I’ve been playing the Alpha for the last week, and feel I’ve gotten to a point where progression has stopped/slowed, so felt it was a good opportunity to feed back on my experience so far.
I’m a big fan of this genre, I grew up playing games like the settlers and other city/town builders with complex production chains, and resource gathering, so was instantly drawn to try this out!
Overall - Great fun. This game passes the test of making me completely lose track of time, entire irl days flew by whilst playing. I’m also impressed by how optimised it is in terms of performance, the game loads almost instantly! Graphically its fairly basic, but I imagine that will only improve, and the graphics certainly don’t get in the way of the game mechanics.
The controls are intuitive, and felt instantly familiar, although I didn’t dig through the menu to see if there were any shortcuts I was missing.
For an early alpha game, there is a good amount of content, although hopefully there will be many more layers to unlock and progress though as the game continues in development.
I want to highlight that there are many great things about this game, and I really enjoyed playing around with it for the last few days. The below is a more detailed analysis of some of the areas and (hopefully) constructive criticism, which I hope is helpful for the devs.
The career (and aspiration) progression aspect of the game is for me the one that distinguishes it the most from other games in this genre. It adds plenty of extra layers of depth to the gameplay, although feels a little under-developed in places.
Once you have levelled up a career, you can’t see what career specific abilities or upgrades your colonists have. For example, soldiers can’t use a bow till rank 1, and a sword till rank 2, but once they are rank 2, there is no way to see they have either of these unlocked skills, you just have to remember. Foresters become more efficient etc. Just some sort of tooltip, or stat panel with details of all the career specific unlocks a colonist has, would be really useful for keeping track of things.
Career progression felt a bit one dimensional, once you reach rank 3, there isn’t much else to improve. It would be cool to have additional underlying stats/modifiers, that continue to improve a colonists performance beyond just the ranks, and encourage levelling multiple careers. Something like the classic Strength / Stamina / Intellect, each increased by doing work of specific careers. For example, research could improve intellect, which makes a colonist research faster, but also improves crafting speed. Cutting down trees could increase strength, which could also make them do more damage in combat. Farming could improve stamina, which could increase health points and unlock the tireless trait. etc.
The usefulness of careers seems a bit imbalanced though, some careers end up with a lot of idle time, whilst others are working non-stop, and some seem much harder to level up than others. Also many of them are lacking any unlocks/upgrades for rank 3 (I assume still a WIP)
By far the most demanding career, I usually had half my colonists as farmers at any given time, just to keep up with the food demand. Things improve a bit when you unlock the watering can and farmers clothes, but between sowing/watering/harvesting crops, picking cotton and apples, and cooking, they have almost too many things to do. Cotton and apples seem to be the things i’m in short supply of, it would be great to be able to cultivate your own crops for them, to avoid having to track across the map constantly.
Wood is the major limiting factor for most of the early game, so I always had at least 1 forester. I’m not sure how I feel about the auto-regrowing trees, it might be cool if foresters replanted saplings themselves, so you could clear land and plant trees where you want them.
I quite quickly built up massive excesses of stone, iron and crystals, with only a single miner. They seem less useful than the forester, as those resources don’t get used as much. I was missing additional ore types, such as gold or gems, which would give them more things to do. Also the infinite resource nodes felt a bit cheaty, would be more interesting to have to find new resources when you deplete your nearby nodes. Maybe eventually having to build underground mines/quarries.
Crafting is a strange one, as they only make craft things on demand, which can lead to a lot of down time. Maybe they could help the farmers out with cooking? I found it hard to level without heavy use of the bookshelf.
Doctors spend a lot of their time doing very little. I’m not sure if the health/disease part of the game is fully implements yet, as the only diseases I saw were a couple of instances of the flu. I don’t think I found a use for the medicine/potions, or at least I never noticed them get used. Maybe I just got lucky though and had hygienic colonists! I wasn’t sure if they automatically bandage/treat colonists when they need it.
Soldiers were quite fun to play around with, and of all the careers, them having a lot of idle time doesn’t bother me too much. No rank 3 upgrade though was a bit depressing, hopefully there will be some additional benefit for putting time into combat experience!
My researchers kept running off to mine gems, which gets a bit annoying when you have 200 stockpiled! Its useful to be able to turn off the gem harvesting, but it would be a nice QOL thing if they prioritised research to mining if you had excess crystals. Also once I completed all the research, they became useless, so I just turned them into farmers.
- The combat feels quite basic, and its hard to tell whats going on, with no visible health bars.
- Controlling each colonist individually gets a bit tedious, it would be really nice to be able to group command soldiers, or tell colonists to attack anything nearby (good for clearing goblin camps).
- Archers seem a bit hard to use, it looked like half the arrows hit my own colonists instead of the goblins most of the time, although arrows do a tonne of damage when they hit!.
- What is the point of stunning goblins instead of killing them? I was wondering if you could nurse them back to health and have them join your colony, but I was too scared to try in case it just started attacking me again. It would be cool to be able to imprison/capture them though, and turn them into goblin slaves, or release them to improve diplomatic relations with other goblins!
- I ended up having to build graves for the goblin bodies after every combat. Is that intended? It got a bit morbid having to dig a fresh graveyard after every enemy attack. I kind of wish their bodies would just decay after a year or so, although it doesn’t seem to affect my colonists morale to walk past piles of bloody goblin corpses.
- Its weird that everything takes the same amount of time to construct! Single wooden floor tile? 2 hits of the hammer. Massive stone watch tower? 2 hits of the hammer.
- Flooring doesn’t seem to have any impact beyond cosmetic. It uses a tonne of resources, and takes forever to build in large amounts. It should at least add a decorative bonus, and improve the mood of the colonists over a muddy grass floor.
- Likewise, walls don’t seem to have any noticeable impact either beyond cost. Would give me more of a reason to use the expensive fancy walls if they improved my colonists mood.
- Managing morale becomes one of the more tedious parts of the game, as lots of it seems beyond your control. Lots of my colonists would have nightmares, which could easily turn into a full on meltdown the next day, if they happened to have a random negative conversation. I felt I was lacking in ways to improve colonists mood quickly enough to avoid this, it felt like they should get more obvious positive bonuses from cooked food, relaxation or decor.
- Wishes started to get a bit annoying to fulfil. Colonists constantly asking for new cooked food shelves or kitchen shelves, even when they already had them. Denying wishes has a pretty harsh mood penalty, any many of the furniture wishes quickly eat through your wood & cotton supply.
- The jealousy factor was really hard to figure out. Fulfilling the wish of one colonist would quickly trigger a wave of jealousy across your colony, which means you have to give all your colonists decor items to balance things out. It becomes a big drain on resources, and for me this is where my progression came screeching to a halt.
The one thing the game is really missing is some data overlays. These would be useful for getting information on things such as:
- Beauty (Could show the beauty values of each room/area, helping you to more evenly balance decor ratings, to manage morale better)
- Gathering (could highlight all visible resource nodes, and gatherables, helping you plan, and find things you need easier)
- Farming (could show you the active seasons for your crops, grow %, and whether they have been watered or not)
- Health (Could highlight your diseased/injured colonists, making it easier to ensure they get swift medical attention).
- Career (Could show which actions are possible by each colonist, and any bonuses they might have to resource harvesting etc)
- Combat (Highlight all enemy units/structures on the map)
- Crafting (highlight all unequipped crafted items laying around in your base)
Thats the end of my feedback for now, I want to thank you guys for your work on this game so far, and releasing the alpha for free! I’ve had a lot of fun playing around with it, and my feedback is based purely on a desire to contribute something useful back.