-Rich lore, love how the devs stay meta to the steampunk theme with the game and its marketing.
-Lots of in-game resources, production chains, & buildings. Think Children of the Nile.
-Unique and personalize colonists, each with traits and background history, memory of events that affect them in-game.
-Worker pathfinding/fulfillment habits seems smooth so far, alot better than COTN, they don't seem to mind walking far to get food or resources.
-Fish people! Finally a settlement/city-builder game that gives us a decent "enemy" system and practical combat control.
*Game is in pre-alpha, bugs and shortcomings are expected, but this is my list of current faults with the game as of September 2014.
- Needs visible resource counter, at least for the basic resources. Commodity menu is too clunky, takes up screen space.
- Buildings and farms cannot be demolished once built. Really plays havoc with settlement planning and general game play. (Devs say demolishment would be added soon, let's hope so!)
-Drag control for laying out floors and storage/farm zones glitchy, doesn't seem to want to select where you want it to. Really messes up your game when laying out farms and buildings, especially since you CAN'T demolish any of your mistakes.
- Once a building is built, you can't add space or furniture to it later on. This means there's no room for expanding your production or residential buildings. Annoying when you realize you need more ovens in your current kitchen. I don't want to have to build a new facility every time I need to expand....Please change this!
-Job/Work queue system broken/unfinished, in addition to no-demolish, any game you start right now would eventually go down the crapper as you find your kitchen orders are not being assigned/worked on and undeletable farms suck away your labour pool. End result, your people starve to death, unless you grow just cabbages. Even then, work queue bugs would eventually render food production moot or simply crash your game. My longest game as of yet is 5 hours before it either spirals into work queue-death or game crash.
-Save game function is broken, fog of war does not save, so every time you reload the fog of war is remapped through the line-of-sight of citizens. Graveyards/Storage Zones would unregister but still show up visually on map, so you'll have to rezone them everytime in different places when you reload.
-Maybe the ability to create 2-storey buildings? No? Ok...
- Work Parties list menu UI icons are too big, takes a LONG time to scroll through the list to find what your looking for. Needs to be scale down to display more without need to scroll miles. Buttons to prioritize and cancel work orders on queue don't work yet.
-Random error crashes, game crashes if you exit to main menu and load another game. Makes game unplayable in the long-term as errors are persistent with your saves, meaning starting a new game every few hours or so.
I believe the first Alpha game I ever touched was DayZ on Arma 2. First Beta would be Minecraft, the game that probabbly started all this Early-Access pandemonia. Minecraft was pretty polished when I first jumped in, I actually liked the beta better than the full release versions (too much stuff now, got confusing - especially with blocky 16 bit graphics). DayZ was alright as well, despite the cornucopia of connection issues, long load times ,and outright cheating going on, it was playable. And by "playable", I meant I actually had fun playing it.
I bought Clockwork Empires with this in mind, thinking while it was unfinish, it would still be interesting play-test of a cool steampunk settlement/city-builder (a genre that desperately needs new games) that would offer some continual if limited gameplay. What I experience was my first taste of what a pre-alpha really was...
Clockwork Empires can be best describe right now at its current stage (September 2014) as an unfinished Monopoly game board with missing pieces. You have some squares missing, no chance cards or hotel pieces, and you're playing with half a dice. Your not going to have a lot of fun, and you're going to have a headache trying to figure out the rules as it is. Though there is still some merit hidden in the dark corners, namely in Clockwork's growing but faulty game mechanics and subtle hints to its lore. Being pre-alpha, I'm really hoping Clockwork's devs are willing to make the effort to make this game into a true gem it deserves to be instead of just out to swipe our hard-earned $$$.
When you first start a new map (currently two maps available), you're treated to a seemingly enormous map space that's smoldered with black fog of war, except the small area where your colonists and soldiers stand in wait of your orders along with some starting supplies. There is a text based tutorial, no interactive how-to here. Its not too bad, but I can't help but feel a game of this size and complexity really needs an in-game pedia and help menu, I'm sure the devs are working on that as I speak.
At first glance, the setup is similar to Banished, another city-builder (Banished was actually how I found Clockwork, I was yearning for a combat element to the challenging but otherwise tranquil gameplay of Banished). Mouse over map artifacts show there's a great multitude of gatherable resources scattered throughout the map, done in a way similar to Children of the Nile. Trees can be chopped for logs, boulders mined for building stone, half a dozen variety of ores, foragable berries and fungus, etc. All resources gathered in the game are done by a single click or drag over the resource area followed by a selection on an option wheel. No need to build mines or extraction facilities, just drag or click and your colonists would dig the stuff up for you with their bare hands. Storage faciilties (which are free) can be built but not mandatory. Your colonists simply drop items on the ground if needed. This is a nice touch, at least for me it means avoiding the expense curve that was Anno's resource extraction system.
Advance items are produced through a production chain that's almost as detailed as that in the Anno series, but production of items is not automatic, but actually require the players to manually place "Orders" through production buildings. A bit annoying at first when you need lots of building materials like planks on hand, but eventually I realize this lets me control the raw material supply, and not have to deal with pillaging of stockpiles by citizens - as was the case with Children of the Nile.
As of now, all buildings are available to be built by the player, at least no tech tree I can discern. The player needs to custom layout buildings and place machinery/furniture, "Sims"-esque style. No more blocks of identical clone buildings, which adds a lot to the variety and customization to the game. Of course, as of now you can't demolish buildings or remove/add existing furniture (Really devs, how could you have left that out at this point?). Another wierd thing, placing multiply furnitures requires you to re-select an item after you placed the first item. Placing items like a dozen beds for a bunkhouse can be tedious, requiring you to move and click back and forth over and over again. Item hangover I guess is something the devs are still working on. Exterior options for buildings are limited, a few lamp posts and signage but you can't change the look or color of walls. Adding the ability to save a blueprint of a custom building would be a great plus here, at least when it comes repeat placing of homes or watnot.
Each colonist is a definitive individual, with traits and memories of events that carry tangible in-game effects. Think State of Decay. This is where CE really shines, and I'm hoping the devs would turn this and other things into a playable game. Till then, I would wait for at least a beta-level stage before buying.