With games like Cities Skylines and SimCity dominating the city builder spotlight, it makes it tricky for other developers to nudge their way into the market. Indeed, the only ones that have any modicum of success are ones that aim to provide some quirk or gimmick that the more realistic games can’t offer. Tropico plops you down as a dictator, with a bit more diplomatic gameplay, Banished adds a strong survival element to the game that makes it challenging. Then, we have a new challenger – Workers & Resources: Soviet Republic (W&R). This one’s niche is you taking over a communist country, under Soviet rule.
Well oiled Soviet machine
That is, at it’s very, very basic level, it’s niche. When you actually play the game you realise what it’s real niche is – ultra realism. At least, when it comes to constructing your city. You can either do it the quick way by paying exactly for buildings and up they pop, right next to you, ready for use, or you can build them yourself. This is where W&R truly excels and makes its case for why you should be playing it. You can start your town with very basic building blocks, making baby steps as you progress, until you start grabbing better resources, which will allow you to build better, more productive or just more impressive buildings and infrastructure.
I don’t actually think W&R looks quite as nice as other games in the genre. It feels a generation or two behind, aesthetically at least. This is forgivable though, not only because it’s an indie game, but because with it’s models and graphics it does perfectly illustrate life in a Soviet town. Everything depicted looks incredible, and spot on for the era. The cars all look realistic and faithful, and the buildings look depressing and brutalist, and it manages to achieve an expert level of realism, even with slightly shoddy looking graphics. This realism bleeds into everything the game has to offer as well, which makes it ultimately an incredibly reward experience, if you were ever curious about how a Soviet city ran.
Stuck in the past
I do understand that W&R is a work in progress, and it’s still in Early Access, but I still found myself with gripes that need to be resolved as quickly as possible. The most pressing of these concerns is the lack of information given to the player at the start of the game. I don’t always need my hand held, but with a game as complex and in depth as this one, it’s an absolute requirement that they show you the ropes. Instead, you’re reliant on vast amounts of trial and error, or looking things up. Neither of which are conducive to fun gameplay, as you’ll often find yourself querying why you should even bother. What’s the point in having unparalleled levels of control in the construction of your projects, if it’s next to impossible to decipher what it is you actually need to do?
Another sticking point is the fact that it’s got the ability to level out terrain to aid your building, but it’s a slow process. Couple this with the fact that it’s incredibly difficult to actually find resources to build in the first place – with seemingly no interface to assist in locating anything – you have a recipe for frustration-induced baldness.
The Final Word
The lack of a tutorial is a major sticking point in W&R. It’s got some terrific functionality and, once you’ve worked it out, is incredibly fun. It’s just getting to the phase of working it out that’s troublesome. I’m definitely at a period of my life where I want things to be laid out slightly more easily than having to slowly work out everything, spend hours with trial and error in order to get anywhere. I do that enough in my job, when I play a game I just want it to be fun. If the developers can resolve this point though, they’ve got a cracking game that I’m sure will rival the big boys.