Clockwork Empires has been on our radar here at UGDB ever since it was announced and the first alpha gameplay was shown off. And the good news is that it's now available on Steam for Early Access. For those of you who haven't been following, Clockwork Empires is a colony-building game set in the Victorian era. As the name might suggest, the setting is influenced by the steam punk fantasy setting, and looks to feature a comic tone akin to the Fable series.
Here's the release trailer:
Also clear from the video is an obvious Lovecraftian influence to some of the more dangerous elements colonists might find in the wild. When I first saw the release notes for the game several months ago, I wondered how Clockwork Empires would distinguish itself from other colony-builders. After all, we already received the terrific Banished earlier this year, which I reviewed quite positively. Banished takes a similar premise, a early industrial colony trying to establish itself in the wild, strips any story or narrative, and asks the player to create his/her own stories in game. Also absent from Banished is any external source of danger. No indigenous peoples or dangerous predators can be found in the randomly generated and seeded maps. Only harsh weather and your ability to feed and clothe your colonists affect their well-being. The lack of external contact is an isolating experience, but for a game called Banished it's hard to believe that's anything but intentional.
The same can't be said for Clockwork Empires.
Why is there a dead fish-man in our garden?
In addition to the day-to-day challenges of managing a small colony, you, as the colony's governor, must be prepared to defend your colony from the flora and fauna that isn't all that happy that you're pushing into their territory. Banished embraced the realism of survival. Clockwork Empires looks to embrace the weird and unexplainable. In Banished colonists were your most valuable asset. In Clockwork Empires colonists look to be another resource.
It's a fun dichotomy, and I'm glad that different developers are addressing the subject of colonization in such different ways. I'm also glad that Gaslamp Games is taking a humorous approach to the colony-building genre. I've been playing a lot of dry, serious strategy games and sims recently (reviews to come!), so I'm looking forward to laughing a bit. Even if it's because my colonists are being consumed by Cthulhu himself.
I think I'm most excited that small projects like this are getting strong press because these are the games I like most. I don't need ultra-flashy visuals and epic cut-scenes. Just tight mechanics and an interesting setting. And unnameable horrors. Sanity-blasting encounters with the incomprehensible.
In Banished, fighting the impassive force of nature is challenge enough. Simply surviving is tricky. Thriving is impressive. In Clockwork Empires the story seems to demand success, even at the cost of individual well-being. As the man in charge, that sounds fun to me.
Success at all costs! All for the empire! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!