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Management Sim

RollerCoaster Tycoon photo
RollerCoaster Tycoon

RollerCoaster Tycoon World will make it this year

Please be good
Sep 29
// Jordan Devore
If there's one game left this year that I truly hope turns out well, it's RollerCoaster Tycoon World. Now that Atari is on its third developer, Nvizzio Creations, and has a release date (December 10, 2015), my hope is that ev...
Prison Architect photo
Prison Architect

Prison Architect is going to full release this October

Jul 31
// Joe Parlock
Prison Architect is bloody brilliant, and it isn’t even done yet. It’s a Tycoon-style management sim with a firmly tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, and it’s been in early access for almost three whole years...
RollerCoaster Tycoon photo
RollerCoaster Tycoon

RollerCoaster Tycoon World looks way better

But I'm still worried
Jun 30
// Jordan Devore
The last time I wrote about RollerCoaster Tycoon World, I said the game looked bad. Because, well, it did. I was hardly the only one, writer or otherwise, to say as much. Atari certainly heard. Flash forward to now, and we've...

Review: Tropico 5

May 05 // Robert Summa
Tropico 5 (Mac, PC, PlayStation 4 [reviewed], Xbox 360) Developer: Kalypso MediaPublisher: Kalypso MediaReleased: April 28, 2015 (PS4)MSRP: $59.99 Tropico 5 is a learning experience. How you choose to learn is completely up to you. There is a mission and campaign mode that will certainly steer you in the right direction, but that didn't appeal to me and I suspect most will want to do more than that as well. As a Civ junkie, I don't like to be limited with my creations -- in that, when a specific mission ends, so does your island. For me, sandbox mode is where I spent most of my time and where I would imagine most players will. Sandbox is the true meat and substance within Tropico 5. Not only can you set your win conditions, but you can choose between multiple economic and political difficulty levels, starting era, the money initially available (unlimited is also an option) and the number of citizens that start on your island. But probably even more critical to your island's success is the land itself. While you will have plenty of pre-made islands to choose from, there is also a map generator that offers endless combinations of whatever creation you want -- for example, you can choose between different sized-islands and the amount of resources available. Even if you skip much of the campaign, you will still be able to learn as you go. Within the game itself is a sort of quest function where specific tasks will need to be completed. Whether it be to build a library or extra military buildings, the game does an excellent job of teaching while doing. For someone like me who hates to read directions or endless strategy guides (preferring to figure stuff out on my own), this is a perfect implementation. But it's not just the quests that will guide you. The detailed faction and happiness statistics will help you be the leader you want to be. There are various factions all vying for greatness and it's your job as leader to finely balance what you want for your island and what your people actually want and need. To help you lead, there is a dynasty system where you can name and set specific management roles to created characters that will give bonuses to buildings based on their specific abilities -- there are generic managers, but you can't level those up like you can dynasty members. For example, you can have a celebrity manager that is best suited for hotels or you can have a magnate who works well with oil and mining buildings. These dynasty members are part of El Presidente's extended family and can benefit you greatly within the game. Ignoring them or their abilities will only make your leadership that much more challenging. Of course, it's not just your island you have to worry about. Tropico 5 is also a nation builder. Within it, you'll have to juggle the trade of exports and imports and appeasing the Russians while at the same time not pissing off the Americans. As time moves on from the Colonial Era to the Modern Era, you will have even more nations and scenarios to deal with. There are many situations in your virtual island experience that feel like they mirror how a real nation and leader needs to function. Tropico 5 is a constant balancing act and a game filled with trial and error. You should be warned, if you find yourself to be a Civ addict, then you will quickly find that Tropico 5 offers the same kind of grab. Hours melt away. As you complete one task, something else comes up that you feel drastically needs your attention. The amount of management, while it can seem overwhelming, is really the draw and appeal of the game. There is a multiplayer component, but really, unless you want to build an island with a friend or desperately want to compete against others, you probably aren't going to bother. It works, so that's all most players can really ask for when it comes to multiplayer within nation builders. The game is not without its minor faults or seemingly-impossible challenges. While I do keep the pace of time in its most forward position, it never felt like I could appease or completely stop rebel attacks or uprisings. These occur when citizens are unhappy or you have specific constitution options active, but no matter what, I found myself dealing with this constant nuisance. Also, there were occasional save issues. In fairness, I played the majority of my time with Spotify running in the background, so whether or not that sometimes caused games not to be saved, I don't know. It doesn't happen often, but it can be devastating if you're not paying attention and haven't saved in a while. Even though there were no real issues with the controls themselves, perfectly placing roads can take some getting used to, but it doesn't strongly detract from the game. While Tropico 5 isn't the game-of-the-year masterpiece of a generation, it's a more-than serviceable sim and strategy title that can satisfy a grossly under-served genre within the console community. If you love SimCity and Civilization and are dying for something similar on your PS4, then there really is no reason not to have and enjoy this game to its fullest extent. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Tropico 5 review photo
It's good to be the king
City and civilization games on consoles are a rare thing. I'm not exactly sure why that is, but my guess would be that traditionally, these games only enjoy their moderate success on PC. Whether it be the limitations of conso...

