University gives you a bright future and clouds it with debt
For me, one of the most devastating delays this year has been Two Point Campus. I know, I know, three months isn’t the end of the world. I just had to start up its predecessor, Two Point Hospital, and cry a lot.
Sega and Two Point Studios have my back. They gave Destructoid the opportunity to check out a bit of their upcoming game, which I jumped on. I need it. Right in my veins.
I was also given the chance to talk to Mark Webley and Chris Knott, studio director, and senior animator respectively. Both veterans in their own right, having worked on games like the Fable series and The Movies. Mark Webley goes all the way back to Syndicate in 1993 and, of course, Theme Hospital in 1997. He couldn’t tell me why we can’t buy The Movies on Steam anymore, just that he wishes he could still play it.
My most burning question was what lead the studio to the university campus rather than, say the hospital again or any of the infinite possibilities you could cram into the studios’ fictional Two Point Campus. They said they had a bunch of ideas, but wanted to do something different. A lot of the ideas they put together seemed like they’d result in a gameplay loop too similar to Two Point Hospital.
Two Point Campus is simultaneously familiar and unique. After over 80 hours in Two Point Hospital, it took me no time at all to get a feel for the UI, control, and mechanics. However, your goal is quite different. Rather than healing people as efficiently as possible before shunting them back out into the street, your focus is on enabling your students to flourish in their academic and social endeavors.
Class is in session
But like Two Point Hospital, Two Point Campus is both a weird take on managing an institution and a hilarious satire of it. Make no mistake, you want profits. Profit just happens to come quicker the better you are at training your students. They’d better just cooperate by getting their grades up. It isn’t that dark, you still want to provide the best service possible, you just don’t care whether or not that will pay off their debt.
It also has a weird way to present familiar topics. The gastronomy course has students creating massive dishes, which is one of the more normal available studies. There’s also knighthood and magic present in the four-course sampling I was provided. If there isn’t a weird doctor’s college that ties into Two Point Hospital, I’m going to organize a riot.
From your humble beginnings, you start improving courses and adding others. Leveling up courses increases the number of students you can bring in, which also requires you to build more facilities and hire more teachers. You can’t, unfortunately, just pile all your students into the same classroom, even though that would be more cost-effective.
One of the more appreciable changes in Two Point Campus is the ability to build the outer shells of your buildings in any way you want. In Two Point Hospital (and Theme Hospital before it), you bought pre-planned buildings and configured your rooms within their restrictions. It sometimes required you to get creative with your layouts, as you needed to maximize the space used.
My feelings on this change are mixed. On one hand, this provides a lot more freedom in constructing your campus. On the other hand, it’s really tempting to just make square or rectangular buildings to make layouts a lot easier and interchangeable. I suppose it’s a matter of how much effort you want in your aesthetic. In the same sense, you could just plop down trees and flowers in tight rows just to raise your environment level, but that’s just slightly beneath me.
Speaking of the environment, you may be disappointed to know that the same decoration system from Two Point Hospital is back. The biggest change is that you can’t just cram posters behind the furniture to raise your prestige rating without throwing off your feng shui. A lot of furniture, when placed against the wall, blocks anything from being placed there. It’s probably a shortcut that should have been addressed, but I just hate arranging the wall art in every room I make.
On that topic, the ability to copy rooms or save them as templates was patched into Two Point Hospital, and it makes a return here. If you’re the type to make individual dorm rooms rather than turning them into barracks, that can save you a lot of work.
A unique feature of Two Point Campus is the ability to foster relationships in your students. You can get as much or as little from this feature as you’d like. The students work autonomously, and your part is simply setting up events for them to take part in and facilities to get together at. If you want them to have romance, you’d better plop down some good places for them to make out, as well. You can follow your favorite student through their education and relationships, or you can completely ignore them. Just as long as their happy enough to keep their complaints to themselves.
Most importantly to me, the radio from Two Point Hospital is back, including all the DJs. I was a bit nervous, as it took me some time to hear my favorite, Harrison Wolff, but he’s in here with the rest of them. There are also some new DJs, including a pretty appropriate student testing the waters. The writing is as sharp as ever, and even the PA lady has made a return with some new lines.
One complaint that I often heard (and can definitely agree with) about Two Point Hospital was the game’s progression. You had a set number of objectives, and once they were completed, you moved on to start a new hospital. This isn’t a terrible gameplay loop for the first few levels, but there were fifteen in the base game, and it could become tiresome to constantly go through the same motions of plopping down all your rooms.
I’m not entirely certain this has been addressed in Two Point Campus, and the developers I spoke with didn’t really put that fear to rest. There are 12 stages planned for Two Point Campus, and, once again, you’re restarting your college each time. There is hope, however. The game is a lot more freeform, meaning you’re given the tools to do things differently each time. Each campus also provides a new set of courses, and you can decide which ones you offer. This is different to Two Point Hospital, where each hospital essentially functions the same way. Whether or not this will provide enough variety remains to be seen.
The team at Two Point Studios has had a difficult development cycle, with most working remotely from home due to the pandemic. However, Two Point Campus is coming together beautifully. While it has some of the same pains as its predecessor, it also offers more opportunities. It’s recognizably similar while simultaneously presenting something new.
It’s shaping up to be a great step forward in Two Point Studio’s growing concept of Two Point County. It reminds me a bit of ‘90s era Maxis, where their games seemed to be tied together with a cohesive attitude and design philosophies. I’m already hungry to see what other games grow from this unifying aesthetic.
More importantly, however, I’m going to be licking my lips and waiting to get back into Two Point Campus. It’s a flavor of management game that I just find irresistible. Everything I loved about Two Point Hospital is here but layered across a brand new experience. August 9 really can’t come soon enough.
[This preview is based on a pre-release build of the game provided by the publisher.]