It’s like a fancy Pharoah / Cleopatra. Or Ceasar / Master of Olympus depending on your age. That’s nearly 20 years ago since a decent one was made. Maybe that’s why this one hits the right notes? Large push from Syncaine to try this one out.
Up front, this is the game I have the least time played. Not because it’s bad, just because it’s not the type of game you can just put down and come back to. It’s a game entirely about momentum.
Basics are simple enough, you run a small city in the ice cold. You need to shelter, feed, heal the population. You need to explore, research and build contraptions to do more with less. And you ultimately need to have more hope than discontent, or people won’t do the things you ask them do.
It’s a game of choices, though how hard they are depends on how mechanical you want to become. If you’re ok with amputees rather than sick folk, since they are less of a draw on resources, then the choice is pretty easy. If there’s any message to take from the game it’s that Technocracy is a damn cold way to run a group of people. Survival inherently comes at the cost of humanity, and how far down that slope you want to go is up to you.
While there is some randomness to events, generally the choices you make in one game will be similar in the next. There’s a generally optimal path to start the building process, at least until you get into the exploration phase. Tough choices are make/break when it comes to healthy population, ensuring adequate levels of food/heat. Optimal doesn’t mean the only way mind you, just the one that’s most tolerant of bad luck. You can select multiple paths along the way, though each brings its own set of challenges.
While both simplistic (smallish map) and complex (buildings are hard to tell apart, many icons), most choices are made from the main screen’s information overlay. I never felt like the game was hiding something from me, and each choice made was done so with all relevant data present. There are very few “what’s behind door #2” situations. And the majority of choices are balanced against each other, either in the immediate choice or in future choices along the path. Using the amputee example above, eventually you get to select prostheses for your population.
The overall art/music is quite solid. Visually you can see people trudging through the snow. You get proper sound alerts when things happen. There are pause and speed-up options. Day/night cycles.
The game sessions are long, in line with other city builders. Since all the missions (until recently) were goal based, they vary somewhat in length, but I’ve not seen one under 30 minutes and most are around the hour mark. A quirk of this genre is that by the mid-point mark you have so many things going on at once, that leaving and coming back from a save can be a challenge. You are going to miss something and things will start falling apart. When you do manage to get an entire scenario down in a sitting, it’s an extremely good feeling. I guess it’s a bit like a board game in that sense.
It’s a solid recommendation.