EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
There are a handful of city building game franchises around, and while they have their differences, they mostly follow the same formula. You’re given a plot of land, and you expand outwards to create as large a city as possible. In Block’hood, you’re given a plot of land to start with, but that’s all you’ll get. In order to grow, you’ll need to look to the skies.
Block’hood is unique in other ways too. The goal here isn’t necessarily to make the biggest city you can, it’s to create the best ecosystem. Each thing you can build takes up a single tile on a grid, and each one will have inputs and outputs. It’s all about balancing these off one another to create a functioning city, and it becomes more like a puzzle than any other city builder out there. While it doesn’t look as realistic, there are elements here that make it more like real life - issues of space management and renewable energy aren’t things you normally consider in a video game.
There are dozens of different resources that you end up accumulating from the outputs of each of the buildings. These range from simple things like water and electricity up to culture, technology, and data. You’ll need to make sure you never run too low of one resource, because running out of one thing can cause a chain reaction which will devastate huge swathes of your city. For example, if you run out of oil, your generators won’t be making enough electricity, and if there’s not enough electricity, your offices won’t be able to create money, and if there’s not enough money you won’t be able to run the oil wells which give you oil. You get the idea.
Each building has a production cycle which is indicated by a bar. Once the bar fills up, its outputs will be added to your accumulated resources. Then it’ll take its inputs from the accumulated resources and start again. The buildings also have a decay bar which fills up if it’s not getting the inputs it needs. If this fills up too many times, the building will become derelict, and you’ll have to replace it. This can sometimes be no easy task in a large city, as it may be tucked away in a massive tower of stairwells, apartments, shops, and energy production facilities.
This is one problem Block’hood has at the moment, and that’s being able to get a good view of your city. You can zoom in and out, pan up and down, and rotate it 90 degrees, but it’s often tricky to get exactly where you want to go, and the perspective often makes it hard to build new structures exactly where you want them. The game is still currently in Early Access, so hopefully some better camera controls and building aids can make it into the final version.
Another symptom of the game being in Early Access is that it currently lacks any sense of progression. There’s a tutorial system that teaches you the basics, but to really understand how everything you works, you’re going to have to try things out for yourself in sandbox mode. This is the only mode at the moment which has everything unlocked for you to play with, but there are no goals - you just build until you get bored.
There are a series of challenges available which are designed to test your newfound skills after completing the tutorial. They’re not particularly engaging though, and some of them seem completely broken. One early challenge asks you to gather 500 units of money, and unlocks the factory, the retail shop, and the cafe for you to do it. However the cafe requires bread as an input, and the factory requires oil, and you have no way of getting these resources since the associated buildings remain locked. You can gain a trickle of money from the shop, but it takes a really long time.
Despite these issues though, Block’hood is a rather lovely, serene experience. The simple art style and the relaxing music is a great backdrop to what becomes an interesting puzzle. You can create some amazing looking cities too, although they do feel lifeless in their current state. Block’hood has several more months of Early Access to go, but when it’s finally out, it could be one to keep an eye on.
The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.