One of the few games at EGX Rezzed I had heard of before the list of attendees was announced was RPG Tycoon. I love indirect adventuring: the Final Fantasy spinoff “My Life As A King” introduced me to the small niche genre, and Recettear is one of the more recent examples, if you were to take out the areas controlling the adventurer. RPG Tycoon takes these ideas and fleshes them out into a kingdom-building simulator.
The main focus of the game is to hire adventurers to represent your kingdom, and send them out on quests. The adventurers will return with loot, gold, and renown for your kingdom. Using this, you can expand your kingdom or upgrade your adventurers, then the cycle continues. The build I played had all of these mechanics set and available, they’re the groundwork of the game.
RPG Tycoon, as with many simulation games, gets off to a slow start. Just a couple of adventurers, barely any resources (as I found out when I went bankrupt and had to take out a loan from another kingdom…), and no technology means the game has to build up. Slowly, but surely, a system of adventurers rotating in and out of the kingdom on quests means that, once the game has got the ball rolling, there’s constantly something to do. In between expanding your kingdom and researching, you’ll have to instruct your adventurers to go on different kinds of quests, giving them different supplies, and more. This is where the strategy of RPG Tycoon comes in to play.
The typical type of quest is the ‘epic quest’. Once you have a couple of these under your belt, a whole range of quests become available, from bounty hunting to missions to kill an enemy of the kingdom. In these quests, points are allocated to aid the adventurer. 30 points are given to allocate in areas such as food, water, or information. These can directly affect the outcome of an adventurer’s quest. Not enough food? Well, good luck fighting on an empty stomach. No information? You might just walk right into a trap. This is where the strategy of RPG Tycoon and its strength lies, working out how to get a quest to work well, while simultaneously fighting random events that might happen (such as a horse dying, and the choice is given to get rid of both horses, share one, or try to bring them both) is where I most enjoyed my time with RPG Tycoon. It doesn’t quite have the unforgiving nature of a game like FTL, however not improving on your allocation can have a serious detrimental effect on your growth.
Using the library, players can research new buildings to upgrade the kingdom and the adventurers
The game is heavily inspired by Theme Hospital, down to the dry sense of humour and even the sound design. Some people might love that, some may not. I personally loved the gameplay elements that had been inspired by Theme Hospital (such as how the kingdom expands). It’s clear what everything does, and there was no issue with knowing how the kingdom would be expanding in the future, which can be a huge problem in more open games like this, leading to players relying on a wiki,
What RPG Tycoon does to appeal to a huge audience, however, is how it is build around both short bursts of play and long play sessions. The use of the random events in quests allows for a player to dip in, complete a couple of short quests, and then leave the game, while the entire simulation style will appeal to those who love the game enough to spend hours at a time on it. This is really something a lot of popular games are geared towards: Thomas Was Alone had short levels making up each chapter, Binding of Isaac allows for someone to have one run or ten, etc. Building a game that can suit this is a challenge, but RPG Tycoon has the framework down to really try that.
After playing the demo of RPG Tycoon, I’m optimistic for its future. The framework of the game is there, and despite the game being very early in development, there’s gameplay already and a scope for the future. With the correct balancing, endgame challenges and content, and RPG Tycoon would be fantastic, a great game for those who enjoy the old “Theme” works of Bullfrog.
RPG Tycoon is current available on Steam early access here for £3.99 or your equivalent. There is currently no release date set.
Being so early in development means RPG Tycoon’s content is subject to change drastically over the coming weeks and months.