Tycoon game Rise of Industry has been a sleeper hit on itch.io and has recently become available as Early Access title on Steam and GOG. This industrial simulation throws you into a giant sandbox and has you figuring out supply chains for several industrial sectors. You’ll control every aspect from gathering, refining, production, and logistics – and it lets you play any way you want.
I’ve put a few hours into the game now and barely scratched the surface of all the possible things to do. During that time, I restarted quite a bit to try out different approaches. Advanced technologies need to be unlocked with accumulated “experience” and the production lines are very deep.
For instance, you cannot just build a car factory and hope that cars magically appear out of nowhere. Each of their components need to be built in other factories, which in turn need other resources to function. That car factory would need around 30 different kind of buildings before the first car can roll from the production line.
The game is wonderfully ambitious and it is a true joy to figure out how things work. Lots of little eureka moments here. You could probably argue that some things aren’t always explained that well – “What do those flashing signs mean? What is happening? What am I doing wrong?” – but when you finally figure them out after a bit of tinkering, it’s rather lovely.
In other words: there’s a bit of a learning curve, but the UI is actually rather good and useful, once you know what you’re doing. In general, Rise of Industry succeeds in being deep and complex, but not overtly complicated.
If something like this sounds like a total logistical nightmare to you, then Rise of Industry is not the game you want to play. However, if the gears start turning in your head when you think of the words “supply chain”, you’ll potentially get hundreds of hours worth of fun out of this.
(Ahem. Let me digress here for a bit, because there’s a thing that’s been bothering me. For all its loveliness, it feels like the game takes place in an isolated, almost sterile, environment. Pollution is not a concern yet (although slated for later inclusion and able to end the game if handled poorly) and there is absolutely no place for people in this supply chain.
Sure, “the market” steers supply and demand, and there are instances where for example the unions are on strike and there’s a temporary modifier on production or whatever, but this feels so incredibly removed from the lives of actual people.
At the end of the day, it’s workers who make this industrial fantasy a reality, people who man the assembly lines – and their concerns and needs are notably absent from the game. It’s as if your factories were fully automated, without any human involvement.
Being able to have a say in how your workers are compensated, treated, and housed, dealing with unions, and generally treating them like they are important would be a wonderful thing to see.
This is not to be taken as criticism of the game, mind, it’s something that was on my mind while playing. Granted, Rise of Industry might just not be the game to tackle these issues, but I wish it was.)