General game information
Game name: Clockwork Empires
Release date: October 26, 2016
Price: US$ 29.99
Genre: Real-time colony simulation and management
Developer: Gaslamp Games
Publisher: Gaslamp Games
Clockwork Empires is a real-time colony management game set in the unexplored regions of a steampunk world. As unseen colonial administrators, players must keep their workers happy and attempt to expand Her Majesty’s Clockworkian Empire by any means necessary. Nightmarish creatures may show up from time to time to make things harder, and the horrors of the unknown will certainly affect the colonists’ dedication to the cause.
The game starts like most colony simulators do, with the player choosing a landing spot and some extra conditions (as certain requirements are met, more starting locations and difficulty options get unlocked) Once the Queen’s finest have landed on the Frontier, gamers must order them to build basic structures and gather raw materials to improve the colony. Unlike most management games, Clockwork Empires does not give the player direct control over their workers, instead opting for an indirect control system. Gamers must create jobs which will be completed when the working classes (divided into two types, Overseers and Workers, with the former being in charge of the latter) decide that they can work on those tasks. This unusual control system, which shares quite a bit with god games, depends on the AI’s willingness to take on the different jobs assigned to them. If the workers are unhappy or maddened by the horrors of the unknown, they may decide that the player’s orders are worthless and randomly punch others, or even create cults.
In order to keep happiness levels up, the colonial overseer must upgrade worker housing, construct specific buildings that improve the colonists’ quality of life, and ensure that there is a steady supply of cooked food and alcoholic beverages for their Overseers and Workers. Well, at least that is usually the plan, since most Clockwork Empires campaigns will run into food supply issues, unexpected Fishpeople patrols or bad luck, as some random events may also affect the AI’s willingness to work.
Every building has its own specific upgrades, and the different worker classes can’t sleep in the same houses (with the low class Workers sleeping on rough, cheaper log cabins and the Overseers preferring more modern dwellings) Gamers may also opt to create big factories which may contain an enormous number of workshops assigned to a head Overseer and several Workers, something that helps create a sense of industrialization and also works quite well as a way to save resources. Every production building needs an Overseer to work, and, depending on the type, they may even change the workers’ attributes and looks (for instance, colonists assigned to the Barracks will be trained as soldiers, and won’t do any other kind of work unless the player orders them to stop working at the Barracks and become something else entirely)
As the game progresses, players need to send scouting parties in order to explore the Frontier, deal with strange cults and Eldritch Abominations, and even engage in open warfare with members of other factions who may also have a claim on the unexplored expanses of the Clockwork Empires world. Sadly, I found out that the player’s worst enemies aren’t exactly the ones that the developers intended, but rather the colonists’ AI and a great deal of bugs that are still present after more than two years of development. Crashes to the desktop aren’t uncommon, and workers get lost or become trapped on buildings all the time.
Graphically, Clockwork Empires looks like an early 2000s game, with basic 3D models and animations. The art style is quite nice, however, and it fits perfectly with the game’s steampunk world. The title’s sound design is basic but very effective, with haunting sounds coming from the forest as night sets, and easily recognizable audio cues for all important events.
Ultimately, Clockwork Empires feels like a flawed gem. Gamers looking for an accessible colony simulator will certainly find a lot to love here, but frequent crashes and numerous AI issues spoil the experience.