You know those games where you're responsible for creating your own entertainment -- the sort that drop you into a world and hope that you're creative enough to craft your own experience? They're usually pretty hit or miss. That's more or less what Gaslamp Games is doing with Clockwork Empires, but the developers are taking away this element of chance by ensuring that whatever scenario arises will be entertaining as all hell.
Clockwork Empires is a sandbox colony builder in a Victorian England setting. But, just because you have the theoretical ability to build an empire, doesn't mean it'll actually happen. Rather than assign tasks to the citizens of your township, you can only sort of suggest jobs for them to do. Most of the time they'll go and harvest resources or whatnot, but if they're feeling particularly uppity, they may just mope about.
That's why it's paramount that you keep those little buggers happy. You're responsible for keeping them fed, giving them shelter, and (most interestingly) balancing any social issues that come about. For instance, if two members from different social classes marry, it'll anger some of the townspeople. It may seem backwards now, but it was very much a real issue in the period the game takes place in.
Compounding these delicate balances you need to strike is the fact that each character has its own personality traits. If you do a poor job of keeping people happy, not only will morale be down, but some may turn to experimenting with the occult. That's where the dark humor of Clockwork Empires really starts to show.
For a game that appears to be sort of carefree and cute, it has an edge to it that you wouldn't predict. One of Clockwork Empire's factions, the Obeliskians, are giant tentacled stone monsters that will pick up your citizens and cut their heads off. Or, as the trailer shows, your townspeople might just catch fire and die.
This is the type of gameplay that looks as if it'll permeate the entire experience, as everyone will come away with wonderfully unique stories about a time when everything went awry. As accounted by a developer, one time he forgot to feed his people, and as a result of his neglect, they all decided to start carrying around opium. When the fish people faction came to attack their town, the people just went about their business, leading to the slaughter of mostly everyone.
For those who aren't as keen on playing a game without a clear direction, Clockwork Empires gives the player goals and/or tasks to complete for different factions. This leads to a gameplay experience that isn't so much focused one way, but can result in an untold number of lateral stories, based on what you do for whom. As Gaslamp put it, there's not so much an overarching narrative as there are clues about what's going on, which should be apparent for anyone that's paying attention.
But, Clockwork Empires isn't about a uniform experience -- it's all about crafting your own. What everyone will come away with is an arsenal of stories they remember fondly. Gaslamp Games looks like it's gone to great lengths to make sure that regardless of how you play Clockwork Empires, you're going to enjoy it.
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