Rise of Industry, an indie game from Dapper Penguin Studios, has just left Steam Early Access. It’s a management sim with an industrial theme (though you probably guessed that from the name). Your job is to grow nearby towns by supplying their shops with goods that you produce.
Straight into the deep end
Like many management games, there’s a lot of depth here. When you start your first game, there’s a couple dozen options to choose from, from map size to the number of competitors to infinite resources and many more options to fine tune the difficulty of the game. However, even with the difficulty set really low, Rise of Industry has a pretty steep learning curve that the tutorial does little to help with.
When the game starts, you’re presented with a map with several small towns. You can place your headquarters near any of these towns, though it’s a good idea to check what resources are in the region first. Choosing a region with few natural resources will restrict what you can produce early on and will likely stunt your company’s growth. And yes, I am speaking from experience here.
Once you’ve chosen your starting location, you’ll want to check out what stores the nearest town has. Small towns have simple shops like farmer’s markets and hardware stores that need basic supplies like logs, sand, apples or veggies. You can see the selling prices of each of these products, and from there, decide which to produce and supply to the town in order to start earning some income.
There’s a huge tech tree, but you only have 3 free unlocks at the beginning of the game, so your starting options are fairly limited. Fortunately, fledgling towns don’t need advanced products, so you can sell them raw resources like coal or oil, or go the farming route and start building apple orchards and cattle farms. Farms require water and livestock requires wheat to eat, so you’ll need supplementary buildings to support them. Mining and heavy industry produces pollution, so that’s something to consider when planning out your production buildings.
There are plenty of factors to take into account when starting to produce goods to sell. All your buildings need to be connected to the road network in order to move goods. You can send resources directly between buildings by manually setting up these routes, or you can plop down warehouses and let them to the heavy lifting. If you have the traffic option on, trucks will likely start queuing up all over the place, so you’ll want to research better roads or perhaps build bridges or one way roads to alleviate congestion.
As you grapple with all of these many systems and menus and try to figure out why no water is getting to one of your farms, the towns that you or your competitors are supplying will start to grow. Eventually they’ll ask for help to expand, either with goods or money. If the town is in a region you control, you can choose which new shop the town gets, and sometimes they’ll get an additional shop on top of that. New shops means new in-demand products, usually from higher tiers, which will sell for more but have lower demand compared to basic goods. This is usually fine though, since more advanced products, which are made from one or more lower tier goods, take a while to produce. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the supply of products, as you don’t want to accidentally push down the price of a profitable product by oversupplying.
Once you make some money, you can look at expanding into other regions to gain access to their resources and more space to build. You’ll probably end up with two or more production hubs focused on different production chains since the ultimate goal seems to be producing a prototype product made up from many other advanced goods. Connecting your different production areas can be done with roads, but you may want to add railroads or even use zeppelins to move resources long distances between your factories. While this should be fairly straight forward, I’ll admit I found it quite difficult to get a working train route, and I’m not entirely sure how I achieved that. I couldn’t replicate it again, so transport routes are still largely a mystery to me.
I managed to finally produce a TV dinner prototype, but I had neglected to provide any of my towns with enough products for them to grow to a level where they demanded TV dinners.
Having received a key for this game while it was still in early access meant I had to start a new game several times as new builds were released. While not entirely unexpected, this did mean it took me a good few hours to reach the late game. In that game, I managed to finally produce a TV dinner prototype, but I had neglected to provide any of my towns with enough products for them to grow to a level where they demanded TV dinners. I ended up selling them to the state at a fraction of the profit I likely could have made selling it to a town.
Once you’ve got a sizable number of farms and factories, a fair amount of micromanagement is needed to ensure resources are getting to the right places, and produced goods are getting sold in the right quantities and not flooding the market. There are screens to help you analyse expenses and profits, if you’re into that level of complexity. Or you can kind of wing it and hope for the best, and, at least at lower difficulties, you can get away with this.
Rise of Industry has the building blocks of a great simulation game, but the sheer number of options available is overwhelming. The UI is clean and it’s easy to increase the font size, but there’s just so much to keep track of and get to grips with, and the game doesn’t always readily supply information that you need. For instance, you’ll get notifications when a storage area is full, but there’s no alert to tell you that one of your farms hasn’t produced anything in months because it’s not getting any water. There’s a map overlay to show you things like that, but I had played for a good many hours before I stumbled onto that. There’s so much other information to keep track of that I ended up taking notes on what products were in demand.
Getting to grips with all of this will take some time, but once you have a handle on things it can be a pretty relaxing experience.
Getting to grips with all of this will take some time, but once you have a handle on things it can be a pretty relaxing experience. There are a few frustrating things, like the difficulty of setting up trade routes, and the massive amounts of information available yet not always at the right time or in a logical place. I’m still mystified as to why water is transported by truck or why it’s stored in warehouses, or why roads don’t automatically connect when you place them next to an existing road.
The game looks beautiful, with clean graphics and cute sound effects and soothing music. As I mentioned earlier, I love that one of the first options you set is the scale of the UI, and it’s easy to adjust in-game. The AI competitors, if you include them in your game, do little more than get in your way in terms of claiming regions, preventing you from building there, and bidding against you in auctions for regions and various limited-time bonuses, such as increased truck speed or reduced loan interest rates.
Since I started playing Rise of Industry a few weeks ago, it’s had a near-constant stream of updates and improvements, and the developer has indicated plans to continue adding to and improving the game. For fans of management sims with this level of detail, Rise of Industry offers hours of entertainment. I personally prefer a little less micromanagement and a smoother learning curve. If you’re still not sure whether this game is for you, there’s a demo on Steam so you can give it a whirl!