Chroma Squad photo
Chroma Squad

Run the Japanese superhero TV studio of your dreams in Chroma Squad

Out now for Windows, Mac, and Linux
Apr 30
// Jordan Devore
Chroma Squad, the game about running your own Japanese superhero television studio, is now available on Steam,, and the Humble Store for $14.99. What a cool niche. This is part tactical role-playing title, part manage...
XCOM-like strategy photo
XCOM-like strategy

Sentai studio sim Chroma Squad coming April 30

Chroma chroma chroma chroma chroma chameleon
Mar 10
// Steven Hansen
Finally! Last we heard, Power Rangers' Saban was all bent out of shape about Chroma Squad and trying to either claim royalties on it or keep it from releasing. What a bummer that was for the XCOM-y mix of strategy game and m...

Review: Cities: Skylines

Mar 10 // Jason Faulkner
Cities: Skylines (PC [reviewed], Mac, Linux)Developer: Colossal OrderPublisher: Paradox InteractiveReleased: March 10, 2015MSRP: $29.99 (Standard), $39.99 (Deluxe)Rig: AMD FX-6300 @ 3.5 GHz, with 8GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 7950, Windows 8.1 64-bit For those who are fans of the SimCity series, Cities: Skylines is an easy jump as far as game mechanics go. The initial actions to create each city will be much the same. You are mayor of a burgeoning village and there is a specific set of requirements to ensure the initial happiness of your townsfolk. First a connection must be made to the road system, then a simple power system and water supply must be routed to the site of your future homes and businesses, and finally you can zone your first residential area and watch all the little houses start popping up. From there you’ll engage in the delicate balancing act between residential zones, industrial zones, and commercial zones. Citizens need jobs and goods to buy. Commercial businesses need employees and citizens to sell to. Industrial facilities need workers and businesses to supply. Take one of these out of the equation and you’ll begin to see unhappiness spread throughout your city. It all seems so simple, until you start adding the myriad of other components that slowly show themselves as your city ages. [embed]288859:57693:0[/embed] Running out of money is an ever-present danger in Cities: Skylines. If you spend too much you may run into the red and never recover. If you spend too little, you run the risk of slowing the growth of your town. I loved the unforgiving budget dynamic. It added so much challenge without being unfair, and making the hard choice between my citizen’s happiness and the need to tax so the coffers would remain full was always a struggle. Making sure that people can get where they need to go in a timely matter is a major concern for any city planner. I made the mistake of going the cheap route in the early days of my mayoral career and connecting the core chunk of my township with simple two-lane roads. As I expanded, I neglected to go back and upgrade to four or six lanes, and by the time I was expanding into newly annexed territory to begin laying high-density residential and commercial areas, and offices, my core industrial complex was rapidly filling with abandoned buildings. As my industry output grew with my population, I failed to realize that the narrow roads kept products from getting where they needed to go, and because they couldn’t sell anything, my factories shut down one by one. Keeping an overall plan in the back of your head during the entire life of your city is essential to success in Cities: Skylines. Although my overall grid-style layout served to make zoning simple, my failure to cope with my traffic problem ended up costing me major tax profits when I had to tear down almost every one of my factories to widen the roads. I ended up eventually running out of cash, and although I was able to take out several loans, I couldn’t recovery and my city slowly stagnated and population started declining. This is but one scenario that could lead to many hours of time lost. However, the difficulty is one of the things that makes the game feel so good. Seeing your city grow from a few houses to a skyscraper-filled megacity is extremely satisfying. Even more so because Colossal Order added something Maxis dreamed of for years: integrated citizen simulations. Your citizens are not just random background