As city-builders run short these days, i decided to have a go at this game. When i first started it i had in mind all the older city building game i already played such as SimCity, Cities XL, the Anno series and Sierra games (Pharaon, Zeus, the Caesar series...), the last which apparently served as the main inspiration for this game.
Thus, i was not surprised of the game mechanics which mainly consists of starting from scratch with three objectives that need to be filled. You then start to build some houses and production buildings, and the way to proceed is as i said above based on Sierra's mechanics: citizens need a certain resource/building in order to upgrade their houses, and therefore increase the rent income. Run short of any resource and the houses will shortly degrade to the highest level it can attain with the remaining ones.
Production on it's side consists of running a production chain which may consist of one up to three buildings in order to well... produce resources. These resources can be either used to satisfy citizen's needs, be sold at trading routes or given to the few events (up to three per mission from my experience). Some other elements have been included such as crime or fire, with respectively the sheriff and fire brigade in order to fight against them.
At this stage of the review you are probably thinking "Well that doesn't look so bad, does it?". And unfortunately it does. Let me explain you why, in the same way as i described the game above:
You start each game with three objectives: there is absolutely no time-limit or constraint of any kind. There is no other way to lose the game then through bad management, which is nearly impossible after a playing for a few hours. You can start from three "difficulty" options at the start of each mission, but it does only impact the first few minutes of play.
The resource management of this game is very simplistic: The raw resources are produced at a steady rate, never influenced by seasons (grapes, grain and cotton all the year! ) nor resource availability (hunters producing without animals, lumber mills without forests...). Stock management has been dealt with by giving your warehouse an unlimited storage capacity. You cannot predict as well the resource supply and demand of your city easily, as no production and consumption summary is given, which means that you will have to over-produce all goods required to avoid stock shortage.
Trade is the simplest form that could be included. You pay a "fee" to open the trade route with a city, and then after you can import or export goods from there. Goods are imported/exported at a fixed price, with unlimited quantity. This means that you can sell the town next door 100k logs of lumber at the same price, and import 100k crates of beer, without any impact on future trade or product price. Production capacity and demand are simply not taken into account in this game. This lead to a "give me money" button that can be pressed once in a while, without thinking any further.
Wages and rents are also fixed, population satisfaction is simply not taken into account, and unemployment's only impact is the color of the total population indicator. Hazards like crime and fire are solved by having the relevant building, effectively leading the risk to 0%. Other natural hazards likely never happen, or even if they do their impact is so minor that you do not even need to take them into account.
One back side of this game simplicity is that a resource shortage (non-anticipable as said before) can lead to total mayhem. A house degrading can mean worker shortage (which has no proper indicator), and this shortage can escalate to a complete desertion: some buildings required by citizens are shut down, leading to further house degrading, leading to further work shortage... A simple feature to give work priorities could eliminate this issue but it has not been implemented.
To sum up, this game is simplistic, terribly easy, and becomes quickly repetitive. I can say without any risk that after playing this game for 2 hours like i did you will have gotten all that this game has to offer. The only difficulties that can arise are not part of the intended gameplay but are the result of a lack of management tools and features that are included in most other city-builders.
Despite having the full california on the main menu and a large map when starting a game, you are confined in a tiny square without any opportunity to expand. That shocked me first but after playing for a while you understand that this space is all you need to have a working untouchable, steady producing money-farm.
To finish this review i wanted to say that i understand that this a new indie development studio, but i just took a look of the game description of this store page. "complex cities" and "deep simulation games" are not the words i would use to describe this game. On this opposite i would use the words "simplistic" and "casual". This is typically a game you could run on social networks or mobile phones, but in no way a city-builder simulation or resource management game.
- For new players discovering the genre: This game could be an interesting first city-builder to play, but you will soon outgrow this game and regret buying it in the first place. If you want to start with a city-building game you should look for classics such as the ones i listed in the first pagagraph.
- For experimented city-building games players: Do not buy this game as you will feel robbed after playing for a few hours. Used to more complex management games it will feel like riding a car on a carousel after being used to drive a real one.
Sorry for the long review, but i didn't want to freely throw a bunch of critics without explaining why i came to these conclusions.