– By Aecium
Islanders is a city building game developed and published by GrizzlyGames, and it’s not just another SimCity or Cities Skylines clone. It takes a different approach, one that’s more laid back and less hectic. It’s minimalistic in its visual details, the scoring system, and its currency.
The art style is simple yet descriptive. You can quickly identify what is what without needing a lot of explanation. You can easily tell what is grass, rock or sand, something that is important to the placement of some buildings. Similarly, the look and feel of the buildings remind me of plastic toys I could have played with as a child (or an adult, for that matter) which again lends itself well to easy identification. This also reinforces the fact that Islanders is just a game, and not something you need to worry too much about while you play. You are presumably playing it for fun, after all, a fact that many of us can lose sight of while playing some of the more involved city sims out there.
Mechanics & Game Play
Islanders sets you up to focus on the placement of buildings on its procedurally generated islands to earn points and unlock the next set of buildings or the next island. How many points you need is something that’s easy to track with the circular progress meter in the lower left, which displays how many more points you need.
When you fill up the progress meter in the lower left you get a plus sign indicating you can pick the next set of buildings; normally you get a choice between two categories of buildings.
Categories include but are not limited to, Farming Pack, Brewing Pack, City Pack, Seaweed Farm, Logger Pack, Fishery and many more. Another progress indicator in the lower right is a faded island icon that fills up as you earn more points.
As you place a building/structure (such as a mansion, fishing platform, fountain, or many others), a point value is shown along with a radius indicating which buildings affect the value. Placing a lumberjack near trees increases its value but if you place a second lumberjack within range of the first, points will be subtracted from the total placement value. But keep in mind that as you place your sawmill you get more points for each lumberjack that is in range of the mill.
And the pluses and minuses of buildings get more complicated as you play on. For example, the shaman gains points for being by flowers or trees, but losses points for being near the city center. Houses and mansions get plusses when being placed next to a shaman. This may sound complicated to keep track of but the game helps out by showing the potential value before you place anything. There is even an undo button that lets you take back your last placement. This is another feature that helps create the low-stress environment.
To be honest, at first I was not impressed but as I played on (mostly haphazardly) I started losing! I was like, “What the hell! They show me how many points I need and how many I’m going to get for each placement, how can I be messing this up?” Well, as I started to pay more attention, I realized that you need to apply strategy and forethought to each placement. You need to plan what you are going to use each space on the island for, and make sure your spacing is close to optimal along with keeping in mind what building packs you might get to pick from next. It all adds up and if you pick wrongly it can be a detriment to your score and the likelihood of getting to the next level. As I play more and more, the skill is in learning the buildings and how they can boost your next set of buildings. Even though the game is laid back and chill, I find that there are times when I still worry about not being able to earn enough points with the buildings I have left to place. When this happens, you get a game over screen and the option to try again.
The creators of the game highly recommend you watch the video explaining how the game is different than a normal city builder, as they want you to have an understanding of what you’re buying before you do. I agree with them on that point. Islanders in not your standard city sim and you should know that going in. Then again, at US$4.99 price, I would find it hard to go wrong with this deceptively easy to learn and hard to master take on the city sim.
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