blobs. Clicking on them gives you a name, where they live, where they work, and parts of their background, and it’s all dynamic and real. You can watch your citizens actually go to the same home, go to work, shop, and go about the minutiae of life each day. Also, there is a spoof Twitter feed at the top of the screen that is the primary way citizens communicate with you. Seeing their opinions on my actions lent an interesting twist to what could have been a generic adviser panel. Unfortunately, with my hands full building and managing the city, I did not get a chance to see just how persistent these citizen simulations are, or if they’re capable of producing offspring. In the next city I build, though, I will take time out to just watch my citizens and their lives as opposed to jetting around the map. As is natural for a title with this scope, there are a few bugs and frustrations. When building roads and train tracks, I found that if I had to come back to expand a current path or finish an incomplete one, sometimes it was a pain to get the new paths to connect to the old ones without stating “there is already an object here.” Eventually I was able to overcome any problems with that, but it can be a little too time consuming to have to wrestle with the whole thing. Citizens' tweets can be inaccurate as well. I had the same person tweet me that they were having water problems and upon checking the water availability overlay, there were no areas that weren’t receiving clean water. This was another bug that wasn’t a huge deal in the long run. However, with a game that depends so much on your inhabitants’ happiness to assure your success, it caused me to freak out a little too much. Cities: Skylines not only returns to the ideals which made the city-building genre so popular, it expands them. I enjoyed every minute I played this title, and the planning, building, and nurturing of my city brought forth imagination and creativity from me like few titles ever have. If you’re a long-time fan of the genre, or just wanting to try it out, you can’t go wrong with this game. There’s a bit of universal appeal that comes with building and maintaining your own virtual city, and for a while I thought that magic had left the industry. I was wrong. Cities: Skylines is a title that will eat up hours of your time, and with a commitment from the developers to continue support for the title in the future, and Steam Workshop integration, the huge amount of replayability the base game has will become even bigger. I wholeheartedly recommend this game and can’t wait to see what modders and Colossal Order have in store for us in the future.
Cities: Skylines review photo
The magic of SimCity has returned
The connection between the design and implementation of the sidewalks and streets we use on a daily basis requires a huge mental leap for me. Walking down the cobblestone in my city and looking up to see the sky framed with ...

RollerCoaster Tycoon photo
RollerCoaster Tycoon

RollerCoaster Tycoon World looks rough

What little optimism I have is fading
Mar 05
// Jordan Devore
Mmm. There's no getting around it: RollerCoaster Tycoon World looks bad. I thought my expectations for the graphics were reasonable -- I've seen screenshots and they seemed adequate, if dated -- but in motion everything has become clear. You'd think this would be more of an upgrade from RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 considering that released over a decade ago. How disappointing.
Weapon shop game photo
Weapon shop game

Cuuute: A weapon shop game about potatoes

There's even a potato pup
Feb 25
// Jordan Devore
Games about managing weapon shops are still novel enough conceptually and satisfying enough mechanically that they don't need much window dressing to draw me in. Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! has a cutesy art style and offb...
War for the Overworld photo
War for the Overworld

War for the Overworld is the Dungeon Keeper sequel you wanted

Defend your dungeon from plucky adventurers
Sep 30
// Alasdair Duncan
When the recent Dungeon Keeper mobile game was released by EA, it went down like a barrel of stinking fish; it took the core concepts of the franchise and saddled them with a freemium model that made it a chore to play. Than...
Management sim photo
Management sim

