by Nathan Rowland
reviewed on PC
The postmodernist philosopher Frederic Jameson once said, ‘it is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism’. This statement could not be truer than in Dapper Penguin Studios latest releasing. Now with its first expansion, Rise of Industry 2130 takes the base game’s agricultural and industrial setting and propels it two centuries into the future where the means of production have changed to match its futuristic environment.
A common criticism of Rise of Industry’s base game was its lack of content beyond its formative hours as well as a poorly communicated design in its tutorial. Having played the base game and now the expansion, it’s evident that Rise of Industry 2130 is every bit the same as the base game before it. Logically, fans of the original will enjoy this development of the franchise. For anyone looking to see progressive advancements in its core mechanics, they’ll have to look elsewhere.
First and foremost, 2130 features a gorgeously ambient synth soundtrack, providing a spacey atmosphere for the consistent gameplay loop. This really helps in those long hours baked into the game’s design when you’ll be spending a good deal of time poring between statistical menus concerning the latest on market demands. Unfortunately, its visuals are drastically dour, with an overwhelming darkened yellow and predominantly brown colour palette. Whilst compatible to its setting, it doesn’t make for the most pleasant aesthetic as a viewer. Yet there is a thematic reason to justify this depiction. The once vibrant greenery and open woodlands of the base game has been slowly eroded over time by the over-industrialization of the planet.
Now pollution, once a side-category of consideration in the base game, is an all-encompassing presence in the main game. Only towns and cities are free from the thick smog and contamination. Whereas before, the gameplay routine of constructing factories and farms which required pollution prevention now has been switched. Instead, air must be purified before farmland can be established and maintained. This thematic design makes for a bold statement in a game that encourages you to become the premier industrial capitalist in your region and one which is salient to present concerns of the climate crisis.
2130 doesn’t reinvent the wheel for gameplay. Rather it gives the game an interesting yet shallow lick of paint. Trees have been replaced by ruins, salvaged for steel rather wood. Trains have been replaced by maglev rails and farmers markets have yielded way to fabrication shops. But the same methods of gathering basic materials and converting them into sellable produce provides the backbone of the game’s experience – which isn’t a bad one! It’s just absolutely the same as before. After playing a decent chunk of time in the base game, it sours the experience for 2130 to realise that there isn’t much beyond its thematic worldbuilding.
There are also a few minor inconsistencies between the base game and 2130 that makes the experience uncomfortable. Firstly, the expansion is harder. But not in a fun, challenging concept of difficulty. Instead, processes of production are slower, attaining the correct resources to fill market demand is more cumbersome and learning what certain things even are is made more confusing when its shrouded in the futuristic jargon of a faux-cyberpunk language barrier. Even the tech tree is smaller in the expansion which seems a shame given the broader avenues Dapper Penguin might have explored rather than remodeling the systems which had preceded it.
Profit, profit never changes
I think this expansion is for Rise of Industry’s current fanbase and those who are already committed to these patterns of gameplay and unfortunately not for those who enjoy the premises of futurism and dystopianism like myself. That’s why I find it hard to be too overly critical of this expansion and what it has brought to its existing community, as it will doubtless be pleasing to those who are far more invested in tycoon style simulators when it gives them the reason to play more of that which they already enjoy. After all, the DLC stands at a fairly inexpensive investment of £8 which for the soundtrack alone is already enough compensation! Play it again, Johnny.
Excellent soundtrack, consistency of tone.
No gameplay variations, harder but not satisfyingly so.