Last year I wrote a post about I tried to play this game but failed. This year, after I complained about this on Broken Forum, someone replied that the Steam version should be fixed by now. ‘Lo and behold, it is and I can now download, patch and launch it successfully, all but confirming that my previous troubles were likely not my fault. So even though I’ve mostly lost interest in this and, wow, has it really been four years since this game was first released, I thought I should at least give it a whirl since I did buy it so long ago.
- I’ve never played any of the games in this series before this and it doesn’t seem to have much of a tutorial so I was lost for a very long time. Eventually I figured out that it’s like a futuristic version of Settlers or something, and things got much better from there. One thing I found really puzzling about this design is that the population needs goods to thrive and effectively upgrade to higher level tiers but the production buildings themselves don’t require access to the population beyond the prerequisite of having a minimum number of the required type to unlock that building.
- Due to this, it seems that the optimal design is to have all, or almost all, of your population on a large island and having all of the end products that the population needs be shipped there. The underwater settlements ram this home. You can’t even build habitats underwater, just resource production and their support infrastructure. I guess we’ll just have to imagine that the workers are commuting or controlling them via remote control.
- There are three factions in this game, but they’re not really enemies, more like rivals. Eventually you can even build stuff from all three factions on the same map. If you really want to develop stuff from all three factions to the furthest extent possible, the number of goods you have to manage is just staggering. This is even more true when you consider that island can produce only a limited number of crop types, so the other ones need to be cultivated on other islands. Furthermore, quite a few resources, especially for the Tech faction, can only be produced underwater.
- This is really the fun part of the game I think, setting up the production chains within the constraints of the land available and managing the logistics of the trade route so that everything works smoothly and no one lacks for anything. To complicate matters you also need energy and to manage the ecobalance. I don’t like this doesn’t result in cities that are pleasing to look at, but there is a certain kind of satisfaction when you see the gigantic apparatus that you built run well.
- That said, this is an RTS and there is a combat system but for the life of me I don’t see any point to the military aspects of the game at all. The combat system is so basic in comparison with the building up your cities part that I wonder why it’s even there at all. This is I never finished the campaign missions and was much happier with the sandbox mode. It doesn’t help that the story for the campaign is the usual puerile nonsense.
- I have mixed feelings about the graphics in this game. On the one hand, wow, look at all that detail on those buildings and the people walking around in maximum zoom. For all of its faults, the sweeping views the campaign missions gives you of how just much detailed work went into all of the models look really impressive. On the other hand, the color palette is so limited and the overall look so heavily geared to be futuristic that there is a boring samey-ness to everything. Simply said, the cities don’t look beautiful. You can be proud of your creations as a well-oiled machine but not as something that looks pleasing to your eye.
- Finally, this game seems quite determined to be an online one though it doesn’t me strike me that many people would want to play this with other people. One effect of all these features is that when I finally logged into the game I had a ton of spam mail waiting for me, asking me to vote in elections, about promotion opportunities and special missions and so forth because I’d originally set up my account last year. That was really annoying.
I didn’t put in much time into this at all and missed a ton of stuff, most obviously the bits about research and upgrading your personal Ark. For my part, while I can see a certain appeal in managing logistics in exacting detail, this game most of all made me yearn to play a more organic city builder like the SimCity games of old, which means that I should probably be playing Cities Skylines like everyone else.