Create a pharmaceutical empire in Big Pharma

Playable at EGX London this week at the Positech booth
Sep 22
// Jordan Devore
One-man studio Twice Circled has announced a new strategy sim for PC that will put players in control of a pharmaceutical business and, damn, what a great setup that is. Big Pharma is described as "a really tight puzzle game ...
Chroma Squad photo
Chroma Squad

Crummy: Power Rangers' Saban is going after Chroma Squad

Legal woes
Jul 18
// Jordan Devore
Behold Studios' Chroma Squad is about managing a brand new sentai television series and, being an in-depth parody, it of course draws inspiration from real-life shows, including -- but far from limited to -- Power Rangers. In...
PC photo

No Pineapple Left Behind is the most bizarre game I've seen

Pineapples are infiltrating our schools!
Jun 03
// Alasdair Duncan
Stop me if you've heard this one before: an evil wizard has appeared and turned all the school children in Boston into pineapples. That's the idea behind No Pineapple Left Behind, a very weird game that looks to combine a bu...

Sentai studio sim Chroma Squad could be my XCOM replacement

Mar 18 // Steven Hansen
[embed]271976:52990:0[/embed] I got a chance to play Chroma Squad from the beginning. The team has been reworking a lot of things since missing the late 2013 PC release, but it's totally playable and working well. When you begin you choose between actors for certain team roles -- leader, assault, tactician, etc. Early on these choices are important because each actor comes with smaller statistical differences (a plus one defense here, a plus five attack there), though you aren't screwed if you pick an actor ill-equipped for a certain role. Also important to consider are the monthly salaries each actor draws, which goes into the studio simulation and resource management portion of the game. You also pick what color superhero each actor is. My rough-looking boxer leader was pink. I also picked a dog as my tactician. I am the best director. A quick battle on the green screen got me oriented with the grid-based, turn-based combat. There are some suggested director cues for each episode (do five team attacks, etc.). I also started not powered up in my team's super suits, but a mid-battle transformation took care of that and opened up my team's special moves, which are class specific and evolve along a skill tree. You can move and move a second time along the grid, or move and attack. You can also click "Teamwork" as your second action, which causes your hero to strike a pose. If enough of them "teamwork" adjacent to an enemy squad, initiating an attack launches a more powerful team attack. You can combine two or all five, the latter of which yields an appropriately bombastic animation. Teamwork can also be used to traverse maps more freely as one hero in a Teamwork pose can launch another traveling unit like a cheerleader for extra range. I played through a full episode next -- the game consists of seven seasons -- and worked my way with ease through monsters at a construction yard. After a team attack to finish off the plant monster boss, it grew exponentially in size and I had to call in my mech to fight it (see video above). These bombastic boss battles have you choosing between offensive and defensive options. Chaining attacking moves raises your combo meter, but hit percentages go down after each move. After finishing off the plant I got a brief look various sim elements from the studio hub. There are extensive upgrades you can purchase, including a lot of duct tape that can reinforce weapons. There are different styled masks, different outfit materials, different weapons, and more, all of which confer different stats. Chroma Squad's backbone seems in place, and the lovely pixel art and other trimmings are there as well. Now, leading up to the summer release window, it's just a matter of system refinement and balancing that's integral to the genre.
Preview: Chroma Squad photo
Chroma chroma chroma chroma chroma chameleon
I played a lot of XCOM last year, between running through Enemy Unknown late and Enemy Within. The blend of on the ground, turn-based combat and back home base management simulation hooked me. Chroma Squad is basically that. Except you're directing a Sentai with actors in colorful spandex dancing around lots of explosions and turtle and plant monsters. It's pretty great.

Chroma Squad photo
Chroma Squad

Giant mecha battle! Japanese Chroma Squad trailer is great

Chroma? I hardly even know her!
Mar 14
// Steven Hansen
We heard about Chroma Squad last year and it looks great. It's one half Sentai studio management sim, one half tactical, turn-based battler. You buy better actors, special effects, answer fan mail and fight people. I like it...

