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Indie Corner Episode 36: Some Updates, and other Animals
It has been a while, hasn’t it?
Summer is officially upon us, and for the UK, that usually means lovely, humid weather and no air conditioning. Not the most pleasant experience, but we get by. Welcome to Episode 36 of the Indie Corner, the show where I review indie games for my enjoyment! Hopefully, it will showcase these games to you lovely gamers out there, because, in a world like this, we need some fun in our lives. That was the primary reason I started this series and 36 episodes later, it’s still going strong.
Before I get into my reviews today (there are two games I’m showcasing), I have a few things to discuss. I haven’t been very active on here recently. Since my work contract at Plarium Games finished, I’ve been focusing on my fiction projects as well as looking for more work. My activity on Sassygamers.com will be slow for a while, as I work on my health and finances. We’ve got an incredibly busy summer and autumn ahead, and I want to be in top shape for that.
We’ve had so many games showcases in June, haven’t we? The Xbox Showcase was of the biggest interest to me. Given the less-than-impressive launch of Redfall, there was much pressure on Microsoft to make an impression. I’d say it was a great showcase overall. We got to see gameplay of Avowed, a weird Fable trailer, and many more, but the two games of greatest interest to me were Starfield and Phantom Liberty — Cyberpunk 2077’s long-awaited expansion. August and September are going to be incredibly busy. Rest in peace, sleep!
Seriously, those two months are stacked. Between Armored Core VI, Sea and Stars, Gord, Atlas Fallen, Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew, Starfield, Phantom Liberty, Life By You, and Paleo Pines, that is one crammed schedule. I’ve probably forgotten a bunch of games too, but those are the ones off the top of my head.
Onto today’s episode, I’ve got two games to showcase. I’m still working through a considerable review backlog — but everyone will be featured.
Thriving City: Song
I have noticed a few things about myself. In recent months, I have shunned ‘frustrating games’ in favour of more relaxing gaming experiences. That’s largely been a mental health/fatigue thing for me. During the bad times, the last thing I want to do is ram myself against the wall against a boss fight.
Between colony sims, gentle city-builders, farming games, and even slow RPGs, there are plenty of games to choose from. One example is X4: Foundations, a bonkers space economy sim that is difficult to learn, but I have found great enjoyment this summer treating it as a space taxi. Having my fleet ship me around the cosmos while my trading empire brings in resources is oddly satisfying.
Thriving City: Song is a gorgeous little city-builder by White Star Studio. You can read the interview I held with the developers by clicking on the link below:
I don’t know what it is about this genre that keeps me coming back. It might be just my god complex — developing my little cities and worlds to my heart’s content feels relaxing. While I enjoy sandbox/creative modes, I appreciate progression in video games more now. Thriving City is set in 960 AD during the Zhao Song dynasty, tasking players with developing a new empire over time. While I’ve run into some niggles regarding English translations and a few bugs here and there, Thriving City: Song is a promising, historical city-builder with a ton on offer. You can buy Thriving City: Song on Steam for £15.89/16EUR/20USD — a fair price tag for what’s available. While it is in Early Access, I was impressed by the amount of content.
The visual design choice is interesting — it feels like some kind of ancient, Chinese textbook with hand-drawn graphics. This is a top-down city-builder, an intriguing choice. This isn’t a bad thing, and this is gorgeous on the eyes. The player has full control of their surroundings, and zooming into your budding little village and watching the people move around in their lives is always satisfying. It brings me back to the good, AAA god-game days of the early 2000s.
We need a Black and White remake. I swear to God.
Mechanically, Thriving City plays like most city-builders out there. Plant buildings down and your subjects will go to construct them. There’s no micromanaging the villagers — they will automatically build and gather resources. Making a solid logistics network is still important, however. Food must be plentiful to prevent starving villagers — they make for very grumpy people when hungry. Natural disasters like fires and heavy rain are a thing. Normal scenarios for the genre, but everything works well.
