I came for the cards, I stayed for the game
Sometimes you start a game, and it is unassuming in every way. It may not appear to be great in any single part, and even together they may not appear anything other than mediocre. So, where does Promised Land sit within this spectrum?
Congratulations! You have landed on a new island and you want to make a great settlement. Starting with a minimal number of people you want to expand, explore and exploit your surrounding environment to make your wealth. As a micromanagement game, you drag your villagers around to control their actions, prioritising production of the items you most need.
Items that you produce can be used in two ways. Initially you will be spending them advancing and upgrading your various buildings, and soon afterwards you will find yourself selling them off to the mainland for gold. Gold is important as it will allow you to buy items critical for the betterment of the colony. There are many items that are prerequisites for research and building upgrades, but most importantly it is the main source for new settlers.
The number of different resources and there associated supply chains reminds me quite a lot of The Settlers franchise. The main difference between the two is that in the Promised Land they are all far simpler to manage. If you feel as though you are short on a material, move a villager across to help produce it.
Buildings are also much easier to manage. Your choices when constructing are constructed exclusively from a single question, to build, or not to build? Choices are not always so linear though. Included in the game are mini games that pull from other popular franchises. The most recognisable of which is the angry birds clone which is used when fighting pirates. Constructing houses also pulls on other points of inspiration in the form of a space management game.
In order to direct the actions of the player the game uses missions. While they do all offer rewards there is often very little incentive to focus them at all. Occasionally they have missions which are timed tasks with bonuses for completing them within the time limit, but even these were a little lacking.
The game interface is awful. There are very few prompts, and within what help sections they have, they just as often manage to miss the actual important information. It took me 2 hours to work out what various icons meant, what the specialisations each did, where it was best to send them and the consequences of not assigning a specialist.
There is little control support either within the game. There is no option to rebind, no keyboard support and no scroll wheel support. Interacting with the characters can often be difficult as the hit boxes for some of the world elements are crazy.
This is made much worse by the limited (well…non-existent) graphics options. You cannot change the resolution of the game at all. And it is tiny (1280x960ish). I respect that it is an old game, but 2012 is not long ago. For goodness sake, as I cannot play this game full screen please at least let me leave the window without pausing.
This game annoyed me in so many ways. The resolution is awful, the sounds are bad and there is so little clear communication on the way the game works. The puzzles that you play are few and far between, and when you come across them they are either simple or copies of more developed games. This is where I have a problem though. As much as all the above annoyed me, I still ended up playing it for 11 hours. If I hadn’t found something I enjoyed in this game I would have stopped much sooner.
This is where I think that it took a whole heap of mediocrity and turned it into a game that it actually relaxing to just sit back and enjoy. It is a black pudding, it is made up of many things that may not be individually appetising, but together… together it is ever so slightly better. Good enough to give a try, especially when it often sees sales putting it at below a dollar.
Would I recommend it to you, the readers? Yes… I think I would. It it not great, it is not revolutionary or ground breaking. But it is a game that you can just sit back and enjoy. I will not be giving it a high score though. There are far too many issues that place it below where a game of it’s type should normally be.