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For the currently active branch of Cataclysm, see Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead and Cataclysm: Bright Nights.

Alpha Project
Developer Whales
Theme Post-Apocalyptic, Zombies
Influences Fallout, Left 4 Dead, Half-Life, Deus Ex, DoomRL, Crawl, Dune, Mad Max, Dawn of the Dead, I Am Legend, Tremors, The Day of the Triffids, RIFTS
Released 19 September 2010
Updated On hiatus
Licensing Open source, but unlicensed
P. Language C++
Platforms Windows, Linux
Interface ASCII, Keyboard
Game Length Open ended
Official site of Cataclysm

Cataclysm is a zombie apocalypse roguelike. It can be downloaded for Windows and Linux. Source is available via the GitHib repository. A forum for the game exists where you can find news about the latest updates, new Windows executables, and various tips there. Source is updated on a near-daily basis, so be sure to update your copy regularly.

The official wiki is no longer available.

Cataclysm is still in alpha, and should be expected to be riddled with bugs.

Windows vs. Linux

For over 2 years starting from the game's release, Windows builds were not available. People had to play through SSH or were forced to run it in a Virtual Machine. One fan even created a lightweight Linux distribution that booted into a shell and was created exclusively as a way to play Cataclysm as a VirtualBox image for Windows users, in a testament to the game's acceptance.

Cataclysm officially supports Windows branches in addition to the original Linux code since 4 October 2011.


Windows and Linux binaries are now available at for Windows and Linux.

You can also get the latest and greatest (but possibly buggy/broken) by compiling the source code found at the game's Github repository. This is very easy under Linux, somewhat hard under Windows. Bugfixed and more recently updated versions can be obtained in the modding forum on the official website.


While Whales, the original creator of the game, has taken a hiatus from development, an active modder, The Darkling Wolf has continued development on his own branch of the game, Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead.

Later in 2020 new branch of the game appeared: Cataclysm: Bright Nights.


Cataclysm is available through SSH thanks to Eronarn. First, download the SSH key here, and then connect to

Windows users can use PuTTY and PuTTYgen (available on the PuTTY download page), which is a graphical but powerful SSH client. Complete PuTTY instructions are available here). PuTTY is also available under Linux with an identical interface to the Windows version and is available in most distribution repositories.

Linux users will need to save the private key to a file (ssh_cataclysm is a reasonable filename), then use the ssh command with -i option to select that file for identification. For example: ssh -i ssh_catacysm


The basic goal is survival in harsh post-cataclysm world. This alpha release doesn't present any long-term goals to the player, aside from goals they might set for themselves (and there's plenty to do). The first important goal is to find a way to store some items on your person. The player starts out wearing jeans and a t-shirt, limiting the volume they can carry severely. Many clothing pieces will provide pockets to store useful things in. Jeans have a few, but trenchcoats have significantly more. Consider looking for a messenger bag, a purse or a backpack. Alternatively, you can study tailoring and sew one yourself.

The next goal is to get armed well. Try to get your hands on a broom, a mop or some other long stick. Find something capable of cutting to sharpen it to a wooden spear, which is a fairly good weapon to start puncturing monsters with. Guns are a great means of dispatching shambling zombies; unfortunately the noise made attracts many more braindeads and you are going to have more trouble than you started with. Either waste those and use the first opportunity to flee, or use a silencer, found occasionally in gun stores. If you have mechanics skill, it is possible to craft a silencer from common items.

Later, load up on comestibles, tools and knowledge. Visit libraries, hardware stores, grocery stores and more. Loot every place that might contain useful means of survival. Manage your resources carefully. During your travels you should aim to be continually better prepared for all kinds of problems. These will come for sure. Zombies, triffids, fungaloids, giant ants, diseases ...

Butcher every corpse you find. Practice makes perfect. Learn how to cook and soon lone green Z's will look like meals on two legs. Unless your character is a vegetarian, that is.


  • Detailed character creation, with a plethora of traits to choose from.
  • Defense mode, a coffeebreak mode with fast-paced combat.
  • Bionics; Similar to the magic system in many games.
  • Mutations, both positive and negative.
  • Unbounded, fully randomized three-dimensional world map that is persistent between characters.
  • Item crafting!
    • New recipes may be acquired by honing your knowledge through practice or learning from books
  • Realistic fire, smoke, and other dynamic map effects.
  • NPCs:
    • Menu-based dialog.
    • Item trading. Barter skill.
    • Ability to recruit, hire, or enslave NPCs to form a party.
  • Randomized Factions with their own economies and longterm goals. May help you if your standing is good enough.
  • A day/night cycle with the need to sleep. Use caffeine to stay awake longer if you must but be aware this is not healthy.
  • Over 300 item types, including a multitude of real-world guns, drugs, and tools.
    • Many drugs are addictive, and will require continuous use to avoid withdrawal effects.
  • Ability to board doors and windows, construct traps and fortify your home base to prevent a rude awakening by a zombie.
  • Ability to construct your own wooden constructions, including walls and a roof.

Undocumented Debug Keys

Debugging commands are accessed via the Z key. The scent map can be accessed by pressing the - key and selecting a sensitivity. Selecting 0 will crash the game.