I really enjoy city building games. From about 1996 to early 2000’s Sierra put out a whole host of city builders: Caesar III, Pharaoh, Zeus, Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom, and numerous expansions. Most of them involved building a city, usually belonging to some ancient empire, and making sure that the citizens had services, goods were produced, imported and exported, and invading armies were beaten back. They were my therapy. Not long ago I fired up Pharaoh and played through the entire campaign for the 6th time. Ilonapatra is an uncompromising and willful ruler.
Then something happened and the cool games stopped. In 2004 Tilted Mill released Children of the Nile, which didn’t exactly use the same mechanics, but it was a satisfying experience. They followed it with Caesar IV in 2006, which I personally found meh. Somehow in translation to 3D some of the magical charm of the original had been lost and the maps weren’t that engaging. Then nothing. The city building genre died a sad death. You could find a modern city to build, but not an ancient one. (By the way, Cities: Skylines turned out to be so much better than that terrible nightmare that was the latest Sim City.)
This Friday I was messing around on Steam and stumbled onto a cute indie game. I bought it, loaded it up… and found all of the things I love: the walkers delivering services, the industry, and the trading. I present to you Lethis: Path of Progress. Check this out.
It is a classic Sierra-like city builder set in an adorably Victorian Steampunk setting. It operates on the same principles: you build a block of housing and connect it with some sort of food resource with roads. Then you proceed to add more and more services to grow the houses of the block, balancing the amount of workers you have with the demands of the citizens. As your city begins to produce industrial goods, you are encouraged by your emptying bank account to set up trade with other cities on the world map. Each scenario has specific goals. There are 26 missions in all, not counting the tutorial. I am on Mission 5, about to build my first monument pretty soon, and I am still enjoying it very much.
The game is cute beyond words. The fisheries have harpoon guns. Exorcist tents must be built so your city doesn’t become infested with ghosts. The population requires alcohol, and there are two choices: you can either grow barley and let monks from the Abbey brew it into beer or you can send rangers out to catch fae by the magic mushrooms and deliver them to the distillery where absinthe will be made from their magic dust. At least I think that’s how it works. 😉
Trade is done via hot air balloons. The rich are serviced by automatons, which see to their every need. The game has great decorations. You can’t see that much on the screenshots because my houses are fully evolved, but you can build a really pretty block.
So far, I saw nothing about any military, so I think this is a purely economic sim. I have very few gripes. They fixed all the little things that naturally tend to annoy in these types of games. Roadblocks are available. The soundtrack is lovely and the game does come with the speed controls. You can accelerate it up to 5 times normal speed, which is fantastic. If there are any small complaints, is that I wished for more services, creating a more complicated goods chain, and greater house evolution, but it is understandable that at some point houses do need to stop growing.
So far I am a happy camper, so here is the website for the game. It is available on Steam at a very reasonable price of $19.99. If you’ve been missing Pharaoh or Emperor, this is a worthy successor.