Post Master will put you in control of the mail

Logistics ahoy!
Dec 10
// Conrad Zimmerman
Excalibur Publishing, the publisher behind popular PC simulation titles such as Euro Truck Simulator and Chemical Spillage Simulation, has revealed yet another management game, Post Master. With a visual design which ca... photo

Theme Park is now on

and as a result, I feel really old
Dec 09
// Alasdair Duncan
Whilst looking at the newly-created page on for Theme Park, I was shocked by the revelation of its original release date of 1994. Was Bullfrog's seminal management sim really that old? In fairness, looking at screensh...
Maia photo

Space colony sim Maia is now on Steam's Early Access

The space managment sim revival continues
Dec 03
// Alasdair Duncan
Typical, you wait an age for a management sim set in space, then two come along at the same time. I literally only bought Double Fine's Spacebase DF-9 about 24 hours ago and now up pops Maia. Just like Double Fine's effort, ...
Prison Architect photo
Prison Architect

Prison Architect update improves performance and mods

Alpha 15 brings new support for community mods
Nov 29
// Alasdair Duncan
Prison Architect was one of the first games to appear on Steam's Early Access category and I think it's the game that's been best suited for the service. There's been a steady stream of updates since April and Alpha 15 is on...
Double Fine photo
Double Fine

Double Fine's Spacebase DF-9 covers its investment

Indie Fund and other parties invested $400,000 into development
Nov 20
// Alasdair Duncan
Spacebase DF-9 seemed to be one of the natural fits for Steam's Early Access program; like Prison Architect, it's a management sim that's added new features (a large update came out at the end of last week) as development has...

