From the cityscape glowing in the light of dusk, to the destruction of ancient ruins to clear more factory space, no game has come closer to making me feel like a contractor for Final Fantasy VII’s Shrinra corporation than Industries of Titan. While it’s a little light on content with the game currently in Steam Early Access, the granular city planning and ruthless capitalist efficiency wrapped up in fantastic presentation make for some solid, promising foundations.
Titan’s council wants results. Human lives are deductibles on a spreadsheet, human souls don’t even enter the equation. Results means resources, artifacts and cold hard space cash, as well as taking care of any pesky rebels, with their dangerous notions about conservation or human rights. It’s on you to ship out to Titan, build a self-sustaining machine posing as a city, and strip the planet dry.
As a city builder and management game, Industries of Titan stands out from the pack due to its granularity, borrowing from something like Factorio as much as it does Tropico. While most functions can be achieved through larger, more expensive building chains, you’ll spend most of the early to mid game building empty factories. Once built, you can spec out the floorplans any way you choose. If you want to dedicate an entire factory to, say, transforming noxious gas into power, or brainwashing citizens into workers, you can. Or, if you’re dead set on maximum efficiency, you can spend bloody ages rotating each prefab and filling out every available square like the world’s most methodical game of Tetris.
Aside from a few key constructions, all of this is supported by a larger spatial management game of setting up overlapping power grids. Power itself is a simple concept. Titan is replete with a gas called Xethane, some areas more than others, which you’ll harvest and transform into raw power. You’ll then distribute this power throughout connected grids, making sure it reaches each part of your city. This is achieved through interior aerials and relays, and massive exterior pylons. Xethane, while plentiful, eventually depletes. This means you’ll have to keep expanding while it replenishes. Infinite growth on a finite planet, and all that.
Your basic building blocks are minerals and isotopes, which can either be mined from resource patches, or excavated from ancient ruins. Is there a mysterious history behind these ancient ruins? Who cares, get space-shovelling! Again, these are limited, so you’ll want to build refineries to turn these Level 1 resources into their much more efficient Level 2 and 3 counterparts. Like all good management games, all these interlocking layers can soon run away from you, turning your efforts at expansion into blips of chaos you’ll have to fight to get back in order.
Throughout this, you’ll also need to impress the council enough for them to let you expand your initially meagre holdings. A resource called ‘influence’ slowly accumulates, but you can gain more by donating artifacts. If you collect the artifacts, though, you won’t get the resources. Also, you need to spend those same artifacts to transform your high and mighty citizens into obedient workers. Decisions, decisions! It doesn’t take long for all this to click into place, and when it does, Industries of Titan reveals itself as a thoughtful, interconnected, decision-rich management sim.
All of this is wrapped up in some great presentation. From the industrial synth soundtrack to the spoken ‘construction complete’ notifications. to a few cheeky achievement names, you can tell the devs are big fans of Starcraft and C&C. The humour in the writing also strikes an enjoyably dystopian note, neither too poe-faced or too goofy.
What? There’s also an entire FTL-style ship building and combat layer to all this? Absolutely! I mentioned you’ll be doing all this expanding and exploiting against the ticking timer of waves of rebel attacks, right? They’re not frequent to turn Industries of Titan into a tower defence, but the threat is always lurking. They’re bottlenecks to make sure you’re producing enough to keep a standing defence force of turrets and a few ships. Ship building itself uses the same granular, floor-plan based systems you’ll use to build factories. When combat starts, you can tactically target key systems on the rebel ships to shut them down early. Needed that oxygen supply to like, breathe and stuff, did you mate? Sorry about that.
There’s some excellent foundations all around, then, but I’m still going to suggest holding off on Industries of Titan until it develops a bit further. Everything is very stable, it just feels like it’s missing a few of the key systems it needs to really come together. Civic concerns, for example, are entirely absent. You can repeatedly miss your workers’ paydays with no real concern, as far as I could tell. Your citizens also seem content to just sleep, entertain themselves, and work automatically, with no input on your end. There’s also a noticeable gulf between the early and mid-game, where resources become increasingly scarce and there’s little to do except min-max resource streams you’ve already tapped into.
This aside, this is absolutely one to keep an eye on. Developer Brace Yourself Games already have a great pedigree that includes the excellent Crypt of the Necrodancer and Phantom Brigade, and everything I’ve seen so far points to a hugely enjoyable end result. Perhaps paradoxically for a game where you take the role of a cold, methodical corporation, there’s an enormous amount of heart fuelling these interstellar industries.