Ruling your own slice of whatever is truly a beautiful thing, whether you’re a benevolent wannabe god or a malevolent force looking to punish the world around you. Luckily, most simulation games let you do both. One month into the new year, what’s there to look forward to on the sim front in 2018 and after (in no particular order)?
18. Tropico 6
Developer: Limbic Entertainment Publisher: Kalypso Media Platforms: PC, PS4, XB1 Release Date: TBA 2018
Speaking of sims that let you range from kind to totally oppressive, Tropico 6 has you well covered, casting you as El Presidente, resident dictator of your very own island state. Want to conjure a tropical utopia, an envy of the world? Want to aggressively put a leash on your own populace because screw democracy at this point? Tropico 6 doesn’t care. It’s your nation – do as you see fit, unless said populace starts turning on you because pineapple isn’t sustainable nutrition and they’re constantly overlorded by imposing military towers. People, uh, get in the way like that.
Kalypso has tasked Limbic Entertainment (Might & Magic series) with developing Tropico 6, shifting away from Haemimont Games, who led Tropico 3-5. Among the major additions to the franchise is the ability to build on an island archipelago (bridges are very exciting) and steal iconic wonders of the world, because this is Tropico and who gives a shit, it’s fun.
Do games like Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley leave you with a yearning sense to go out there and build your own farm, only to realize you love your current lifestyle enough and such a thing is too radical a departure? Farm Manager 2018 is the game for you, my friend. Handle crops, machinery, animals, staff, and seasonal adversities (farm stuff to the lay) to become the most profitable patch of field you can muster.
Farm Manager 2018 is currently in beta testing and despite a couple of issues one would expect with any management/tycoon sim, word is the game is shaping up nicely.
16. Surviving Mars
Developer: Haemimont Games Publisher: Paradox Interactive Platforms: PC, PS4, XB1 Release Date: Spring 2018
If your dreams are a tad grander than owning farmland, why not colonize Mars? Surviving Mars, from aforementioned Tropico veterans Haemimont Games and ever-reliable sim/strategy powerhouse Paradox Interactive, lets you build up your Red Planet with a neat little retro-futuristic aesthetic. Emphasis is placed on individually simulated citizens, meaning you must take care to balance needs. Also, space domes.
There isn’t a concrete date just yet for Surviving Mars, but keep an eye for it this spring.
15. Occupy Mars: The Game
Developer: Pyramid Games Publisher: PlayWay S.A. Platforms: PC Release Date: TBA 2018
Maybe surviving Mars doesn’t pique your interest; well, what about occupying? Occupy Mars: The Game is an ambitious thing – a technical, sprawling open-world sandbox wherein you stake your Mars base. Explore the planet, survive the planet, and upgrade your base and its vehicles. This is certainly a game that should appeal to hard sci-fi enthusiasts. It’s not quite as glamorous as shiny space domes, but to each their own.
It’s entirely possible that The Guild 3, the latest entry in the long-running life-in-the-Middle-Ages simulator, won’t end up being the top of anything good, but it’s certainly noteworthy. Be an upstanding citizen, flipping your town into an economic haven, or be a generally shitty person and corrupt your town to gain power. Yay!
The Guild 3 released in early access last September to largely negative reception, with reviewers citing bugs and overall lack of content hindering the experience. Developer GolemLabs anticipates a complete product later this year.
13. Rise of Industry
Developer: Dapper Penguin Studios Publisher: Kasedo Games Platforms: PC Release Date: February 9, 2018
Ever look out your window and think, “That’s nice, but maybe a couple more factories will do,” and want to achieve that dream? Rise of Industry sets you as a budding 20th century industralist, tasking you with creating a powerful and efficient empire. Build factories, transport lines, and strike deals with the world’s cities.
A notable thing about the game is that it’s the only one on this list with an honest-to-God release date. So, maybe get on that.
With fond memories of Sid Meier’s Pirates!, the idea of Abandon Ship appeals greatly – take command of your ship, explore a procedurally generated world that reacts to your action, and delve into all the scummery ye olde heart possesses. Sounds like a good time all around.
There isn’t a concrete date for Abandon Ship just yet, but it’s intended to release in Early Access rather soon.
11. Project Hospital
Developer: Oxymoron Games Publisher: Oxymoron Games Platforms: PC Release Date: TBA 2018
For those who found Bullfrog’s classic Theme Hospital a bit… not hospital-y enough, it’s worth checking out Project Hospital, a more realistic take on healthcare management. Build your hospital, hone your management skills, and become the best doctor you can be without fronting med school bills. Diagnose hundreds of different ailments and treat them in an array of departments. If you’d rather focus on something other than complicated diagnosis, the game is cool with it. The priorities are yours to choose.
Developer/publisher Oxymoron Games expects Project Hospital to release sometime this year.
10. Two Point Hospital
Developer: Two Point Studios Publisher: SEGA Platforms: PC Release Date: Q4 2018
Conversely, if you like your healthcare a bit outlandish, Two Point Hospital is your avenue. For all intents and purposes, this is Theme Hospital 2 (hell, some of the people who created the original are at Two Point) and that is a lovely thing. Furnish your hospital and diagnose patients with the latest in strange technology. A particularly cool feature is the ability to collaborate with other players in research projects (details are vague on that one, but still) and compete with them in multiplayer challenges.
Look out for Two Point Hospital towards the end of the year.
