On its Steam web page, upcoming city-building game Floodland payments itself as “a society survival sport set in a world destroyed by local weather change.” The developer is Vile Monarch, a brand new studio co-founded by Kacper Kwiatkowski and Grzegorz Mazur, who additionally co-created This Battle of Mine at 11 Bit Studios. After I strolled into my hands-on appointment at Gamescom 2022, nonetheless, I solely knew to anticipate a then-unannounced metropolis builder that may deal ultimately with local weather change – and I confess I hoped for one thing a bit completely different.
We’ve written before on PCGamesN of how curious it’s that so few video games about constructing large, difficult issues sort out one of many greatest downsides of doing so: the environmental impression. Whether or not it’s metropolis builders, manufacturing facility sims, or different industrial administration video games, there are only a few experiences which current any response from the pure world to your air pollution of it, or your consumption of its assets. That’s very true if you’d like a sensible simulation; Factorio will ship swarms of aliens to assault your manufacturing facility because it belches out smoke, however the place are the video games that depict the processes and penalties of habitat loss, sea stage rise, ocean acidification, and total world warming because the participant burns fossil fuels and goes logging within the wilderness?
Alas, that sport is not going to be Floodland, however not less than it aspires to point out us the aftermath. Vile Monarch is obvious that local weather change “was a catalyst for a succession of occasions that led to the destruction of our world”. Hovering sea ranges have changed nations as we knew them with chains of islands, swamps, and remoted teams of survivors. I ask author Alexander Stroganov why nobody has tried one thing so specific earlier than.
“The truth that it’s a bit little bit of a political subject, there are a whole lot of sceptics,” he replies. “Any delicate topic generally requires endurance over time, and I believe possibly it’s a bit bit about maturing. However I believe it’s catching on, lastly, and that’s why. It was only a matter of time, and now could be the time.” And but, regardless of linking the collapse of civilisation to local weather change, Stroganov insists that “we wished to make a hopeful sport, though the setting is disastrous, catastrophic.
“The darkest factor concerning the sport is how believable it’s. However on the identical time, it’s not presupposed to be [about] scaring individuals. That’s not the purpose. In the long run, it’s a sport about humanity. A variety of the problems which might be within the sport and in its post-catastrophic world can correspond to issues which might be taking place proper now. The sport is meant to be about hope, proper? And whether or not it’s after it’s too late, or earlier than it’s too late, it’s nonetheless about individuals and the way we come collectively and construct a society.”
I begin my hands-on session by choosing one in every of 4 factions with differing ideologies: I am going for the crew of an offshore oil rig who embrace many engineers and scientists, however imagine in “taking rational choices rapidly from a powerful central authority” – or ‘new-world autocracy’, as their description summarises.
My crew begins on a small island, charged with discovering a derelict energy plant close by. For a hopeful sport, the ambiance is mournful: ruined buildings and a rusted water tower are choked by wild undergrowth, and our modest camp is doused by frequent rain showers. Water is all over the place, not solely bounding this damp island, however suffusing even what we see on dry land: the artwork fashion evokes watercolour work, with a lot of drab pastel shades that really feel like the colors are operating, as if the sport is considered by tearful eyes. Even the consumer interface emerges from washy brushstrokes.
The primary stage of rebuilding society is establishing sources of water, meals, and shelter, and to do that we forage for provides together with garbage, which is a rudimentary constructing materials. Foraging has a number of completely different strategies: I can designate forage zones to which residents can be mechanically despatched; I can click on on in-world ruins to collect from them straight; and I can place foraging buildings such that bigger useful resource nodes fall inside their catchment areas. After these nodes are depleted, the constructing serves no objective – I must scrap it and construct one other close to some recent nodes.
There’s no clear in-world rationalization for why gathering strategies should differ from one kind of useful resource to a different, and relocating the buildings is annoying – it feels a bit arbitrary and busyworky. It’s additionally fairly poorly defined; I might’ve made a greater begin if I’d understood these strategies sooner, as I misplaced just a few villagers to thirst and hunger as a result of sputtering provide chains, leaving me with out sufficient individuals to fill all of the job vacancies as my village began to develop and unlock extra complicated buildings.
I make a comparability with Frostpunk – one other metropolis builder by 11 Bit set after an environmental apocalypse – and Stroganov says that in addition to the extra hopeful tone, one other level of distinction is Floodland’s concentrate on exploration. Your burgeoning society will transfer between islands, and be challenged to cross and even discover water at various depths. Stroganov attracts comparisons with the Anno collection, during which you increase to completely different elements of your most important island, after which to completely different islands solely, seeking assets. However there would at all times come some extent, comparatively early in every sport, when the map was ‘accomplished’.
“Right here, due to how troublesome it’s to go from flooded land to flooded land, and since the variety of individuals is rising exponentially and there’s a restricted variety of individuals doing a restricted variety of issues, exploring goes to be with you till virtually the very finish of the sport. So it feels higher paced, and offers the sport depth.”
You’ll encounter different bands of survivors on these travels, add them to your rising neighborhood, and the main focus will shift from survival to political and social points. You’ll want to take care of the peace between differing factions, selecting your values and passing legal guidelines in accordance with them. You’ll additionally should cope with those that might not share your imaginative and prescient for the longer term.
It’s in such labours that the hopeful tone, I think about, can emerge extra strongly. In my quick session I didn’t fairly make it to the facility plant, as my emaciated village struggled to search out equilibrium. Not a terrific success, then, and I go away my hands-on feeling a bit defeated. However the attractive artwork fashion, all-too-plausible premise, and chance of extra partaking mechanics later within the sport have piqued my curiosity. You’ll be able to take a look at these thrilling city-building games and management games when you await the Floodland launch date on November 15, 2022.