Retro graphics are on the rise, a throwback to the early days of computer gaming…with the caveat that today’s computer can make a whole more with this setup than was possible back then. By all means, this game looks ugly.The tradeoff is that you can truly go massive, with cities of thousands of individual subjects scurrying around.
You start small, with just a few subjects and a handful of resources. Your aim from here on is to simply grow.
Worth noting that this game is in very early access, with the actual release date set years ahead. What you’re paying for is beta-testing…
…and it’s mostly worth it. There are no games like this in the market right now, and even the very early access version offers a dozen good hours of fun. Updates come at a fairly fast pace, so you can probably set the game down for a month, come back and enjoy another dozen hours of good fun.
Mine, farm, craft and manage
The game is built around rooms, walls and fields. You designate areas where your subjects sleep, eat, work or hang about. You adjust the number of workers each room requires, and everything that is produced gets stored in warehouses, as per your orders.
The system is in beta stage, but it offers quite a bit of fun as it is. It doesn’t take long to figure out how to run things, though it will take a while to learn not to go too big too fast…lest your building projects stagger and stagnate for years. The game still needs interface updates (managing soon becomes micromanaging a hundred warehouses) as well, and as per the developer, those are forthcoming.
As per usual, you progress from simple farming and harvesting food to producing cut stone, serving food in inns, producing cloth and clothing, providing sanitary spaces, and so forth. As of right now, you only have the peasants to play around with, but nobles and heroes are to be added to the game soon enough.
Fight wars…but not yet
Besides the city map, which can support cities of tens of thousands of individuals, you have the world map. This is filled with other states and cities, with whom you can trade and fight. A big part of the game is conquering and demanding tribute.
But as of this version, most of that hasn’t been implemented. The battle system offers occasional raiding by a scripted enemy and that’s it. You can’t go attacking anyone else, though you can claim states as your reputation grows. It’s a very barebones system that shows a lot of promise.
The actual fighting is done RTS style. To recruit units you need training fields, which slowly turn your peasants into fighting units. Troops are organised into divisions, which at the moment can hold up to 150 men each. Theoretically, you can field over 10 000 men, though you need quite a big city for that.
Units are ordered around in formations. Right now the game only has axe-wielding maniacs, lacking with an all-out melee the only way to sort out things. But under the hood, you already have things like training, experience and gear. More unit types, towers and such are sure to round out the combat nicely, though it will probably take quite a while before anything of the sort is implemented.
The developer (yes, this all is an individual endeavour) lists games like Caesar 2 as inspiration…which just happens to be my favourite city-builder when it comes to fighting battles.
I’ve heard of you
You don’t get natural growth here, though you do get a decrease. Building a ton of graveyards is part of the game. Population grows from immigration, and you only get immigrants if your reputation is good enough.
Currently, reputation is gained by simply making the life of your subjects better: more food, better sleeping quarters, inns, baths, and all that. It’s a careful game of balancing, one that requires constant expansion. The same reputation can be used to expand on the world map, claiming tribute from neighbouring states.
Individuals have their stats, and again this is something that is a work in progress. Graphical and statistical improvements are underway.
If you’re looking to spend a few bucks and spend a dozen hours enjoying the sort of city-builder you’ve always dreamt of, get the game now. Or, you can wait a few years until everything is in order and get the game then. My bet is on this being the sort of game that you want to follow, like Factorio or Rise to Ruins.