EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Sean Martin
previewed on PC
Saelig is an old English word meaning blessed, fortunate, prosperous or happy. Thus, when I started playing Stardog Games’ development of the same name, I had some expectations. After watching the trailer I pictured a game somewhat like One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a game about a community, seen through the eyes of a family rooted in that community, as they underwent the trials and tribulations of life. And the game manages to live up to some of these expectations, but not so much in regards to others. In Saelig you take the role of a Saxon man or woman living in 8th century Britain, becoming responsible for the affluence of their home and holdings. You can start out in a variety of towns, with varying amounts of gold, including the very tough ‘beggar’ mode, where you have a drastically reduced amount to make your way. You then proceed to buy property, hire employees, have a family and generally climb the ladder to become the kingpin of your town.
SAXON ENTREPRENEURIAL SIMULATOR
I started my adventure in a small town; my protagonist ‘Corpulent Grom’ (I may have chosen the name) bought the town bakery and began to bake his way to the top. In a clever business decision, I adopted an orphan from the local church to act as free labor for my bakery. Unfortunately, it turned out I had to pay him! (Who knew child labor laws were so good in the 8th century). Also once they were part of my family, I couldn’t control them, which seemed like an unusual design decision to me. This game is, in a lot of ways, like a Saxon Sims: you cater to your family’s needs and the affluence of that family. That’s why I thought it would make more sense that once someone became a part of your family, they would also become controllable.
In Saelig, the towns are beautifully designed and the townsfolk go about their daily business in a very convincing way, but the idea of the game that I’d seen in the trailer (the romantic idea of community life) I found was being absorbed by the entrepreneurial aspects of the game. The numbers game of business: of buying ingredients, making products to sell, gaining money, to buy further businesses capable of producing those same ingredients. I wasn’t really sure what the purpose of this endless expansion was, till I literally owned the town? In a game like this it’s important to question why you are making money. Why do you make money in the Sims? To survive? Sure, but also to grow and to prosper; the work is what enables everything else, ‘everything else’ being life in this case. At this point, Saelig has too much work and too little life; the customization options are fairly limited and the social options are also quite limited. Saelig is still in early access, so my fingers are crossed that those aspects of the game will be expanded till they are at least on the same level as the business mechanics.
Saelig is a little bit of a confusing game in terms of the focus; I would usually expect a game like this to be an RTS, because the business aspect of it feels very RTS (with resource collection and expansion), but, at the same time, it’s also like the Sims, about characters and their individual needs. But I think a more comprehensive set of mechanics is required to tackle and quantify those needs, as at the moment the only warning messages that flash up are for basic human needs, and they don’t address emotional needs at all. However, what Saelig does at this stage, it does well; I enjoyed the soundtrack and the visual design of the towns, plus it does have a very nice ‘simple life’ tone about it. If the customization and character needs mechanics are made a little more comprehensive, I think this game will be really good, as I rarely see a game try to tackle the idea of community, rather than just becoming another RTS town builder.
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.