PREVIEW: The Universim

Ever wanted to rule the world? Why think so small!? The entire Universe can be yours to shape! It’s time to break out your divine will, assume the role of the Supreme Creator, and shape the lives of the Nugget race to whatever your heart desires.

Steam: Pre-Alpha Release
Type: Single-player
Genre: Simulation, Strategy
Developer: Crytivo
Publisher: Crytivo
Release Date: 28 Aug, 2018


Let me begin with an important note. Those of you who are used to my reviews are likely getting ready to read a rather long in-depth look at the game. I’m afraid I am going to have to disappoint you. No, I didn’t get lazy this time; it’s just that The Universim at this point is in a very early alpha state. There isn’t really that much to do or talk about at this point, but that won’t stop me! I shall do my best to give you a taste of the wonders to come.

Way back in the day I played Black & White and later on its sequel, Black & White 2. The focus of those games was basically to help your people grow and prosper. Individual villagers went about their daily lives doing whatever it was they did, while you sat back and watched. You had the ability to influence their lives through either good deeds or evil deeds. You also built structures that your villagers needed and helped to develop their civilization.

The Universim has a similar focus, but unlike Black & White, it isn’t limited to just one age, or at least that is the future intention. I am quite fond of games that allow you to develop your people from a primitive age to a much more advanced one. The Universim will eventually have this feature. At present, it technically has two ages, though both are basically the same, as the game currently runs out of content when you switch to the second age.

The Current State of the Game

Let’s talk about the The Universim‘s current gameplay. I won’t spend too much time speculating on the future of the game any further than mentioning that the store page currently suggests that you will be able to progress from a primitive race to an advanced space-age race. Your goal will be to shape the Nuggets through the ages and guide their development.

Currently, the way you shape their development is to pick what upgrades are learned and when. Each one takes time to learn and you are limited to two items at a time. With each upgrade your civilization gains something new. It might be a new building or an enhancement to the race or an already existing building. You can prioritize what you spend your precious time researching and on what you decide to wait. Often the higher level upgrades vanish if they are not taken when first offered. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry too much about that as they show up again later on, giving you another chance.

The other way you customize your world is by picking which buildings to place and where to place them. For example, terrain impacts a farm’s output. Establishing a farm in a forest causes it to grow forest-based plants, while placing it in a desert causes it to grow desert-based plants. The items produced by the farm don’t really matter all that much at this point in time, however, perhaps in the future you might have quests to produce certain goods. Right now what you grow just counts as food.

Speaking of quests there is GMail in the game: God Mail, that is. You are given tasks based on what your people need. So far there appears to only be two quests for you to do, but at this point in time neither one of them seems to be complete.

The first quest involves finding a needle in a haystack, or rather a lost child within a time limit. Oddly, finding the kid in the time limit doesn’t really seem to do anything. It’s supposed to increase the belief power your people have for you, but I couldn’t figure out a way to turn in the child in order to acquire my benefit.

The other quest involves punishing someone, but the only thing that seems to happen after you punish the culprit is the timer stops. Mind you, I’m not precisely sure of the exact way I am supposed to punish them. I tried dropping them and hurting them but that didn’t do anything, so I thought about setting them on fire. The only result was when the person died (natural causes, I swear, I totally didn’t light them on fire and throw them through the sky like a comet in an attempt to launch them into space). I’m sure in the future this element will be expanded and to form a nice distraction from the city-building element of the game.

Similar to the Black & White games, you can tell your people what to do by assigning them tasks, but that doesn’t mean they actually do what they’re told. Sometimes my people would go about doing their own thing, then eventually walk to their workplace, mill around for a while doing nothing and then go home. Wait, scratch that. That describes a typical day at the office, so maybe they are “working hard” at their jobs.

See, the issue was I knew I needed to upgrade my water and other buildings, but I wasn’t able to do so because my stonemasons were incredibly lazy. It didn’t matter how many of them I hired, fired, set on fire, or dropped in the lake, they never seemed to make any refined stones. The issue eventually turned out to be that I needed to build more water wheels, but water wheels took refined stone, so I was at an impasse. Eventually, they did produce enough stone (many, many years later) so that I managed to get my waterworks working properly, but it was a long, scary, death-filled time before that happened.

