June 10, 2015 11:00 AM | John Bridgman
We all know what it's like being an RPG hero. Questing, seeing exciting places, meeting interesting people and battling extraordinary monsters. What seldom gets looked at is what goes on back at the NPC village our intrepid adventurers journey out from. Surely, there's got to be something going on back home in the meantime. RPG Tycoon from Skatanic Studios puts you in charge of a growing medieval fantasy town.
It's an interesting premise to build a management sim around, and it has a lot of potential. At the moment though, potential is all this game has. In its current state as a Steam Early Access title, the game simply is not engaging. With slow progress and very few decisions to make as you progress, this isometric city builder is very disappointing.
It looks nice enough, though it gets very cluttered as you develop your town. Buildings obstruct a lot of area, and you'll quickly find your town a mess as you scurry to add decorations to raise your appearance stat. Your villagers will move about the town and disappear into your buildings to spend money seemingly arbitrarily, and in doing so your funds will rise to build the next building in the list.
That is the core of the gameplay experience in RPG Tycoon. Waiting for numbers to rise high enough to do the next thing, then repeat. The heroes you can bring in to go out on quests function the same way, essentially progress bars that you barely control and take too long to fill. They can get random events on quests, but these too feel extremely arbitrary, so you might as well advance through them quickly to not delay things even more.
The audio in the game is highlighted by a rather upbeat and catchy title theme that plays in full before going into a more whimsical and pastoral one for the game itself. The sound effects I think are still a work in progress, unless the notification sound is meant to be reminiscent of a supermarket checkout scanner, which is, needless to say, very out of place. In fact, the most significant sound effects are cash register noises and it really feels awkward.
There are other kingdoms in the game, each developing and progressing, as well as hiring their own heroes. This could add something interesting to the gameplay, but right now it simply feels like it does nothing tangible. I never felt in competition or that their actions were having an effect on my game. I hope that this feature gets fleshed out as the game goes on because it could help make the game more enjoyable.
Building is unintuitive and mostly uninteresting, as while the game certainly does indicate to you which grid squares you can build on when placing new buildings, it leaves you wondering why you can or can't build on some squares. It limits your freedom to develop your town expressively and the game suffers for it. Also the decision to have only two orientations for buildings is limiting as well, and it quickly drains any ambition for creativity, instead leaving you to build in the only place you're able to.
RPG Tycoon is, without question, a work in progress still. It's a novel idea that I do believe could pan out to be a fun management sim and city builder, but it's very far away from that point right now. In its current state I would only recommend it to the most devout fans of city building games, and then only tentatively. It's worth keeping an eye on, as its potential may translate into something good eventually. It just has a long way to go yet.