Rise of industry is a business tycoon game developed by Dapper Penguin Studios. The Early access version was released in February 2018 and the full version on 2 May 2019.  I played it first when it was in Early Access and had problems even getting through the tutorial. Since then I am amazed how the final product has turned out.

One annoying problem at the start is that Rise of Industry lags, especially when loading. But I have had no such problems in-game. The goal of the game is to produce all sorts of industrial buildings and make a profit out of them.

The tutorial does a decent job at explaining the basics (though it is a little quick for my liking.) but it is more about a succession of click on this and click on that, rather than an explanation of what each tab or icon does. And you might have to go through it multiple times and test what little they have told you before you can be a Rise of Industry magnate. It surely is time consuming to understand.

After the tutorial there are three game modes. In the career you set your difficulty and gradually unlock new technologies and regional permits. Here your money is a set amount (you choose the amount in starting options) and is expected to grow gradually as you sell your produce in regional markets. The career isn’t like a story mode though. It has no narrative to go with it.

In scenario’s you can set the completion goals yourself (which can mean production of a particular resource or research of a new technology among much more). You can also select allowed buildings and bankruptcy here at the start.

The sandbox may be the easiest, and has all technologies and buildings unlocked from the start and there are no monetary concerns. You also do not need to worry about the Tech tree and regional permits (your license to build industry in a particular region), and have the option to have infinite natural resources on the map (like oil, gas and copper)

I felt the sense of growing from a minor industrialist to a major industrial mogul through the career mode far more enthralling than sandbox. And even though in sandbox you start with everything unlocked, you have to build in the same manner as in the career. Meaning you have to place first tier buildings to reach the second tier. So if you want a chicken farm you need to produce water and wheat first so you will have to construct these buildings anyway, with or without all buildings unlocked.

You can also face off with rival AI controlled industrialists who are as hungry to grow as you are. This is an interesting addition to the game that makes it far more challenging. And there is only limited space to build, especially with two or more industrialist groups competing.

In each mode you have to maintain a whole lot of gatherers (these produce raw resources like wood, water, gas and oil) before you can play with more advanced buildings and this applies to every mode. It is just the structure of the game.

For such a complex game with a succession of resources, one leading to the other, the developers should be appreciated for doing a brilliant job to make a complex system accessible. I say this because there are just so many management options.

Press alt and you will see a convenient little bubble over all of your production buildings which shows when they will produce the next merchandise. Green shows the product is being produced and (if it stays) red shows that it has stopped producing, most likely because a resource it needs to continue production isn’t being delivered. Press tab multiple times and you will cycle through your building names, harvestable resource locations (like fish, oil and gas) and the stores present in each settlement. This can be very useful for distribution management.

But for a game with industry on a scale like this even more is required. I am talking about filters that manage your buildings by region and search options in the distributions tab. I will talk about the distribution menace later in this review.

Now, whatever mode you choose, you will have to think before building. Conventional wisdom does not work here and what you produce is not dependent on what you want to produce but rather what each town demands you to produce. So even before you build your headquarters (your first building which lets you build in a region) you have to verify what each of the settlements demand.

Some settlements may have hardware stores that demand wood, water, or sand. Others may have farmer markets that demand farm produce like vegetables or wheat. It depends on the type of shop there is in the settlement and you can easily see what they demand by clicking on the town center and then the stores within. At the start each settlement will usually have a hardware store and farmers market.

Settlements can prosper and thrive as you make them your business hub and sell them the resources they are demanding. A constructive addition to the game is that towns can be upgraded once they grow enough. Your prize? A new shop in the town of your choice. If you are focusing on carpentry a construction goods store is useful. If you want to combine gathering and farm resources to produce food products, a grocery store is useful. So on and so forth.

Each settlement usually starts out as a hamlet, grows to a village, then a town and finally to a city though I believe the final tier, Metropolis is not in the game yet or I haven’t seen it yet. This growth of settlements is a slick concept and the new resources demanded need supply from gatherer, farm, livestock or other buildings to produce even more advanced resources. A map, at least a small one, has three hamlets at the start, though sometimes you may come across a village initially too.

Then there are regional permits which revolve around settlements and their territory. These permits can be bought to allow you to build in a newer region or settlement. The headquarters does the job for the first region or settlement but the next ones you have to buy. But sometimes you can get an advantage through events. These events may reduce the price of gaining a permit in a particular region as well as reduce building costs which can be very handy.

I really like these events that appear regularly throughout the career. They change some aspects of gameplay for a while. There can be a new production process for a resource that increases its production among many other advantages. There are negative ones too so watch out! While some may offer you an advantage by causing an increase in selling price of a particular product in the market, others might be harmful and for example, cause your production of, say, oil to be reduced.

