With all the mainstream attention coming to mobile gaming and all the souped up hardware that goes into these things, it is high time a non-traditional game came along to set new precedents. There is immense power in modern mobiles which goes underutilized to reach a wider audience. Developers who cater exclusively to high end devices have to narrow their demographic from potentially billions to a handful of millions, that is not a risk developers are generally willing to take. However, sometimes, these risks are necessary to the medium progress. Games like Asphalt, The Room and Walking Dead are good examples of games that push the performance part of this platform, but they are not as unique as Topia World Builder in its approach. Here is our review.
First and foremost, it is a fun game, let us begin with that. The replay value has a limit, but it is fun before that limit is reached. No in-app purchases, simplistic menus and an idea that is simultaneously straightforward and complex, it makes for a game definitely worth the effort of checking out thoroughly. Please note, the game is not perfect, but it’s perfection isn’t what brings us to it, it is the hope that it brings to the platform. The hope that it will spawn completely new realms of gaming.
With elements resonating popular games like SimCity and Black and White, Topia is a world building game. You are given an entire planet to landscape as you please. You can populate it with animals, both herbivores and carnivores and watch the planet come to life. You can reshape the planet as you please at any time. More on how this helps the medium in the conclusion. Now, when you start the game, you won’t be able to make sense of it, other than that you can scroll the planet using two fingers. Then, you go through the tutorial that teaches you how you can scroll with two fingers, zoom in and out, go closer in through portrait mode (for smaller phones) and then shift to landscape mode. You can adjust brush sizes to fine tune your target terrain. You can guide animals to different locations by dragging your finger across the terrain. You can even add greenery or deserts to fine tune the planet. All in all, whatever function the game provides, is a very well executed function. There are some down sides though, such as placing only one carnivore on the entire planet will, for some reason, let it multiply and devour any and all herbivores, you can cast a bolt of lightning to kill an animal if you want, but you’ll have to tap each one individually to kill them all and I personally haven’t been able to do that. The technical aspect of what is available is very well executed, even if the logic behind it is faulty. I do wish there was more to do than just release animals, but now that we have this, developers will feel compelled to expand on the game.
The visual are good. The game shows when you are simply interacting with the screen or interacting with the game through a starry vapor trail following your press. The terrains are beautiful, the water is alive, any animal you release will move around on its own. No animals resemble anything on earth, but you still get the idea to which class they belong. There is no lag, it ran smoothly, but if that is not the case you can even reduce the graphics settings to suit an older or a less powerful device. The sky moves around you without interfering with the screen, the animals live their lives, which is interesting to observe, unless you throw a carnivore in there, which just multiplies and devours the entire herbivore population within seconds. You can even track the life of a single animal if you want. One can tell that this game was developed with a larger scale in mind, but for some reason, was reduced in the end. The game is an achievement in visuals to say the least. The menus however, are a separate issue, they were not designed with a lot of thought going into the process, they seem haphazardly made, but they get the job done.
Sound is intriguing, with carnivores making growling noises, herbivore making cattle noises. Shooting a bolt of lightning kills a creature first then makes a sound. Some sounds give the sense that levels were either not tested on a Nexus 5 or perhaps not at all as the sound shoots out of audible range a lot. The ambient sounds give life to your planet, sloshing water, rustling trees, gusts of winds, all make for an immersive experience. Uncharacteristic of mobile games, turning off the sound actually took away from the actual game experience and that is saying something.
This game on its own, as it is, has limited replay value. Once you have custom built a world and set life loose on it, there is nothing more to do than just watch. This is the disconcerting part. The game is very difficult to understand without the tutorial, but I still insist that this game is a good thing for gaming as a whole. This means we will soon be seeing a fully functional Simcity for smartphones (none of that empire world makeshift solutions), or perhaps an era of porting games like Black and White, Cities XL or even Anno 2070, we certainly have the hardware, all we need is the incentive. Which is what this game is.