One element that is in the game and works decently well is the natural change of the seasons. As time progresses, the seasons transition through the standard four seasons of Earth. Farms shut down for the winter; the lakes freeze over, closing down your boat fishing industry; etc, so you need to ensure your Nuggets will survive the winter and be ready when the springtime rolls around again.

Natural weather elements also occur, such as rainstorms and tornados. The rain isn’t so bad, but a tornado can totally trash up your place. The first one to ever hit my first town took out my engineering building and damaged most of my other buildings. The regrettable issue with that was that the engineers are the ones who repair those buildings. Unfortunately, by the time I managed to rebuild my wrecked engineering building, most of my other buildings had collapsed due to lack of maintenance. In a fit of pique, I ended up using my godly powers to finish the job and set fire to everything that was left, and then unleashed another tornado on them. That’s what they get for worshipping me!

There is another interesting element that is mentioned in the loading screens, but I have not actually noticed in the game yet. I think that is simply due to how short the game is at the moment. You can impact global warming by harvesting trees. It is also possible to hurt the fish population by drawing too much water from a lake. These are very interesting elements to have in the game. I can imagine as you move through the ages, you will likely see the effects of your past industriousness showing up for good or bad in the future.

The Nuggets in the game are an interesting lot. They are born, grow to adulthood and go to work, and eventually die. The game automatically replaces any workers that die with fresh workers, so you don’t have to worry too much about one of your important structures going without an operator. Each Nugget has his or her own stats and some even have special stats too. These stats basically define what kind of worker the Nugget is and what kind of upkeep he or she needs to stay alive. Some Nuggets have a trait that makes them move faster, some are lazy, some eat too much, some don’t eat much, and so on. Each Nugget can be micromanaged, assigning tasks that are most suitable, or you can just blindly give them all jobs and hope for the best.

That’s about all I can talk about gameplay wise at the moment. Building up buildings, guiding Nugget evolution, and playing around with Godly powers is pretty much all you can do at this point.

Graphically the game is rather simplistic looking for the Nuggets. They don’t even have faces, although the loading screen info mentions that they should be creepy due to lacking faces, but they are not. Those loading screen comments can be quite fun, too; one of them tells you to press Alt-F4 to see an example of the developers’ humour.

The world itself has sufficient detail to make most things look interesting, however, the buildings look similar enough to each other that it can be sometimes hard to spot the one you want. It is also quite possible down the road it might get a bit of a graphical overhaul as new features are developed for the game. The preview videos show the game with far more detail than what is currently there, so I can only assume that that the preview build I played was meant as more of a concept demo than a true reflection of the end product.

The game’s audio is also quite simple right now, but it works well. There is a video that tells you about your godly powers and how to accumulate the points you need to power them, but outside of that there isn’t really much talking. The sound effects tell you what is going on and this works well enough for this style of game that I see no reason to change it. The background music is actually quite nice: a bit soothing. I am happy to say that it never seems to get annoying, so that is definitely a positive. A feature that may be nice is that as you progress through the ages the background music changes to reflect your civilization’s advancement, but at present I don’t know if that is a planned feature or not.

The controls mostly work well enough. Sometimes using your godly powers can be a bit confusing, but that is mostly because it’s a little awkward at the moment. Also, sometimes when you pick someone up to move them, even if you are incredibly careful, you might end up turning the poor unfortunate into a blood splat on the ground. Some buildings, like the graveyard, have a ring around them when you place them. It isn’t entirely clear what that ring is for as the game doesn’t really give you those kinds of details, but I’m sure it is something that could be figured out on your own if you played long enough. Perhaps that is just marking the area that the ghost will haunt outside of the graveyard. It could also be how far the gravekeeper is willing to walk to pick up a corpse.


So, should you get The Universim? It does have an enormous amount of promise and I am sure between now and the official Early Access launch at the end of August, 2018, a lot will be added to the game. Right now though, there is only enough content to keep you entertained for a few hours. In the future, I can see this game taking a considerable amount of time to get through.

The Universim has a lot of potential. If the developers play their cards right it could quite possibly be the next big game. It’s quite ambitious, although a certain other ambitious game ended up being a massive let down at launch. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that The Universim will turn out to be the game it’s trying to be and not go down in infamy.

God has spoken!

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