by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Remember Doug from the movie Up? My response to any game that has players build something from nothing is pretty similar to when he sees a squirrel. Ears up, and little care for whatever else is happening around me. There’s one caveat — it must be somewhat grounded in reality. Factorio, no. Rimworld, yes. Seeing Rise of Industry for the first time definitely was one of those “Squirrel!” moments, and my ears have been sitting perky for the two long years since. Now that it is out, it delivers on almost all counts. Almost…
Rise of Industry is a business tycoon game, but not your average one. Rather than building a thriving farm, running a zoo, a tavern or a chain of pizza restaurants, you’re in charge of a 'consumer products manufacturing and selling' company. Think Apple, but then with actual apples that grow on a farm, or apple smoothies, or ceramics, or cars. You can focus on just one industry, or dabble in all of them. You can focus on supplying a single town with your goods, or all of them, though each town will require you to purchase a license for doing business in their territory. If an AI player snaps it up before you, it’s hard to wrench it from their control.
Whatever choice you make, you’ll be building production chains. A lot of them, all the time. In fact, the name Rise of Production Chain Management would have fit the game perfectly, though it doesn’t roll off the tongue as well. The early chains are easy enough. From apple to apple smoothie you’ll need to provide water to the apple orchard, apples to the drinks factory and smoothies to the shop in town. Much of the management is automated, it really is as simple as it sounds.
In contrast, building cars requires something like 6 components, which are made with 12 components, which are made with 24 components, which are made with… and… and… Ugh, my brain aches! Admittedly I haven’t gotten far enough to find out, but the chain is incredibly deep. And as each factory and farm has a limited output, you’ll often be building multiple factories of the same type to satisfy product demand. Supplying a single clothes shop with summer clothes requires well over a dozen factories, as well as half a dozen farms. Imagine what you will need to do to build a single car. Staggering.
If the above makes you worried about managing all those chains, there’s actually a fair bit of automation that will take care of the nitty gritty once you’ve set things up. Most production facilities will hand off or acquire goods without your intervention and automated warehouses do a great job of distributing and buffering goods for facilities in their area. There are things that can upset any carefully created balance, but generally you’re safe to focus on new chains once things are running smoothly.
Beyond production chains
While production chain management is Rise of Industry’s bread and butter, the sandwich filling is a bit on the light side. I suspect many gamers will enjoy Rise of Industry’s production chain management to such an extent that they do not really need anything else. I’ve sure kept myself busy with it, but I have to admit I am looking for more depth now that I'm familiar with the game’s workings. The game has laid the groundwork for other aspects, but few are fleshed out enough to be enjoyed.
Most of the little quests that pop are largely forgettable. Unless you’re asked to level up a city you’re not likely to go out of your way to upset your carefully balanced yeast production line to satisfy a temporary increase in demand due to a new 'model’ of yeast arriving on the scene. Nor is it reasonable for the game to ask you to build an entire production line for a one-off sale of goods to a town asking for a good you don’t already produce. The auctions fall prey to similar issues — you’ll pay attention when a regional license is up for grabs but most other auctions are unlikely to get your blood flowing.
AI players were a late arrival to the game and they feel like they are in an infant stage. AI players aren’t great at creating layouts and roads, they seem to be terrible at doing research beyond the lower two tiers, and they will happily pay huge sums in auctions that they will never be able to recoup. Currently there is no way to really compete with them either, or an active way get rid of them, so they’re basically hoarding regional licenses that you will be much better able to make use of. Dapper Penguin have plans for hostile takeovers and stocks, but really these should have been in already.
Oddly, towns that level up will barely increase the amount of goods that they require. 376293 inhabitants will eat a lot more chicken dinners than 123501, no? I would have loved for the game to make me scramble to keep up with an ever growing demand.
But, let’s keep things in perspective — Rise of Industry is a good game. It can be enjoyed without any of these things. The game is filled to the brim with clever ideas that make building a growing, gathering and manufacturing empire an entertaining proposition. The options to manage distribution alone will put a smile on the face of even the most OCD-suffering gamer. Keeping trucks trucking at a good pace without getting caught in one traffic jam after another can be a game in itself, one that becomes more fun when you start experimenting with trains to lower the pressure on your roads.
In truth, Rise of Industry would have been an excellent game, were it not for the bugs that keep plaguing it, some of them game-breaking. Since release, I have had factories not being able to receive goods due to missing entry points, buildings spamming trucks to get goods but not picking them up, towns changing their name to 'regional center' and 'Beach month!', and quests lowering demand that did not come back until I loaded the game. The devs are incredibly active in squashing these, but new ones keep popping up and new game versions tend to break save-games.
I am confident that the game will stabilize over time but I cannot help feeling Rise of Industry should have stayed in Early Access a month or two longer. As it stands, the game is bursting from the seams with unfulfilled potential.
Wonderfully deep production chain and logistics management
Light on everything else, bugs keep popping up