Eurogamer Expo 2012 Round-up – Part Four

Welcome back, it’s part four of Appstorm’s Eurogamer Expo roundup. The next two games will probably hold a special place in my heart.

I still remember fondly back in the late 90s when one day my dad once came home with two games: Theme Hospital and Simcity 2000. They were my world, and I still love them to this day. Now, more than a decade later, another two games are trying to steal my heart: Prison Architect and Simcity.

Hit the break to find out more about these wonderful games.

Prison Architect

You might have heard of Introversion, you might not. Does Uplink, Darwinia, DEFCON or Multiwinia mean anything to you? If so, this is their next game, and it’s got me excited. If not, pay attention, this’ll be good. Prison Architect is a wonderfully ambitious, community-driven project, influenced by Dwarf Fortress and Bullfrog’s games (such as Theme Hospital and the like). By the title, of course, you’ll know that it’s a new kind of simulation game. One where you build, control and maintain a high-security prison.

What We Got to Play

The theme of the game may be slightly more adult than most sim games. Theme parks, hospitals, zoos…prisons? It’s an interesting idea, and Introversion have not held back. This game is rather violent and adult, which can be seen pretty easily from the tutorial level. When Introversion realised that their game needed a tutorial level, this is what we got. Whilst explaining the mechanics of the game to you, Prison Architect gives us a story of a convicted murderer who’s facing the electric chair, which coincidentally you have to provide. We even get a stylised backstory, complete with faux-polaroid pictures showing the crime. It’s fascinating that we actually get to see into the life and minds of the convicts that we take care of, not something I expected. I’m told the full game will have a campaign mode with more of this.

Graphics

When I first gazed my eyes upon this game, it looked odd. The cutesy appearance of your employees and convicts feels a little strange at first, but I got used to it pretty quickly when they started stabbing each-other, or fist-fighting in the shower. It’s very much reminiscent of the old school isometric management games, though from a top-down view instead, almost like a blueprint view. This top-down view is done rather well, and works wonders for planning your base. I did restart my game a number of times just to try my hand at designing the perfect, efficient, secure prison. Eventually, convicts do come along (and currently do so every 24 hours of in-game time, 8 at a time) and they are unfortunately not quite as keen on marvelling at my wondrous and lovingly-designed prison as I am.

Gameplay

Everything start off great. My prisoners are doing exactly what I’ve told them to do (you can set rotas for them, for when to eat, sleep or just do whatever they like), I’ve got plenty of cash (you can complete contracts which involve completing certain objectives to get more money) and my guards have no cause for alarm. Unfortunately, the more prisoners my prison get, the more my utopia descends into chaos. It’s surprising, the amount of things you have to do to keep your prisoners in check: Feed them, bathe them (well, they bathe themselves, but you need to build showers), power the facilities, hooking up the water, getting them psychiatric help. It’s quite a task, keeping your prison running.

Unfortunately, being in alpha stage, this game was of course riddled with bugs. But have no fear, it’s steadily on its way to becoming a masterpiece, and a love-letter to the management sims of old.

No word on Prison Architect’s release date I’m afraid.

Prison Architect

Simcity

Here it is, the granddaddy of management sims. It’s been awhile since I’ve been excited about a SimCity game. Since Simcity 2000, my interest dropped off somewhat with lacklustre sequels that didn’t really have much to show for themselves except updated graphics and some interesting new features here and there. Don’t even get me started on the ridiculous Sims/SimCity crossover games, SimCity Societies.

Now what we’ve got here is a reboot. Not sure how you can reboot a game like this, but sure. Developed by Maxis yet again, I was sceptical at first, but after seeing some developer walkthroughs of this game, culminating in getting a go at the demo, this is suddenly one of my most anticipated games of 2013.

What we got to play

Just like Prison Architect, the best way of showing off the features of the game is to provide a tutorial. It’s rather hard to describe what we get to play otherwise. In any case, the tutorial leads you through the placement and building of several areas and buildings required to run a city. You’re told what to build and why by the helpful denizens of your city, who have gathered up at the town hall to make demands of your city.

At their cue, you connect your city up to the out-of-sight rest of the world, you build roads, residential, commercial and industrial districts, fire stations, police stations and various required utilitarian buildings, such as waste disposal, power and water.

Graphics

Oh boy, does this game look good. It's meticulous, and so detailed. It's hard to describe really, but all the work that Maxis have been doing with the other SimCity games and the Sims games, have led up to this point. It's a reboot, so they've been developing their brand new game engine for a long time, and it looks the part. The UI is fantastically smooth and polished, but its the visual representation of the city that really fascinates me. When working with utilities, such as water or power, your view changes. It's easy to see how much work has gone into the engine.

Gameplay

It definitely pays off. The game feels absolutely solid, and comfortable to play. I didn’t feel there was ever a point where there was any information that wasn’t available to me. The game does a great job of visualizing feedback of your city. Unfortunately, I did not get to play much further than the demo tutorial. But still, everything feels solid and connected, and makes the job of running and developing the city feels easy to start with, but hard to master.

This game actually feels like the first true sequel to Simcity 2000’s wonderfully perfected city management simulator.

Simcity will be available in February 2013.

Simcity

Stay tuned for the last part this week, with Tomb Raider and more.