This land is rich with oil, I can feel it!
Type: Single Player
Release date: June 2, 2016
DLC release: March 21, 2018
Three years later with some faint memories of a gameplay video I watched way back when, it is finally time to make a name for myself in the oil business. We all missed the oil rush, but with Turmoil you can relive that period of time and cash in with liquid gold.
After hearing how much oil the ground can hold in some places, you’ve come to the very town you’ve learned about, surrounded by many plots of land holding oil. However, you are not the only oil entrepreneur that has heard about this and decided to travel to this town. Three others will compete alongside you to make the most out of this opportunity. Once you pick your desired character, arrive in town with your starter money, and receive the mayor’s gift of a free plot of land, you are ready to get drillin’.
Turmoil’s gameplay is simple, but difficult to master. Before you set out to bring the oil up to the surface, you must get the land with it, and to get that you must have the lease. This section is called the land auction and everyone has a chance at winning land while also outbidding others. As everyone continues to drill oil, the land already purchased will show its oil yields and suggest that the land around it will also yield roughly that amount. Would you risk outbidding a competitor or go for a different one?
Apart from the first two warm-up rounds, each land lease lasts a year, so you only have a finite time to bring up the oil. On top of this, you can only take $2,000 with you. So first things first, time to find some oil. Dowsers are the first available source of locating oil (later on you can get moles and scanners), and possibly the most often used, but the dowsers will not show exactly where it is at, just that it will be under them. You can then build a rig and drill down until it hits a pocket of oil, or miss it entirely as you drill back up and buy a horse that can transport the oil.
Where do you sell the oil to make a profit while also being able to buy more resources? Well, two companies compete for providing these services, Left Inc. and Right Inc., located on their respected sides. Both Left and Right Inc. will fluctuate prices as time goes on and as you sell oil to them consecutively. To get the most out of the oil, you need to keep an eye on these prices. If you sell too much to one company, you might find yourself embarrassingly selling oil for 49 cents, but if you wait too long the high price will stop increasing.
Despite how easy this may seem, a lot is up to strategy. As you drill for oil, your rigs can easily turn on you if you’re not paying attention to them. If too much oil is not being shifted to the horses, the rigs will get blocked up and eventually spill. This will give you a hefty spillage fee by the end of the year if you react too slowly. The Left and Right Inc. might also not be in your favor as no prices live up to your taste, or perhaps you’re waiting to use the gas to your advantage at that moment. To avoid spillage, you can set down silos to store the oil till the price is right. Make sure to keep storage space open so horses can keep storing it, but keep an eye on the date, as December can quickly sneak up to you as you wait to sell. It can quickly turn into a race to sell everything before you are forced to leave all that oil in the silos, dashing all your hopes and dreams of it being sold.
At the end of the year, you will get statistics on how it went like your spending and profit. There are also bonuses that you can get to earn extra money. You will get bonuses for depleting all the oil, selling all the oil, depleting all the gas, and closing your lease early (which will also net you a lease payback). So if you find yourself finished before the year is up, there is no need to wait it out.
The town isn’t just for show, but also hold valuable resources once you get back there every year. There are shops that offer upgrades to help you while you drill oil, which can range from upgrading existing equipment to make it more efficient or getting new equipment entirely, which will also have upgrades to make them more effective. This new equipment provides another way to reveal oil pockets, which are moles that randomly reveal tiles, and scanners that automatically reveal whatever is in the scanner circle. More upgrades are added as you get to a new area that will have different conditions, such as an area having rocks that require you to upgrade your drill if you want to drill through them or needing moles and a specific upgrade to pick up diamonds if they show up by chance. You also have Daphne’s, which is a saloon where you talk to various people that you can… generously donate money to as they return a favor. These offers can get Left or Right Inc. to not go under a certain price, giving you a discount on spillage fees, or even lower interest rates. If you find yourself low on cash, the bank can also give you a loan, but you have to pay them back by the end of the year no matter how big of a loan you take out.
Around half way through, an interesting prospect turns up as the winning conditions are revealed. The mayor is selling the town stocks Dutch auction style and whoever has 50% will become the new mayor. All you have to do is watch the price go down and either you press the buy button or your competitor does. Those who have less than 50% will be kicked out of town (if no one has 50%, whoever has less gets kicked out and their shares will be auctioned till someone does), and if that’s you, well, you lost the campaign. This is really the only aspect of Turmoil that I disliked as I found this too random. The AI can pay more for a share that was less than the last round or outright use all of their money immediately. The only hope is to keep your money above the AI and go to land auctions first in hopes that they spend their money on upgrades before the stock auction.
If you do become mayor, there is a special plot of land that the old mayor will point you towards. Giving you a nice, and hectic, end to a campaign.
