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Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Odd Realm - Early Access



This week is the first of the games from my  2019 New Year article.  Odd Realm is a sandbox colony building game, taking place in a procedurally generated world.  It was released onto the Steam Early Access programme on 11th January 2019 and is the first game to be developed by Unknown Origin Games, who have very kindly provided me with a copy of the game to have a look at.

Being set in a fantasy type world, you have a choice of a number of races to rule over, although only Humans are currently implemented with 4 more due to be added.  Each race has 1 or 2 specific traits which will make your time easier.  When selecting your race, you also need to name your realm and select a world seed.

There are a number of biomes available to choose from on the world map: Desert; Taiga; Voidland; and Tropical.  Each of these comes with their own benefits and will affect what resources are available to you.  When selecting you will also be able to see the temperament of creatures and neighbours.

Clockwise from Top Left: Desert, Tropical, Taiga and Voidland biomes
 You start with a small number of settlers and some basic resources to start you out.  On your first playthrough, you will be presented with some tips as you play, but the game doesn't have a traditional tutorial.  You also can't reset these tips without deleting a file from the Appdata folder.

The game systems are fairly involved and complex.  You must gather and refine resources to be manufactured into goods.  Rather than this being passive like other colony builders I've played, the game requires the player to assign a job to gather the resource and then order the manufacturing, provided the appropriate rooms have been constructed.

Using a grid based system, you can build you colony one block at a time.  Providing you have the resources available, you can build walls, doors, flooring etc. wherever you want.  This allows you to make custom buildings and set your colony up exactly as you wish.  You can also build items such as ladders and stairs which allow your settlers to move between z-levels more easily.

Clearing a flat area to build our settlement while establishing a small farm for food
As you explore the map, you will discover more resources, allowing you access to new blueprints.  To utilise these, such as copper or tin, you will need to refine them.  To do this, you will need to build a variety of rooms such as a workshop or a forge.  This is done simply by highlighting an area and ensuring that it contains the relevant furniture to function.  You can then give manufacturing instructions to your settlers.

Some of these manufactured items will give you access to new items, such as the bronze cauldron once you have made some bronze, or will allow you to improve how your settlers work, for example upgraded tools or being able to go fishing for food.

Speaking of food, this is something which needs some attention.  I've had a number of false starts because I was focussed on gathering resources, or constructing buildings and forgot to build a food supply.  Whilst you start with a small amount of food, you will quickly want to establish more supplies.  You can harvest food from bushes, although these are not plentiful, you can construct a farm to grow food and you can also domesticate some of the wild animals such as chickens.  You will also need to construct a campfire for basic food and eventually a kitchen for better recipes.

I've played the game for a few hours and feel that I'm barely scratching the surface so far.  There are a lot of things to learn, and a lot of menus to remember which can be problematic at times.  My primary issue when the Early Access was the scaling of the game and everything being very small.  I'm pleased to say that this, along with some other QoL issues I experienced were things which the developer was already considering, and a camera zoom feature has already been added.

Our growing settlement with carpenter, forge, smithy and living quarters
The game is still very early into the Early Access cycle, being released only a few weeks ago, but feels fairly solid.  Whilst I've found the game to be difficult, this is in no way a criticism.  I had expected it to be more along the lines of The Settlers or The Colonists where you build a lumberjack and a sawmill then everything happens passively.  This makes you pay more attention to what you are doing, and the grid building system gives you much more freedom in the way that you build and lay out your settlement, even being able to build on multiple levels.

For a single person developer, the amount of work going into make the game ready for Early Access is tremendous.  Since the start of Early Access, not only has he been working hard on new features (such as the zoom mentioned above) but he has also spent a vast amount of time engaging with the community.  On the Discord he is answering as many of the questions being asked as possible whilst also listening to the feedback being provided, even sharing some of the player screenshots to his Twitter.

The game has a lot of potential but is already at an very playable state.  The one time I thought I had experienced a bug was actually user error and I have not experienced any issues such as frame drops or crashes.  At the price point of only £7.19 I can't not recommend the game.  The game can be purchased on Steam or Itch.io.
A building over multiple floors with a kitchen on ground floor (L)
and bedroom on upper floor (R)

In addition to the review copy of the game, the developer has also very kindly provided me with 2 copies of the game to pass on to you.  I will be giving one of these away in my Discord server, head over to the #giveaways channel for more info.  If you're not into Discord, I'll be giving the other away on Twitter.  To enter, follow me and comment on this tweet.  For both of these a random winner will be selected on 6th February at 2100 GMT with the winners being contacted within 24 hours.

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