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Friday, 4 January 2019

Constructor Classic - #FlashbackFriday


Flashback Friday is a feature where we will take a trip down memory lane and enjoy a game from years gone by.  This occurs on the first Friday of each month (Last Friday from February).  Criteria for being featured as a Flashback Friday game are that the game must have been initially published in 2010 or earlier (at times I may look at a more recent HD remake or repackage) and the game must still be obtainable from a legitimate source.

Developed by British studio System 3, Constructor was initially published for MS-DOS systems in 1997.  It was later ported to Playstation, MacOS, Windows-native DirectX3, Playstation 3 and Playstation Portable systems.  In 2017 the game had an HD makeover and was released on Windows with PS4 and XBONE versions also available.  In addition to shiny new HD graphics, the game also had some additional gameplay features such as a tutorial and campaign added.

It has also just been announced that due to the success of the HD remake, a sequel titled Constructor Plus will be released for Switch on 19th February with details of other platforms to follow.  This will also feature approximately 80% more content and new building themes.  Existing owners of Constructor HD on PC, PS4 and XBONE will also be eligible for an exclusive discount in the first 30 days post release.  This will reduce the game from its standard £19.99 to £9.99.

Some of the new buildings which will be included in Constructor Plus later this year

With this news, I felt that having a trip back to 1997 to play the original Constructor was a good idea.  Rather than Constructor HD I've been playing Constructor Classic 1997.
Unsurprisingly, the game puts you in charge of a construction company where you must progress from slum lord to property tycoon.  The map is also split up between a number of companies with whom you must compete to achieve your goal, such as reach a set bank balance.
As you would expect from this style of game, you start with a basic HQ, a plot of land and a lump sum of cash.  In order to progress you will need to produce various resources and goods, starting of course with wood, to allow you to unlock new buildings and building upgrades.

The first thing you build - your Timber Yard which produces wood required for building your first houses

You also start with a small workforce.  This will allow you to start your journey to property magnate by constructing some basic housing.  The houses available to you are initially basic wooden shacks, although you will get concrete homes after a short time.

Once a house is completed you must move in tenants.  Once you have selected your tenants you will be able to set the house to generate income, new workers or new prospective tenants.  Your tenant will also come to you with various problems, such as fires in local buildings or being located too close to factories, and give you a set time period to rectify their complaints.

As I often find with these games, it is very easy to get carried away with building and making every available building as soon as it becomes available.  This can cause issues with the number of workers and foremen available as, in addition to the work teams doing building work, you need to assign workers to your factories to produce the goods.  This makes it important to be strategic about what you are building, and when.

The Tenant Screen.  Here we can see that the tenants have been instructed to generate Workers with buttons for Tenants or Rent

As you build your property empire, you will face various challenges.  Burning buildings left unchecked can explode, taking out other nearby buildings and leaving you with a shortage of workers and available tenants; rivals may start building on your lots; or undesirables may cause havoc.  These undesirable citizens, such as hippies and mobsters, can also be used to your advantage.

Fire rips through a wooden shack

Once these groups have become a part of the local community, you can assign tasks for them in the same way as houses.  Examples are that you can ask hippies to move into an unoccupied home of a rival company and turn it into a squat, or ask the mob to bribe city officials.

Overall, the original game doesn't hit that nostalgia spot that I remember.  This is probably due to the lack of a tutorial and quite deep, complex systems.  In all honesty, I had completely forgotten how hard the game was, and got frustrated with it due to a shortage of workers and a house fire destroying all 8 of my houses.  With more time to sit down and work everything out again I would probably have enjoyed it a lot more.


Workers put out a fire in a house in Constructor HD

I certainly plan on picking up the HD version at some point, to see if the tutorial and campaign make the game more enjoyable, and definitely looking forward to seeing what Constructor Plus brings to the table.

Constructor Classic 1997 is available from GOG.com for £4.79/$5.99 and Constructor HD is available from Steam for £24.99/$29.99

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