Once you finish a campaign, or perhaps you’re returning just for this, there is another town if you have The Heat is On DLC. Once you get into it, you will see a lot of familiar faces return, two main characters even decide to get back into the oil business, as well as new faces and new additions. The gameplay is the same as the main game, but these new elements change how you might play this time around. You even start differently as you have more starter money than before and the shops that were available in the main game are immediately open, encouraging you to start upgrading now as The Heat is On starts expecting you to have previous knowledge from the main campaign.
As the DLC’s title preludes to, this town is surrounded with land that has magma. At first, this blocks your drills as your pipes aren’t able to withstand the heat, but once you buy magma upgrades you can wield magma as a tool. If you connect magma to oil, you can increase the oil’s flow up to the rigs. Magma also has a hand in gas as it can grow gas pockets or even convert oil pockets into gas pockets. With the main campaign having you circle a small gas pocket and close all the valves to grow it, this makes it easier to use gas to its full potential. In addition, you can sign an exclusivity deal with either Left or Right Inc., which will give you extra money once you do, but will lock the other company from receiving oil from you. So, make sure you really want to before signing.
That’s not all with the changes to gas, the entry point to using gas is also available immediately. In the campaign, you have to buy a pricey upgrade so either Right or Left Inc. can have a connector valve to receive gas. In this town, the connector is built in and all you have to do is connect the gas pockets to the desired company to get those prices to rise. You are also able to close valves immediately, where before it was also an upgrade, and even close a valve early before the pipe has finished drilling.
Where diamonds could be found in the main campaign, you find treasure in this one. Specific treasures can only be found in specific areas so if you don’t find each treasure before all the plots are drilled up, you have to resort to buying it (you can also sell it if you want to). Why try to find treasures though? This very same NPC is one that took diamonds to reveal oil rich plots in the main campaign, and the DLC has him wanting to collect these treasures. If you collect all the treasures in an area, he will gladly point out an oil rich plot once you start in the next area. If you get all nine, he will reveal the special plot of land instead of the mayor.
Sadly, Daphne was not able to move her saloon to this new town, but we get a new one called Maeve’s. This holds the same role as Daphne’s, but a new person will show up every year to play a simple game of Higher or Lower. This will allow you to win money if you correctly guess if the next card will be higher or lower or lose money if you guess wrong.
My favorite change, and the last big one, is the stock auction. Unlike the last mayor who had a love for Dutch auctions, this mayor would rather hold English auctions. You outbid your competitors rather than trying to hit buy first. I find that this worked really well as you can actively see your competitors hesitate or how eager they might be to get the stock. The price of the stocks (going on 5% increments now rather than randomized) do rise as time goes on, but once an AI waits until the mayor says “Going twice” they will not jump in at “Going Once”.
Finishing the campaign in either town will give you access to expert mode. This will up the difficulty of the AI as well as add powers that each character possesses. Each power is helpful, and it is best to pick a character that helps you in what you struggled with. So, if you have a lot of spillage fees you can pick the character that will never be fined or you can pick one that will reveal where the diamond/treasure is (granted the mole has to have the upgrade allowing them to pick it up first) so you don’t have to scan for it. I do wish that the expert characters were different between the main campaign and the dlc campaign though.
The sound effects are well done and with many things that require your attention, help a lot. Every action you do is clearly represented by a sound effect no matter how important it may be. The most important sounds, though, are easily distinguishable after you hear it the first time. Dowsers will whistle once they find a plot (in addition to waving their arms), a clanging noise will sound if your pipes hit something they can’t drill through, and a rig close to spilling or is spilling will give out a warning. You might forget about the prices multiple times, but you sure won’t overlook your rig spilling oil. It certainly helps that the soundtrack is calm to further emphasize the sound effects that could have easily been overshadowed if it was louder.
Like the audio, the artwork is also simple and goes with the calm atmosphere Turmoil mostly has. Everything is clearly readable, especially people or objects that are animated, and the backgrounds are nice to see no matter how much you see them.
Turmoil may be simple, but it holds up with an addictive management sim that requires you to be strategic to get the most profit out of each land lease. A lot of thought went into how to make drilling oil more interesting through the many ways you can go about it; differing areas other than the background, upgrades you choose to pick up, and having players manage money in a way that makes it is possible to gain a profit during a land lease and later afford auctions. If you so choose, replayability is high as each campaign varies due to plots being randomly generated, weekly challenges, and being able to generate single levels by seeds. I really had fun as I relaxed, occasionally freaked out over oil spilling, and thinking of ways to get more and more profit than my other competitors.
In addition, The Heat is On holds the familiar Turmoil gameplay, of course, but adds several more choices, making it a fresh experience by bringing in a whole new resource, new people, new possible strategies, and an easier starting line to keep this town fun and distinguishable from the main campaign town. If you played Turmoil before, or just picking it up, The Heat is On will be a good addition, especially if you loved the main campaign. Also, be on the lookout for the new cat in town and perhaps try something with that bird that always flys in the background while in town.