I noticed that choosing a large map (Each map is randomly generated along with the products demanded by settlements and the resources available to mine and harvest like oil and gas) consumes a huge amount of PC resources. I could not understand why for the life of me. It’s surprising because the graphics are average. Not appalling, but nothing to write home about either, nor near a major change in gaming graphics around the world.

Sometimes a pathing error erroneously shows too. It tries to say that there is no road connecting your industrial building even though there is one.

The real part of the game and what you will be doing most of the time is managing distribution. This is the backbone of the game. Initially when you build a structure, distribution is set to automatic. But at automatic the game AI simply sends the produced resource to the nearest warehouse instead of the commercial market of the town.

Under the distributions tab on each production building you can develop routes which decide where your product will go. For example Paper-mills producing paper will require water and wood and you have to manage this distribution manually. But this is where the games problem becomes vivid. Don’t get me wrong. There are some good options here. First you can decide how much of the resource is stored at the destination. Then the developers help by placing the nearest destination building in the list first.

But even with these distribution management options here resides the only major dilemma of this game. The game has lots of resources to produce but managing their supply is very difficult later on. You have dozens of production alerts caused by distribution mid and late game and you constantly have to manage it. The distribution process means you do a lot of micro management regarding routes, which rapidly goes from being a necessary evil at the start to being a complete annoyance in the end. It has led some reviewers to give Rise of Industry a negative rating despite other aspects of the game being highly impressive.

There are so many alerts with storage full, that I could barely keep up and setting the distribution to automatic doesn’t help either, because the AI wants to send resources to the warehouse rather than the commercial market first.

Some things could definitely be added here in the distribution department to tackle the mid and late game confusion and storage full alerts. One could be a search option in the distributions tab to look for destination buildings by their names. We could set priority or focus on which product to produce for buildings that produce multiple goods (For example a cow farm produces beef, leather and milk. We could prioritize milk production accordingly if it is demanded in the market). We could possibly increase the priority of the various destinations in each production building. Perhaps we could set the distribution by region rather than only by distance. Finally the best alternative is to improve the AI and tweak it so it has different focuses, like selling the product, sending it to the state or sending it to the warehouse. Because in the late game it still can be a nuisance to manage personally and for some, may take out of the fun.

All the previous ideas would have made destination management easier. (I am going to send Dapper Penguin the previous three paragraphs and this paragraph because otherwise I really enjoyed the game and really want it to improve. It was an easy 9 without destination management problems.)

But even despite the distribution issues, not once in this game have I felt bored (annoyed, yes, but not bored) and there is almost always something to do, even if its micro-management. I also found it helpful to name my buildings (and make a mental note) distinctly to manage distribution, but some gamers will prefer to have the numbered names the game automatically gives buildings. Hey, to each his own!

What I liked other than the entire idea of industrial management this game has brought, and the complex industrial chains complete with the satisfaction one gets when producing and selling a new product though, is that Rise of Industry does not push you to do anything in a set amount of time (except the bids). This is nowhere near as visible as in the research tab.

You can research when you want and what you want with the “when” being most important. You can research at your own pace and even grow your industrial empire according to how you want. Very few games have such a liberal approach to their tech trees and are this flexible. And the flexibility even shows in the start settings before you set off on your career, scenario or sandbox. You decide how you want buildings to produce based on the settlements demands (and how much they will demand), the difficulty, costs, the resources and everything in between.

It’s so pleasant watching your resources sell, the towns flourish, and your profit margins grow. Even though its depth ensures there will be some difficulty learning, Rise of Industry has brought a decent concept and a game brimming with potential. It has a huge list of buildings you can produce and each building can produce more than one product. That and the freedom to build at your own pace is the games strength but the game is weighed down only because of its annoying distribution (micro?) management system.

Review Platform: PC

Rating: 7.7

Pros:

  • Three game modes with different settings, objectives and the decision to have or not have a tech tree.
  • Game gives you a lot of liberty in how you will build your industrial empire. Particularly that you can research technologies at your own pace rather than straight away. It is particularly true when playing without AI players though.
  • Can produce over a hundred products with many buildings available.
  • Growing from a minor industrialist to a major one has its moments.
  • Can face off with rival AI industrialists to make the game competitive as well as challenging.
  • The towns feel very much like your own as you can cause them to grow, or even stagnate in case you do not send the proper resources their way to sell.
  • When you grow a settlement you decide on which new shop will appear and then cater to its needs.

Cons:

  • Tutorial is more about click here or there rather than informative about the game functions.
  • Distribution problems with the storage full alert is a major problem in this game. It is particularly present mid and late game.
  • Some bugs here and there.

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