What is it Steampunk and Lovecraft inspired city-builder and colony simReviewed on: Windows 10, i5 4690k, 8GB RAM, Nvidia GTX 970Price: $30/23Release date: Out nowPublisher: Gaslamp GamesDeveloper: Gaslamp GamesLink: www.clockworkempires.com (opens in new tab)
A band of steampunky colonists lands on foreign shores. Their task: to build houses, chop trees, and civilize these barbaric pastures for cog and country. As they expand their settlement they upset the soil, every footfall in danger of waking The Things Beneath.
Take on the role of a Colonial Bureaucrat sent forth by the Clockwork Empire to build a Frontier Colony. Design houses & workshops to feed the Ravenous Maw of Industry, manage a uniquely unruly population, avoid cannibalism & monsters, and make Important Decisions for the glory of the Empire!
Pioneer a living world full of warmth, heroism, and mystery. Help a small group of settlers build a home for themselves in a forgotten land. Establish a food supply, build shelter, defend your people, monitor their moods, and find a way to grow and expand, facing challenges at every step.
Guide a group of space settlers trying to establish a base on a remote planet. Grow food, collect energy, mine resources, survive disasters and build a self-sufficient colony in a harsh and unforgiving environment.
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Humans are long gone. Will your lumberpunk beavers do any better A city-building game featuring ingenious animals, vertical architecture, river control, and deadly droughts. Contains high amounts of wood.
Clockwork Empires employs similar What If Victoriana to Sunless Sea/Fallen London. A mid-point between steampunk and eldritch horror, with a maudlin tone and a certain expectation of suffering. In this case, it entails a rag-tag band of imperial colonists founding a settlement on a new frontier. Food must be gathered, trees must be felled, stone must be mined, houses must be built, workshops and public services must be established. Each building must have amenities and furniture individually built in order that resources can be processed and comfort improved so that more settlers are attracted.
Though disaster frequency can be abated by building one of everything, Clockwork Empires' ethos is that shit happens, and if you're not equipped to deal with it, you'll lose a few people and a few buildings may need repairing afterwards. The empire will ship more settlers from home, workers will fix buildings, bodies will be buried and normal service will be resumed.
The key to success/survival is not any individual's needs, but to gradually build more and better services in a relatively familiar town-builder fashion. I'm not telling Clockwork Empires off for that - I like town-builder games - but simply trying to adjust expectations. This is a building game, not The Sims On The Mountains Of Madness.
Frankly, the real Clockwork Empires is exactly the kind of tiny acorn > mighty oak prospect I enjoy. The critical problem is it suffers from a killer combo of a heinous user interface and a generous smattering of bugs. These two factors regularly combine into buildings not getting built, and it's not always clear whether it's the player's fault or the game's.
This leads me onto a key design decision in CE that has most harmed my psychological well-being while playing it. You cannot force anything to be built. Settlers - divided fairly pointlessly into Overseers and small squads of Labourers working under them - will choose which of whatever orders you've given they will work on next. You can't directly order someone to go work on a specific construction, but have to hope that they'll get it to quickly. Yes, you can cancel all other requests in order to artificially make one particular thing a priority, but this is inelegant and disruptive compared to the more obvious choice of assigning an Overseer to a new build.
There is not, for instance, an icon to show that a requested building isn't being made because you lack x, y, or z. You have to notice that it's not happening, manually click on it, see what it needs, switch to another menu and compare that to what you have in your town's inventory, then switch to another building and request that more of x, y or z is made. Often, x, y or z require first making u, v or w in a different building entirely. And that will first require harvesting r, s or t, or trading for it in a building which first requires v, s and y to construct. In most circumstances, the game does not alert you that r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y or z are missing.
Every object in every building has to be ordered and built individually, and none of it happens automatically. For example, labourers will not build a bed you've requested in a house unless you additionally go tell the carpenter's shop to make a flat-packed bed kit, and if there is not enough wood to make that, no-one will go gather that wood without your specific directive to.
I like the game at CE's heart, but interacting with it is simply unpleasant. Were it slick and reliable perhaps I could bear its extreme micro-management and unhelpful UI, but the fact is that it's currently strewn with technical errors, most of which boil down to, once again, build orders not happening. Meteor storms, cult outbreaks and merman invasions are its highlight, yes, but ultimately they are just colourful interruptions to a deeply frustrating normality.
You can design buildings as you see fit within an easy to use grid system. I have no imagination, so all of mine ended up as squares or rectangles. As of the time of this writing, you can only build on the surface level.
There is already a lot to like about Clockwork Empires. The steampunk meets Cthulhu setting combined with an excellent sense of humor make for an inviting experience, and the interface is relatively easy to navigate. The music is enjoyable, changing based on in-game situations and turning ominous when something bad is happening in your colony, although the rest of the sound effects are pretty minimalist. It's satisfying to build an efficient colony up from nothing, and different biomes can be unlocked that require different approaches and present you with varied environmental challenges. Colonists change over time and keep journals of what they've been up to. There are numerous factors that effect their quality of life, such as food, a place to sleep and the status of their workplace. 1e1e36bf2d