Review: Football Manager 2014

Nov 11 // Alasdair Duncan
Football Manager 2014 (PC [reviewed], Linux, Mac)Developer: Sports InteractivePublisher: SEGARelease: October 31, 2013MSRP: $49.99 / £34.99  Let's start of by admitting that no review of a Football Manager 2014 game can ever be truly comprehensive. Never mind people may be playing Call of Duty all year until the next one comes out; that is most definitely the case with Football Manager games. There's entire seasons to be replayed and managerial dynasties to be cemented all within 12 short months. Dedicated players will already be scouring the massive talent database looking for new stars and the optimal strategy in building them into genuine talents. For a fairly novice player like myself, such hardcore strategy is beyond me but I will still try my best. See, Football Manager's statistics-based approach never appealed much. Football was never a stat-based game in my mind and it's only in the last few years that statistics have taken a larger role in football coverage. I blame in-play betting, along with Ray Winstone's disembodied head (indeed online gambling site Sky Bet are very prominent in the game). Getting your head around the numbers Football Manager will throw at you is key as there's a lot of them. For those of you not in the know, or have no idea what you would do in a videogame titled "Football Manager" then it's quite simple: you'll take the role of a newly appointed manager at a football club and you'll use your footballing acumen to guide them to success. There are a huge amount of domestic leagues available, spanning Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Asia. The rosters are very up to date as you would expect from a game that's being released a few months after the transfer deadlines have closed.  There are two main Career modes to choose from: Football Manager and Classic. The former is the real deal, fully simulated to the smallest detail, whilst the latter is a much more streamlined mode that will get you into the tactical side of a match whilst automating a lot of the backroom and financial details. If you're a newcomer to this type of game, then you have to play it first, as the sheer amount of information you'll encounter at the start will be overwhelming. You're asked to allocate scouts, watch the reserve team play, attend contact negotiations all before you even take charge of a competitive game. The type of decisions you're asked to make border on the asinine; what effect will having your groundskeeper increase the pitch actually have on a match?  Classic mode will ease you in by taking control of a few extra things; you can set your assistant manager to oversee training sessions but you can still decide whether you want to focus on skills, fitness level, or a balanced training regime. The general running of the club is also largely taken out of your hands, however contract negotiations are still in your hands. Loan deals for players and the long- term running of the club is up to you but it's a lot less intimidating. Football Manager mode will give you control over the whole running of the club and it's key that you pay close attention to your club's finances; you can't just go out and throw money at Barcelona until they sell you Lionel Messi, no matter how tempting it may be. So what has changed over the last year? It's more of a case of general iterations on well established features. The 3D match engine is a fairly new addition to the series but looks better than previous versions; stadiums are neatly represented and there's an effort made to make Old Trafford appear a bit nicer than the Slovenian team you play in the Europa Cup. Animations are varied if a little stilted and by showing you highlights, you get a better idea of how key moments transpired in the game. Whilst the match engine doesn't come anywhere near as close as the latest versions of FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer, it doesn't need to be. You're looking for tactical insights, such as realizing too late that Eden Hazard is completely dominating the wings and contributing to all five of Chelsea's goals in your match (grrrrr...).  The enhanced media and board room interactions are still fairly easy to navigate through. You'll find that there's restrictions placed by the board that will help you keep transfer negotiations fairly easy to understand. Dealing with the media is simply a matter of responding to questions either pre- or post-match, remembering that your responses will have an effect on the players. In Football Manager mode, you can take man-management to a much deeper level by giving individual players a unique team talk. Often it's hard to know how best to motivate a player that's not in the right headspace; you can read why their unmotivated and unhappy but it's hard to know what the right things to say to get them out of their rut; do you challenge them, berate them, or calm them? During my playthrough there were a few annoyances, like offering a scouting report on Real Madrid, two days after they beat my team 5-0, or praising a keeper for having a clean sheet when the final score in the game was 2-1. I had one cup round where an opposition player who scored his own goal and missed a penalty was named Man of The Match. None of these were a big handicap but it shows that there's still some work to be done on making the game fully responsive to all the possible scenarios and believable. It also seemed strange that, whilst understandably upset about heavy defeats in the league, the fans would be very positive about a young, unknown player going out on loan.   Football Manager 2014 is at its best when you see your tactical changes work during a match. One goal down, I decided to adjust my formation making it more attacking focused. I also changed my corner kick routines so that certain players would be picked out. Two quick goals later and suddenly I felt like I was Jose Mourinho. Likewise, sometimes it's not clear why your tactics are failing; countering your opponents' strengths and having realistic challenges can only get you so far.  What Football Manager needs to do as a franchise is make it much more approachable to new players. The tutorial system just points out what each you need to do to progress in each game but some kind of interactive tutorial that could take you through the first weeks would be welcome. As I mentioned earlier, it's hard to get an idea about what effect certain decisions will have on your club's future. Money can be frittered away very easily without seeming to have a positive effect on your team's performance.  Football Manager now offers cloud saves, a Linux version, and Steam workshop support and it's the latter that's really exciting. There are already tactical guides, player prospects, and new logos and backgrounds available. Considering there's already been an established Football Manager community dedicated to making mods that offer historical squads and "what if" scenarios, it's not stretch to imagine the ease of Steam Workshop helping that community thrive. As I mentioned earlier, this year's edition is building on what was already established; it will please longtime fans and keep them engaged as Football Manager 14 gives them all the depth and options they would want. There could still be more done to ease new fans into the series but that will maybe have to wait until next year.
Football Manager 2014 photo
More of the same, but still the best
As I finish this review, English Premier Division side Tottenham Hostspur, managed by Andre Villa Boas, sit fourth in the league, despite some inconsistent performances. In Football Manager 2014, Tottenham Hotspur, managed by...

Prison Architect photo
Prison Architect

Introversion sells 250,000+ copies of Prison Architect

The penal sim game is still in Early Access but a roaring success
Nov 06
// Alasdair Duncan
Whilst there's a degree of understandable cynicism towards selling unfinished games that are still in alpha, it seem like that hasn't stopped the fine folks at Introversion from selling over 250,000 copies of their penal mana...
Football Manager 2014 photo
Football Manager 2014

A new football season means a Football Manager 2014

Perenial football management sim is available to pre-purchase on Steam
Aug 14
// Alasdair Duncan
It comes out every year, looks almost identical to the previous year's iteration and non-players will wonder why people get excited. I am, of course, talking about the new Football Manager game, imaginatively titled Football ...

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