I haven’t seen a lot of games that focus on town management, and that’s a real shame. Having played both “Hinterland” and “Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale”, I found myself wanting more games with a town management RPG theme about them. “Pioneerz” is the sequel to the XBox 360 game “Pioneer”, which was released back in 2009. “Pioneerz” was released for the XBox 360 back in March, 2010, with the PC port being developed this year (2012). Those who have played the original game will find a lot of similarities between the two, though I must admit that this will be my first time playing this particular series. Before we take a look at what makes “Pioneerz” tick, I’d like to thank LaurenT from Andreil Game for setting me up with a free review copy of the PC port.
The main menu allows you to start a new game, load your last save, view a help menu, adjust game options, and view medals you’ve earned. It’s important to note that you can’t save more than one game at a time. The help menu brings you through a series of screens that I recommend you check out before playing. While the tutorial difficulty level does show pop-up hints, the help menu contains some pretty important information. The options menu allows you to toggle both windowed / full screen modes and screen resolution. You can also toggle the sound and music volumes from here.
Starting a new game gives you a few options, allowing you to choose between tutorial, normal, and hard difficulty levels. You’ll also be able to choose the map size: tiny, normal, and huge. Choosing various combinations seems to affect how many AI opponents you’ll have. I would have liked the option to choose how many were on the map, or at least, be told how many I’d be facing based on what play conditions I’ve chosen. To experiment, I played using the tutorial / tiny settings and came across one opponent. I then tried a hard / tiny map and came across two opponents. Whether this is by design or not, it would be nice to be able to customize your experience by indicating how many opponents you’d like to have.
The general premise is fairly simple: you’re a colonist/hero of a town trying to see it thrive. Your opponents will have towns like yours and will be trying to do the very same thing. To help your town thrive, you’ll be in charge of harvesting food and raw materials. If you’re successful in keeping your town supplied and protected from invaders, it will grow to the point where you’ll have to focus less on saving the town from hunger and concentrate on seeing to the destruction of the other towns. To do that, you’ll have to destroy all of the villagers in an opposing town.
The NPC villagers will each have their own unique jobs, giving you all the more reason to keep them alive and kicking. Warriors defend the town from harm, peasants gather berries, and healers heal other villagers, just to name a few examples. To top that off, you’ll have many different buildings at your disposal, which have their own function. Houses, for example, provide a home for two villagers while farms help crops / seedlings to grow faster.
Outside of town, you’ll have all sorts of monsters to deal with. Some of these monsters even have special abilities that can debuff you in some way, such as slowing your movement speed, for example. There are passive animals (herbivores) that will cross your path, and you’ll actually see aggressive animals (carnivores) hunting them. Each category of animal (herbivore, carnivore, underground beast, and legendary beast) has its own AI behavior. It’s important to note too that some of them spawn kin, which helps to keep the eco-system in check. I applaud this game for including small details like this, as it helps to give the game a life all its own.
The controls are fairly simple and the graphics reminded me of my SNES days. While there is no way to change your keybinds, you’ll simply be moving around with the arrow keys and using the S, D, and F keys to attack and heal others. You’ll have access to a sword and bow and arrow for offensive stances while being able to use a healing spell to help others. The space bar allows you to interact with the environment, mainly to pick gather resources and drop them off either on the ground (seeding) or at your HQ (to stock the town’s supplies). The E and R keys are used to zoom closer and farther away from your character.
What I like best about “Pioneerz” is that it allows you to level up your character by doing almost anything. This allows players to stay in their town should they wish to and focus on resource management while offering others the chance to level up by attacking other towns. I appreciate having the freedom to do as I like, without being punished one way or another in terms of advancing. I also like that you can switch teams mid-game, as can any friends that you might be playing with. Along that some note, I find it pretty cool that the game allows for local multiplayer via split screen / pad support. The fact that levels are randomized gives the game almost unlimited replayabilty. In terms of difficulty curve, the game does go to good lengths educating the user on the game mechanics, though there are some things that occur in the background that may confuse players initially.
There are a few things I feel could be improved. For one, saving and returning resets the fog of war on the minimap, and you somehow morph into a different looking villager. You still retain your stats, however. I don’t like that I can’t pick up more than one resource at a time and bad placement will cause you to lose the resource. For example, if you try to plant a berry on a bad tile or already occupied tile, you’ll simply lose what you’re carrying. This requires the user to be cautious when seeding. There’s also no self-heal, though enemies do drop food every now and again.
Overall, “Pioneerz” is a fun and addicting game, despite these hiccups. While the game hasn’t been officially released yet for the PC (as of 12/20/12), I was able to confirm a price tag of $5.00 and that it would be released on Desura very soon. In my opinion, five bucks is worth it for the content available in this game. There is a demo available, should you wish to try before you buy.
Final Verdict: 7/10
You can learn more about “Pioneerz” by visiting the following websites:
You can check out video play sessions, here: