I seem to have been playing nothing but simulation games lately, from pizzerias to artists’ guilds, there have been a wide variety of excellent titles to play this year already, and the offering from Dreamsite Games is no different. Empire TV Tycoon is a nifty little game that sees you take over a TV channel, and you have to find your way to make your station the greatest out of the three channels that reside in your building.
As has already become evident, finding a concept to build a game around is not a tricky thing to do, but actually nailing the idea is pretty challenging. Admittedly, the idea behind Empire TV Tycoon isn’t a brand new one – it is essentially a modern take on Rainbow Arts Software’s 1991 classic Mad TV, and you can definitely see a lot of the inspiration shining through – even to someone who never played the original.
Taking over the channel is little more than scheduling programmes – either movies or television shows – as well as putting ads out in order to both increase your audience and to earn a little money from advertisers looking to get the word out about their products. It doesn’t necessarily sound like much of a challenge, but you’ll have to adapt everything to the people watching. There are eight different audience types that all have their own preferences on the twelve different genres you can put on, so ensuring that you put something on that they enjoy is actually surprisingly tricky. The adverts you put on may also be targeted at certain people – for example, you can advertise Powersauce bars for the sporty people watching, or retirement homes for the elderly. Keeping an eye on all of these things can be a real challenge, but when you get higher numbers than anyone else on the network and your fame starts to rise, you’ll start feeling like a proper network bigwig.
There’s an extensive back catalogue already in the game in the form of many real titles, so you’ll be able to form your channel exactly how you want just from those, but if you want to stamp your name on your channel even more, you can look to hire scriptwriters and actors to perform in your own productions. The scripts can be a little iffy – but that’s only down to the developers not having a complete grasp on all of the nuances of the English language, which is totally understandable and in some cases creates some real hilarity. You have to jump through quite a few hoops in order to get a highly rated movie, as you have many different variables that all come in to play, making it a real challenge to create a great movie. In addition to the scripts, you’ll have to hire the actors and decide where to put the most emphasis in the movie. The former is fairly easy – actors with a higher ranking in that particular discipline will perform better – but the latter is where the real challenge is. You’ll have to put a finite amount of points into various different aspects of the movie, including eroticism and scenography in order to create the best mixture you can. Actually getting the points down is a real challenge, especially at the start, as you’ll quickly find you’ll be running out of them before you’ve really settled on what you want the priorities of the movie to be.
Your own productions aren’t just for your channel either – there are award shows every other day to showcase your best effort of a certain genre. There are five different categories, each of which offers a bonus to both your fame and your cash. Completing these will really help you reach the 300 fame points required to win the game, but they also add another challenge to the game, because you will only be aware of what you need to put forward a day before the awards show, so you’ll really have to buckle down and put your director hat on in order to come out with the most awards.
When the awards shows aren’t on, there is another fun little side quest – live news reports. These all have some zany topics, but you’ll notice all of what is being reported around the building you’re in. Whether it’s dozens of eyes staring you down around the bushes where escaped zoo animals are hiding, or UFOs appearing on the horizon, it is a really nice touch to keep you entertained when you’re stuck in the same building.
The game is definitely fun – I’ve put in a few dozen hours already – but there are things that irk me about it still. First off, the hard limit of 300 points of fame to win the game. It’s good to have a competitive mode in it, but it definitely shouldn’t be the only mode offered in the game. It’s even worse when you are kicked out of your game immediately after winning or losing, as everything you’ve worked hard to create is instantly shitcanned and you’re back to square one, should you choose to replay the game. I do believe the guys over at Dreamsite Games are working on an endless mode, but until that’s in place, it’ll still be a major irritation having to rebuild every time I want to play.
I wouldn’t say Empire TV Tycoon is an intuitive game. There’s a lot of different features that you’ll need to get your head around, and even though there are a lot of help options available to you, it’s actually pretty challenging to get your head around all of it without having a paper and a pen handy and a lot of trial and error. This is especially obvious when it comes to deciding what to put on your channel, where trial and error can really kill your audiences off right at the start, but there’s no real indication of what audiences will like otherwise. This kind of thing really gets my goat, as it forces you to play multiple games just to try to figure out the best combinations between programmes and audiences.
In general, Empire TV Tycoon is great, and when the endless mode comes in, I’ll be sinking even more hours into it. Despite the abrupt endings and the lack of a real audience tutorial, it’s definitely a whole lot of fun. You’re given a great deal of control about what goes on the telly and it gives the control freak in me a lot of joy. There’s definitely some work to be done to make it perfect, but overall, I’d recommend picking it up, because if you’re a fan of simulation games, you’ll love it.