EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Dan Lenois
previewed on PC
So many moving pieces, so little time...
Games like Revival: Recolonization are sometimes difficult to gauge on a critical scale, as oftentimes, 4X grand strategy games have so many moving parts, it becomes difficult to succinctly describe, let alone analyze, them. However, the basic narrative premise is conversely fairly straightforward. You play as a survivor who was placed in suspended animation, Captain America-style, only to later awaken in a post-apocalyptic world where humankind has somehow managed to bounce back, albeit at the cost of forsaking most of its history, technology, science, and culture. So, as the magnanimous leader you are, you have to guide your people through these uncertain times and blaze a new trail onto the face of history. All of this grandeur is strongly impressed upon you during the game's tutorial. Experienced players have the option to entirely skip the tutorial and jump straight into the action, but for those who are new to 4X grand strategy gameplay, playing through the tutorial is highly advised. However, this is where the game first manages to drop the ball somewhat.
The tutorial does little to teach the player anything outside of the most fundamental controls and gameplay mechanics. It merely focuses on teaching the player how to move their units, engaging in combat, establishing cities, researching technologies, and upgrading their city with new developments. While these are certainly core mechanics, there is so much more players need to know in order to function, let alone play optimally. The game does admittedly inform the player, upon completion, that it is a work-in-progress, but a recognition of a flaw does not inherently remedy it. New players who might normally be interested in giving Revival: Recolonization a go will face an unnecessarily steep learning curve for the foreseeable future without the aid of a more comprehensive tutorial system to guide them.
A living, breathing world...
Times change, and so does the world itself, something that's especially true here in Revival: Recolonization. What's interesting is that at least here, some of that change is within your control to potentially influence one way or the other, via the game's edict system. If you find yourself in an increasingly warming climate, overseeing a civilization that prefers a more temperate climate, you can transform the hot sand into green grass and trees, or even ice and snow, should you choose to. However, the scope of your abilities is extremely limited to offset the potential of this otherwise game-changing feature.
A combat system that innovates, even when it shouldn't...
The combat system here in Revival: Recolonization is easily by far the game's weakest element. Everything about it screams of rough incompleteness and questionable design. For one, you're limited to merely a handful of combat units, accompanied by your own leader character, who themselves are not allowed to directly engage in any combat whatsoever, meaning if your combat units fall, the combat encounter is automatically declared a failure, and your leader unit is given 50/50 odds of either being allowed to surrender, or dying spontaneously off-screen on the spot. Your leader's capabilities here are exclusively limited to indirect support gimmicks, such as terraforming parts of the battlefield so as to either aid your allies or hinder your enemies, (such as putting out a fire aimed at your units, or slowing enemies,) without allowing for any direct damaging or healing abilities. The attack animations lack responsiveness or style. Allies and enemies often look like they're swinging pool noodles rather than swords, spears, or hammers.
Which pacing do you prefer: Slow, or glacially-slow?
There are currently a multitude of pacing-related issues. There doesn't feel like there's all that much for the player to do during their turn aside from explore the map, pick fights with NPC factions via simplistic combat encounters, and progress through the technology and science trees. But even taking into account the latter, there's no sense of achievement when you develop new systems and mechanics for your people, as there often is in similar games like Civilization or Humankind. There's just a sense of empty indifference.
NPC players will take a ridiculously long time to complete their turns. At one point, I left to take a shower after ending my turn, and returned about seven minutes later to find (upon checking my recording software) that the NPCs had just finished their collective turn merely a minute before.
There's so many pros and cons here that it's impossible to either fully recommend or condemn the game either way. There is so much potential present here, but so little of it is executed well. The developers have clearly strode hard to make a 4X grand strategy game that actively attempts to give the player as much agency as possible, but the problem is that the current issues that face the game essentially go out of their way to imply the opposite. You have a player character forced into combat scenarios when said character isn't allowed to engage in combat. You allow NPC players to take turns without acceleration, taking control away from the player for many long minutes at a time. You have a tutorial mode that doesn't teach players most of what they need to know. Etc.
All of this makes Revival: Recolonization a really hard sell at the moment, and the developers have not been particularly quick to address these concerns, as it's been three weeks since launch, and none of the issues, not even the low-hanging fruit such as the turn lag, have yet been fixed via post-launch updates as of yet. While there's obviously still plenty of time to make a turnaround, this lack of speed in developer updates or public communication regarding such does prove greatly concerning when evaluating the game's future.
The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.