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1849 Review: Go for the gold, one click at a time.

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1849
Price: $14.99
System(s): Windows
Release Date: May 2014
Publisher (Developer): Somasim (Somasim)
ESRB Rating: N/A

SimCity rocked the gaming world when it first came out, since there was nothing else like it. Since then, there have been plenty of games in the “sim” genre. 1849 is basically “SimCity in 1849 California”. That’s the gold rush era, when tiny mining camps could turn into towns overnight…and ghost towns in a few years. 1849 doesn’t really focus on the gold, however. Instead, the player must do all he can to make sure the town has enough resources to grow.

1849start
Bring me some food!

By far, the highest priority for an 1849 town is food. You’ll need to build farms right away, then industries capable of turning the farmed goods into actual food. For example, if you build a grain farm, you’ll need a bakery, while a fruit farm will need a distillery (for booze!).

You’ll also need housing sites, place for people to live. Build too many, and you’ll have unemployment, and crime. You can cut down the unemployment by building more farms and such…but that might attract more people. Crime, on the other hand, is best reduced by a sheriff, you’ll need one fast. Criminals clean out the resources you create, and no resources means no money. No money means no way to pay the people to get more resources, causing unemployment and a general death spiral for your city.

As your city grows, the risk of devastating, and-I mean devastating!-fires grows…put up a fire station as soon as you can, because a fire can nuke your whole town with no chance of recovery.

1849town
A tent is not a home

The houses in your town require resources to maintain, and more resources to grow. At first, food and lumber are fine. Soon, you’ll need boards and booze. Eventually, you’ll need furniture, fine clothes, and other amenities. As the houses grow, they can hold more people–I’m not real wild about this aspect of the game, since it’s better to have a few mansions than a bunch of log cabins. But, that’s the game.

Many towns have no means of providing key resources, so you’ll need to open up trading routes with other towns, and manually order resources brought in (and your excess sold) on a regular basis. Forget to do so, and your 1849 houses can regress all the way back to tents. I really wish the game had some sort of ‘auto order’ function, because specifically ordering what I need every month of game time is a little too micro-manage-y for me.

1849starve
For the love of the republic, feed those people!

1849 is a rarity nowadays, since it’s actually a pretty challenging game. Just one mistake (for example, running out of food, like in the picture above) can destroy your town, leaving you little choice but to start over. With most games nowadays being pretty casual and quite forgiving of player mistakes, 1849 is special in that you really need to pay attention to what you’re doing, laying out your town carefully and keeping all resources stocked at all times.

Overall, 1849 is rough around the edges, but comes at a good price. It’s worth the price of admission, but this isn’t a show you’ll see a year from now.

Read [somasim]

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