9. Atomic Society
Developer: Far Road Games Publisher: Far Road Games Platforms: PC Release Date: Early 2018
When you build settlements in Fallout 4, do you ever wish the experience could be, I dunno, more purposeful? Atomic Society tasks you with building and running a town in a post-apocalyptic world, letting you serve your own brand of wasteland justice. A big aim in Atomic Society is for your town to reflect the values you impose upon it – you set laws and policies, decide stances on issues including slavery and drug use, and help your people flourish in an unforgiving place ravaged by nuclear war. All very pleasant, but exciting nonetheless.
Atomic Society is set to come out in Early Access in the first half of the year.
8. Industries of Titan
Developer: Brace Yourself Games Publisher: Brace Yourself Games Platforms: PC Release Date: TBA 2018
Create a bustling industrial metropolis on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, competing against the Houses of Titan for supremacy. Industries of Titan looks gorgeous and its gameplay seems inspired by the futuristic Anno entries, featuring economic management along with tactical combat via battleships (and you can design the interiors). Very promising overall.
Yeah, yeah, Frontier’s Jurassic World Evolution is on its way this summer, but we’ve covered it pretty well. Prehistoric Kingdom has a different approach, offering scientifically accurate dinosaurs (and other prehistoric creatures) in a game closer to Zoo Tycoon than anything in the Jurassic franchise. The game’s features include genetic mutations and traits (aka you can selectively breed your creatures, which is awesome), disaster events, and a ranger mode with customizable characterization.
Prehistoric Kingdom recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign and is looking to release in Early Access late this year.
Developer: WashBear Studio Publisher: WashBear Studio Platforms: PC Release Date: Spring 2018
Seems like we’re getting multiple of everything this year, doesn’t it? Just as 2016 happened to be the year of the theme park sim (Planet Coaster, Parkitect, and the ill-fated RollerCoaster Tycoon World), 2018 is shaping to be the year of the dino park sim, what with the previously mentioned Jurassic World Evolution and Prehistoric Kingdom, the recently released (and very Early Access) Mesozoica, and now Parkasaurus. Parkasaurus, frankly, looks like tons of fun, with a distinguishable visual style and a focus on old-school tycoon gameplay. Best of all, you can dress up your dino friends! We’d expect nothing less from Canadian developers.
Parkasaurus is anticipated to release in Early Access this spring.
Developer: 11 bit studios Publisher: 11 bit studios Platforms: PC Release Date: TBA 2018
Frostpunk shares a similar survival concept as Atomic Society, albeit this time you’re trying to push back oppressive cold via steam-powered tech. A city builder sim in a steampunk frozen world is enough of a selling point as it is, and developer/publisher 11 bit studios (This War of Mine) promises Frostpunk will offer players plenty of choice, as you’ll have to decide between morality, productivity, and survival.
Frostpunk is expected to release sometime this year.
4. Empires of the Undergrowth
Developer: Slug Disco Studios Publisher: Slug Disco Studios Platforms: PC Release Date: TBA 2018/2019
Ever wander up a hill as a child and see those bustling ant hills? As with many folk, you probably smashed them to hell, being the Godzilla to the poor ants’ Tokyo. But have you ever wanted to run an ant hill? It’s a compelling idea and Empires of the Undergrowth delivers. Develop your undergrown nest, besiege the riches in the local grass, and play as various ant species, each with their own advantages and weaknesses.
Empires of the Undergrowth released in Early Access last December to overwhelmingly positive reception. Slug Disco Studios are still fleshing out the game, with an ETA for the full release somewhere around late 2018/early 2019.
3. Anno 1800
Developer: Ubisoft Blue Byte Publisher: Ubisoft Platforms: PC Release Date: Winter 2018
The latest installment in the popular Anno series ditches the futuristic ideas of the previous two entries and delves back into history. Anno 1800 takes place on the cusp of the industrial revolution, an era marked by technological advance and an increasingly corrupt political arena. Build prosperous cities, conquer new territories, and squash your opponents with a variety of means. Oh, and it’s pretty.
Ubisoft anticipates Anno 1800 to drop this winter.
Developer:Jan Zelený Publisher: Jan Zelený Platforms: PC Release Date: TBA 2019
It’s a great time to be a transport tycoonfan – Kalypso recently dropped Railway Empire, there’s the ever-reliable OpenTTD, and work is well underway for Mashinky. Develop your transport business over a procedurally generated map, manage your empire, innovate to improve assets, and mow through history. Upon full release, Mashinky will cover 7 eras, leading into the future. Combine that with its unique style, synthesizing realistic visuals with isometric construction, and you have an intriguing proposition.
You can grab Mashinky on Early Access (it’s gotten pretty positive reception), but developer Jan Zelený expects the full release to come around 2019.
1. The Universim
Developer: Crytivo Publisher: Crytivo Platforms: PC Release Date: TBA 2018/2019
If ant colonies, businesses, and metropolises are too small-scale for you, perhaps a planet is more your speed. The Universim seeks to revive the God-game, letting you develop and watch over a populace that, interestingly, exercises its own agency. They will make their own decisions and you’re more of a herder, guiding them down the right path (or to utter doom, if that’s your fancy). It’s unique, ambitious, and everything you’d want from the genre.
You can nab The Universim in its early state at the Crytivo store. There isn’t an ETA for the full release, but hopefully it doesn’t take too long.