Rise and shine.
Rise of Industry has that peculiar time vacuum effect, capable of instilling a different form of consciousness in which your perception of chronology dissipates and all of a sudden it’s the early hours of the morning and you’re sat in your pants, bleary-eyed, meticulously planning a trade route for radio receivers. Hypothetically, of course.
It’s a setup that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s played Anno, Industry Giant and Factorio. Construct agricultural and industrial estates of factories, farms and logistics buildings. Research and build products in order that you can research and build new products. Then, most importantly, transport those products to satisfy demand in increasingly efficient and profitable ways.
This sort of game can be tricky to get your head around, but the difficulty settings here are thoughtfully designed. You have five main options to choose from plus the ability to customise the minutiae – from the expense of building upkeep and transport to the availability of resources and even the amount of traffic and pollution you’ll have to deal with. This bespoke approach is laudable; the only downside is the transparency with which you’re inconveniencing yourself by choosing a more challenging setting.
Rise of Industry is a steady experience. It takes time to build up your empire and the products you can create. Settlements evolve into larger towns and cities, but this too is a gradual process. Research takes a while and you can only do one at once (but you can spend time, err, researching research so that you can research future research faster). This leisurely approach is no bad thing, and you can choose to fast-forward time in increments up to 10x if you’re feeling impatient.
That said, this generally laid-back attitude is punctuated with moments of sudden frenzy or even panic when events hit. Ranging from severe weather to high inflation or earthquakes, these can affect the production of certain buildings, product demands or your expenses, and you’ll need to pivot quickly to mitigate the impact – or take advantage of the opportunities – they provide.
Region auctions, in particular, can feel like a frantic land-grab between you and the AI, because a region can only be owned by one company. Miss out on certain ones and their resources may never be available to you except through wholesalers – at a significant cost. You’ll likely never have the perfect game, the most efficient transport network or a complete monopoly over all resources and products. Rise of Industry is all about getting as big of a share of the pie as you can in your bid for prosperity.
There’s an impressive breadth to what’s on offer here. A Career mode, a smattering of specific scenarios and a sandbox option. A hefty recipe book of products and many types of buildings to create them in. Transportation ranging from basic single-destination trucks to fleets of boats, trains and even zeppelins with multiple pick-up and drop-off points. Loan repayments, pollution levels and a global market to monitor and manage.
What helps make Rise of Industry a pleasant experience despite all the number-crunching and cutthroat business tactics is its lovely presentation. The world is rendered in colourful, slightly abstract polygons which err on the side of minimalism while still allowing for plenty of little details. It has a quaint vibe, as if playing with a model town, and feels reminiscent of SimCity 2013.
I did, however, experience quite a few visual artifacts, the kind you’d expect during Early Access but hope to be quashed by this stage. Some mountainous parts of the terrain would flicker, and the trade route display was particularly glitchy. On occasion it even stuck, requiring a restart of the game.
It does also lack some quality of life features compared to its peers. There’s a traffic heatmap, for instance, but not a pollution heatmap. Settlements tell you in vague terms that they’re ‘growing’ or ‘stagnating’ and give a population figure, but you can’t really tell when they’re going to upgrade to the next settlement type. This is an important event that requires your input and provides a new, higher-tier store for you to supply products to.
Tutorial tooltips are a welcome inclusion in a game with so many systems to learn but are a little too sporadic and unpredictable in their implementation. “It’s time to discuss paying back your loan,” a popup told me, then failed to ever elaborate on what that entailed. Other events, like an ambiguously worded “PR and marketing event” that I could bid on via a slightly janky auction system, failed to provide any direction altogether.
And then there’s logistics. Warehouses are placed in the centre of your facilities, with an area of effect. They’re supposed to automate distribution, which they do, but this doesn’t always make your life easier. Whereas they do a good job of taking in resources and sharing them out to the factories that need them, by default they horde goods you want to sell, so a level of manual fiddling is then required on top to get your products to where they need to be. Creating intricate trade routes is also, perhaps understandably, quite tricky to get your head around.
Rise of Industry will scratch an itch for the enterprising industry builders, the spreadsheet-clutching efficiency aficionados and the capitalist megalomaniacs. But if you’re not strongly of that persuasion – myself included – it’s still satisfying to see your business empire and distribution network expand, cities thrive and balance book increase. Or, you know, heartbreaking when that doesn’t happen.
If you are planning on picking it up, make sure you read our Rise of Industry guide for loads of handy tips and tricks for getting started!
[Reviewed on PC]
James, our deputy editor, loves a deep action-adventure game, RPG or metroidvania. In addition to making sure everything on the site is as good as it can be – scouring for typos, tweaking headlines, finding the fanciest images – he’s also in charge of the reviews section.