Video game ants have never looked better, thanks to Unreal Engine 5

The humble ant will take a starring role in 2024 in Empire of the Ants, a new real-time strategy adventure based on the 32-year-old sci-fi novel series of the same name. And thanks to Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 5, Empire of the Ants will look really, really good. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a video game ant look this good, let alone hundreds of them on screen at once.

Empire of the Ants is set on the floor of a French forest, where players will take control of the ant known as 103 683rd as it searches for a more prosperous life for its colony. It appears that players will control hordes of ants, sometimes in battle against foes like a praying mantis, and sometimes in cooperation with other bugs. “Strategy planning, exploration, combat skills, but most of all, setting up local wildlife alliances will be necessary to survive the many challenges awaiting,” the game’s makers say.

Publisher Microids and developer Tower Five boast of Empire of the Ants’ photorealism in a new, first-look teaser trailer released Friday. They have a right to; dirt, pebbles, branches, and forest floor detritus look impressively realistic, likely due to the use of Unreal Engine’s Nanite technology, which virtualizes micropolygon geometry from assets based on millions or billions of polygons. There’s some really nice-looking wood in here.

Empire of the Ants is based on author Bernard Werber’s Les Fourmis (The Ants), a 1991 sci-fi novel that tells a parallel story of humans in Paris and an ant colony residing in a nearby park — both of which contend with their own mysteries and challenges. Werber followed Empire of the Ants with The Day of the Ants in 1992 and The Revolution of the Ants in 1996.

Microids previously released a video game based on Empire of the Ants. That version, a take on the 3D strategy genre, was released on PC platforms in 2000 to mixed critical reception. Tower Five previously worked on strategy game Lornsword Winter Chronicle and the poorly received 2020 remake of XIII.

Empire of the Ants is coming to PC and consoles sometime in 2024.