learned have been due to playing with certain restrictions and being “forced” to think outside the box. It’s just a matter of perspective, it’s no more hindering your character then increasing the difficulty by messing with some game options is hindering your character.

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I like the idea of having something like this, but it might need to be put as a separate setting to some extent and/or having the loot/spawn modifiers changed.

In regards to the loot chance, I have a bit of a vague idea as to how to set it up. I don’t know how the algorithm is for it as it stands, but I do know of a way to potentially change it.
When increasing or decreasing loot, it could be made so that common items will be effected more than rare items, so that it’s not simply ‘everything is gone’ but rather ‘food is scarce and guns are less common.’ Something roughly like that.

There’s already a setting for zombie mutation rates, and maybe that should be modified a bit but that seems mostly okay.
A flat bonus to zombie evolution at the beginning of the game would make it more difficult to catch up, even as you become stronger and stronger the zombies will already have had a boost up.
Although this most certainly won’t fix the issue you bring up in it’s entirety I image.

One idea I really like is ‘procedurally generated zombies.’
There very well still might be ‘unique’ zombies with exact defined attributes, but many will be ‘specials’ which are always going to be different from one another. And maybe the regulars could also have randomized +/- to different stats on them.
With procedurally generated zombies, you would certainly also need a bit of a description change as well, maybe that could be used similar to the description of what you see on NPCs and such.
This form of zombie could have an extra arm, or tougher skin, or maybe an extra head, and possibly some acid spit. Then another could electrocute the player in melee range while spewing fire at a long distance. Another could be able to raise unpulped zombie corpses (like the necro zombie guys) while running at you on six legs.

Procedurally generating zombies could have a lot of potential in my opinion. Honestly, it might be worth proposing that in a separate thread.

Imagine yourself being not the two years player, but rather a total newbie playing the game for the first time. You don’t know all the tips and tricks you know now. You don’t know the “optimal” way to survive and level up your character.

Imagine those “extremely difficult” settings you’re talking about are set by default. You start the game… and die during the first 5 minutes.
You start again, you manage to survive for 10 minutes, but in the end you die nevertheless.
You swear quietly, but decide to give the game another chance. You start once again and manage to survive the 15 minutes, but still die.
You might not even want to know there are many options to lower the difficulty to make it more playable for you.

What chance for you not to rage quit, delete the game and never come back to it again?

The problem is the game is too easy for an experienced player. Making the game harder (to satisfy veteran players) could push newbies away from the game.


You really should never push newcomers away from your game, that’s a good way to slowly kill it as nobody new comes in while the veterans slowly leave for other things over time.


I can’t agree more.
If you start with one or mutate to get an electric receptor mutation, you’ll never die :slight_smile:

I use the following steps to play cdda.
Looking for guns,NPCs,or other weapon to kill zombies.I will find food,equipments and the most important books.
read books,increase my skills.
Refit cars.
Looking for labs, looking for more labs.
Install CBMs.Start mutation.
End the game.

It’s too easy to get food and other items in the game.As time goes on, the items in the game should be gradually reduced rather than unchanged.

The cost of acquiring a skill is too low to rely on reading alone. The reality is that any skill can’t be practiced without years of practice. Through simple reading, I can enter the laboratory through computer skills in less than half a year. I am proficient in car repair, know the wild plants as well as cook food and mutation medicine. These are not easy to improve the difficulty by simply modifying the item ratio. If the difficulty of skill acquisition is improved and NPCs are used to achieve the goal, it will be a very interesting setting. At the same time, the players’ playing methods will be really diversified.

In addition, if we only increase the number of zombies, the game will still be boring. For example, nearly unlimited ammunition or vehicle weapons (in reality, any military base can have countless ammunition). Just by simply loading and launching, the problems are solved. By the end of the game, close combat can also harvest these seemingly powerful zombies. What’s more, players don’t have to face these zombies at all, because the city and even the lab have nothing to attract players to explore.

There is nothing to do at the end of the game. A more powerful enemy is such a goal. Both NPCs and zombies can do it. In the above reply, I see that dynamic zombies with random skills are a very interesting setting.

Searching for artifact may be another. If you add a function of trading artifact or treasure map with NPC, searching for city in the later period will not be a meaningless behavior.

More powerful factional functions, dynamic NPCs, dynamic economy and dynamic tasks will also make the game more interesting.

It would be better if cdda could have more people online. With the excellent gameplay of cdda, more people will surely join in.

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I feel it’s necessary to mention the ability to make the game as difficult as you want (again) … Sure some things can and likely will be improved, but overall the approach taken in respect to difficulty is perfect in my opinion.


  1. Arcana
  2. PK rebalancing
  3. Cata++
  4. Dorf Life
  5. Fallout New England
  6. Magiclysm
  7. Secronom

Trust me, with the locations, structures, enemies and gear from all these mods and unique spell mechanics from Magiclysm the game will be incredibly difficult, especially if you mash them all together, it’s lots of fun or !FUN! depends if you are a save scummer or not


I can understand what you mean.

However you can tweak world settings to your will. I.e increase zombie spawns, decrease the spawn rate of items… etc.

There’s really no need for the devs go out of the way to add in a difficulty setting.