Anna Leah Karasik
- Developer: T4 Interactive
- Publisher: tinyBuild Games
- Release Date: 10/4/19
- Price: £12.99 / $14.99
- Review code provided by tinyBuild Games
Games that encourage micromanagement are a special brand of addicting: making money, grinding to reach goals, and seeing what you started with grow into something entirely of your own doing. Community Inc hones in on these nitty-gritty elements as its core gameplay, but falls short on providing some key resources for players.
It Takes a Village
This game has a fairly simple goal: meet eight achievements within 30 days. No unnecessary plot, just a cut-and-dry experience where you are encouraged to build the biggest, safest, most lucrative society possible. If you aren’t satisfied, it’s all too easy to just sell your current village, and use the profits towards a brand-new one. This feature appealed to me, as someone who loves the feeling of a new sandbox.
Your first order of business is to create a community, since you start out in an empty wilderness. To do so, you hire Lings – your workers and townspeople – and assign jobs to them, such as Builder or Lumberjack. After foraging for supplies, the workers can make crafted goods on the workbench, and you can hire farmers to keep up plantations of crops. From there, you’ll quickly fall into that cycle that generates addiction in these games: there’s always something you need more of, or something you can’t build because you need a Ling to level up in a profession. The cycle never ends, and it’s really the high point for Community Inc. The game’s background music, while a little repetitive, puts you in the mood to get to work.
Just as you get into a groove, though, things tend to go awry. Your very small initial storage will quickly fill up if you don’t increase your capacity quickly by building barrels or a warehouse, for example. Although you can set a priority for Lings in terms of what harvested materials need to be gathered first, you can’t get any more specific than that. For example, at one point, I had to wait forever for a worker to forage one little plant that was blocking a lot for a building I wanted to place. It is little things like these that provide enough of a headache to put this game down.
One thing that sets this game apart from similar titles is the minor diplomacy element. Much in the fashion of the Civilizations games. There are several other races that you’ll come into contact with who are interested in your community. From small dragons to giant mushrooms, they all have different allegiances and personalities. They may stroll by to buy from your shop, or offer contracts that you can complete for a larger sum of money.
Completing contracts with some races will inevitably enrage their enemies, though, and eventually you’ll have to defend your town. Guards will get the job done while your other workers cower by the fire until the fighting is over. Over time, battles get more difficult, and you’ll have to better equip the guards.
Although the diplomacy element of Community Inc creates an interesting medium for money-making, it’s fairly weak overall. It would be great to have more means of interacting with the races – let alone with the Lings.
Controlling the Community
When a game is ported over from PC to console, my first thought is always – how do the controls transfer over? In Community Inc’s case, it’s a mixed bag.
The map is easy enough to navigate on the Switch. You can change distance and direction, make time go faster or pause, and even adjust the speed of your camera movement with a simple trigger push. Menu options are off to each side of the screen, selectable with the D-pad. Going into menus becomes annoying if you are doing something like building a road or a wall, as you’ll have to place a section, go back to the menu, select the item, place the section, rinse and repeat. It’s a shame you can’t place multiple at a time.
Managing things around your Community can get a little more clunky on a system where point-and-click isn’t an option. For example, the tutorial actually skips showing you how to stock your town’s shop, stating that it’s so simple that it’s not worth getting into. Well, sure, in the PC version it’s a matter of simply clicking on the shop. I will readily admit that, hours of gameplay in, I still cannot figure out how to stock the shop on the Switch version. Needless to say, I had to do some contracting with the other races to make any sort of income and progress.
That wasn’t the only instance where a seemingly simple toggle was not easy to find – if it’s even available. In tutorials, you can see houses without the roofs on, so that you can see the furniture and Lings inside. When trying to toggle the roofs in my own village, I once again couldn’t figure what button or menu had this option, so I blindly placed furniture in the houses. Not cute.
Creating a balanced strategy building game is an art. Classics like Zoo and Rollercoaster Tycoon show that there is a perfect mix of micromanagement and fluff to be achieved. It’s truly a shame to me that Community Inc can be so close to that sweet spot at times, while completely losing its grip at other times. Even though developers spent time listening to PC player feedback and patching the game after its initial release in 2017, some elements seem to never have improved, while others got lost in translation on the Switch. There are many other titles in the same price range which offer a more polished overall experience. At the very least, this game offers endless replayability, if you’re willing to endure the little headaches along the road.
- Addicting micromanagement
- Good replay value
- Few crafting/foraging priority options
- Menus can be clunky
Community Inc is an addictive strategy game experience with infinite replay value, but lacks substance and polish.