Early Look @ Imagine Earth

Imagine an Earth where overpopulation and over-exploitation are rampant and we are at serious risk of causing permanent damage to our planet. (Oh, wait…) The only solution is to look outward, expand beyond our little planet and colonize other worlds. This is where you find yourself in Early Access title Imagine Earth.

You’re on the surface of a totally untouched planet. You have with you a special city center colonization module and begin the challenge of balancing population growth with environmental and economic factors. Your constantly growing population will demand more food, more energy and more consumer goods. All this comes at a cost: you start producing pollution and causing permanent damage to the planet’s ecosystem unless you can balance your growth perfectly and counter this before it is too late.

Imagine Earth is a charming city builder / colony management game, where the entire surface of the planet is divided in triangles. Each triangle contains a specific type of landscape, from forests to farmlands to fossil fuels and much more. Your challenge is to build your colony in such a way that you grow in a sustained manner, something which can occasionally be quite challenging. Certain buildings don’t do well together, population tends to be unhappy living close to power stations or factories, crops don’t grow well near pollution, etc.

The game involves a constant stream of decisions – what direction to grow your colony in, what buildings close by will keep the people happy or cause unhappiness. But what about that forest? Chopping it down will only speed up the destruction of the ecosystem. And if you build that additional farm, will you still have enough power? You find yourself with the need to constantly balance your construction efforts and carefully decide your next placement several moves in advance, as you need to ensure all the needs of your colony are met. It’s a simple but surprisingly effective recipe. This early access version only had the tutorial and one mission available but it already became obvious that the buildings you unlock later will vastly enhance the decisions available to the player.

Imagine Earth

I didn’t do too terribly compared to my press colleagues then.

There isn’t much more to say for now. The game is fairly relaxing and quite fun to play – but currently it’s a little unpolished, and it’s hard to say if the final version will contain enough material to keep the interest of the player for a prolonged period of time. While the game is fun, it’s also very simplistic and risks getting old very quickly. The buildings themselves are a little dull if I have to be honest, and your colony doesn’t grow in the same satisfying manner as cities do in Civilization or any ‘proper’ City management game. The colony essentially always looks the same.

My biggest gripe with the game right now are the controls. I believe this was a design choice as the (somewhat irritating) advisor points out several times how you can easily build things with one click – personally I found it very unpleasant as a control mechanism. Then again, I’m really not a fan of radial menus – they’re far too ‘console’ for my liking and the PC can do so much better than that. Personally, I’d love to have a simple construction menu available where I can far more easily see all buildings available to me in various categories, rather than having to use the radial menu.

Imagine Earth

Don’t worry lady, that untouched paradise will not last once I’m done exploiting this rock.

I also found seeing which of your districts could be upgraded a bit of a pain. Besides for clicking each and every triangle one by one and using the radial menu to hover over the upgrade option, there isn’t a good way to see which ones are ready to upgrade. This desperately needs improving for the final version to make the game more accessible. Last but not least, the game needs to more clearly indicate the positive and negative modifiers when you are in ‘placement’ mode – so you can make more informed decisions about placing your various buildings. This is however an early access title under heavy development, so I make these comments not as a way of saying the game is bad but to provide constructive criticism which hopefully helps the developers in releasing a more polished product.

Imagine Earth is definitely worth taking a look at. It currently has a crowd-funding campaign on IndieGoGo and you can download the demo at ImagineEarth.info.

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the author

Managing Editor of ManaPool, Peter lives in York, UK and is a great fan and master of turn-based strategy games. If he isn't playing one of those, you'll probably find him in a role-playing game instead. He's definitely not afraid to provide a straight up opinion on any game and has a strong like for indie developers. We all start small, after all.

  • Gary Thwaites

    Sounds good, I always like these type of games but I have the same reservations or shall I say constructive criticism as yourself. I myself would like more easily accessible information and I to dislike radial menus with a passion. That would be my biggest turn off in a decision to purchase a game like this.

    • http://www.manapool.co.uk/author/lachrymosity/ Lachrymosity

      Agreed. Radials may look really nice, but nothing beats the functionality of hotkeys and full menus.

      • Jooki

        The game offers a ring of hotkeys that represent the fixed 8 ring options Q,W,E,D,C,X,Y,A. To build a greenhouse press X,Y over an empty field and the construction starts. Press C over a construct gets a repair. Press F1 for more control hints. Thanks for your feedback!

        • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

          That’s good to know – thanks for sharing with us, Jooki.

          The only thing I would add to that is that personally, I like controlling solely by mouse. A game like this is relaxing, so I don’t sit in my usual PvP mode – I often don’t even have my hand anywhere near my keyboard.

          It would be nice to at least have the option to have a proper construction menu you can control with the mouse. As I said, personal preference but I wont be the only one. I truly despise radials, I’m not sure why they ever started becoming a mainstream feature – other than people trying to develop control schemes compatible with consoles.

          There’s no advantage to them for a PC user.

          • Jooki

            Aye mates, thanks for your interest. I think it’s a question of interface design. When I want to choose between some options for a certain point of interest the shortest way to each is when they are arranged around it in a circle for mouse use as well.

            But also true: To get a strategic overview of all available options for spending these precious development tokens we are planing to have development menu. There is the idea of taking the coin unlock of buildings out of the build ring at all…

            …and we are working on a research menu where can level up tools and upgrades with the career keys which you earn by finishing missiongoals.

          • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

            Sounds good, Jooki. It’s nice to see a developer who cares about their game and the feedback they receive. The game has a lot of potential and it looks quite nice, so I think it has the potential to do pretty well on release.

            You guys are on the right track :)