While there is an endless sandbox mode, Thriving City also offers a Story mode, and I highly recommend the tutorial. It is well-made, and slowly introduces the player to the many building and resource types. It is not the most complex game of its class (that award goes to Amazing Cultivation Simulator. Seriously, I have 30 hours in that game and still don’t know what I’m doing!), but there’s more than enough to keep even veteran city-builders on their toes. As time passes, the court offers intrigue about the situation around Ancient China, and players will eventually live out that timeline. This will mean growing rebellion and war, so the military is an important part too. I’m not up to the army side yet in my campaign, so I can’t judge that part of the game. However, I love the game’s pacing. It is as brutal or relaxed as you want it to be.
As an Early Access game, there are more updates and content to come. A strong roadmap plans for new story modes, online play, Steam Workshop support and trade through 2023, with a full release planned sometime next year. While Thriving City: Song might not be wholly unique in its field, the vivid art design and charming gameplay will keep fans interested. This is an easy recommendation.
Unique and vivid visual design
A couple of rough English translations and bugs
Solid city-builder with plenty of content
Ancient Chinese history is rarely covered in this industry
One Military Camp
This was a game I’ve had my eye on for a while. If everyone remembers the Evil Genius game, One Military Camp feels like a spiritual successor to that, although it focuses on military rebellion over Despicable Me: the video game. I loved the original Evil Genius. Unfortunately, 2021’s sequel Evil Genius 2 was always a disappointment to me. While I enjoyed Evil Genius 2 overall, it felt like a downgrade to the original’s mechanics.
One Military Camp feels like a more ‘serious’ version, even if there are a lot of slapstick moments in this game too. Developed by Abylight Barcelona, it launched on Steam Early Access in March 2023 to a mostly positive reception. Over time we’ve seen several chunky updates to the game, boasting new features, a revamped economy, a new sandbox mode and many bug fixes. Big thanks to the developers for providing a review code for impressions. While I haven’t been able to play as much as I wanted, I got a fair amount done. One Military Camp offers an enjoyable management sim with great humour, with a few quirks that hold it back from greatness.
The plot is relatively simple. A Big Bad boss man has taken over everything except for one final territory, and it is up to you to take it all back. With the help of a chatty officer, the standard management and base-building mechanics are all there. Develop a base, maintain supply lines, recruit troops, and take them on missions. The enemy villains have quirky personalities with some impressive voice acting. It is not quite Full Metal Jacket, more like Sideshow Bob from the Simpsons, but the game oozes charm and I enjoyed the dialogue segments. There’s a long tutorial to help players learn the different mechanics — perhaps too long a tutorial. As much as I enjoyed the dialogue, the many cutscenes with the sergeant barking orders at me through the tutorial lost their appeal after a while. I appreciate the depth of the lessons, but it might be too much for some players. The recent sandbox mode alleviates this at least, providing players with a ton of ways to tailor their experience.
Economy and logistics are handled reasonably well and require some thought. As I found out in my first playthrough, you can’t just throw buildings around and expect things to work out. Once you have soldiers trained up in the many disciplines, you can take them out on missions against the Big Bad Boss across many different types of jobs, although it’s all automated. Just like in Evil Genius, the player cannot control these little army folks personally. This is a shame, although I understand why it’s not like this. Still, it is in Early Access, so perhaps something to think about in the future.
I ran into a few technical problems, although none of these are major. A couple of glitches here and there, and low-end hardware might struggle when camps grow in size. Fortunately, I experienced no crashes, especially since the recent update. However, that update seemed to have borked compatibility with the Steam Deck. While I could boot it up, the graphical options were all removed. I spoke to the developer on this and a fix is on the way. It might already be fixed by the time this article goes live. In conclusion, while One Military Camp has a couple of things holding it back, it is still an enjoyable management game.
High production value
Relatively high price tag for an Early Access game (30USD)
The game oozes charm
A fairly competent management sim
Some bugs, Steam Deck performance had problems the last time I tested
Recent update added a solid sandbox mode
That is it for today’s episode! It has been over a month since Episode 35, so it felt great to return to some level of normality. Steam Summer Sale is next week, so you can imagine I’ll be looking into that. I might even write up a little article about my picks in the sale.
Who knows? Either way, it is good to be back. Stay safe everyone, and keep hydrated.