Foundation first came to my attention in early 2018, when seemingly out of nowhere, it managed to score more than double its initial goal on Kickstarter. Fast forward about a year, and the game finally hits Steam’s Early Access. So, how does it fare?
Genre: Strategy, City Builder
Developer: Polymorph Games
Publisher: Polymorph Games
Release date: 1 Feb, 2019
Foundation might look like yet another city building game when you first look at it, but the truth is, it holds a lot more ingenuity than other games whom it might share a lot of similarities with. From my point of view, there are two things that are unique to Foundation and which really set it apart, and I’d put these as the major selling points if you’re looking for a game like this. First, the gridless building makes it so that one of the foundational gameplay elements of city building games, the building itself, is different and refreshing. Secondly, it’s the game’s monument system, which I’ll soon explain in detail.
Despite its unique features, Foundation still plays and retains the fundamentals of other city builders. You start off small, and, as you increase your chain of production, you start to attract more and more people through migration waves. Your job is to keep your people happy and fed, whether that is done by providing a place of prayer, military infrastructure, food, or luxury goods. On top of that, you also need to pay taxes to your King and cover the maintenance costs of all your buildings. However, as you expand your city by claiming new territories, the amount of taxes that you have to pay also increase. Still, I’ve found it rather easy to establish a pretty solid income of gold by just selling your resources surplus to other cities or your own citizens through the market.
Unfortunately, at the moment the game only features five different maps, Hills, Valley, Fluvial, Coastal, and Mountain, whose names should give you a pretty solid idea of what to expect. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re more than enough given the amount of content that is currently in the game, it’s just that I was surprised that the game didn’t feature some sort of randomly generated maps. With that said, a map generator is on the roadmap.
As I’ve mentioned, the building is freeform without any grids for you to place structures. This allows for a more dynamic and natural look of cities and its streets, and given that this game takes place during the Medieval period, it suits the time period, as back then streets and blocks were not really planned in the way they are today, especially not in a grid-based fashion. Just like the building, zoning is also freeform, where you use a brush to “paint” zones that can correspond to different things and are differentiated by distinct colors. Furthermore, action within these zones happens automatically, without the need for direct player input. For example, blue zones will make it so that workers will harvest any resources within that area, like wood or stone. On the other hand, green zones represent residential areas, and here villagers will automatically build houses if they need to and if they have the necessary resources.
However, while gridless building allows builders to automatically build housing within the space that you delineate, there can be a few occasions where buildings will get too close to each other, which results in certain doors getting blocked by other buildings. When this happens, the only thing that you can do is destroy the building and let your builders build a new one in a more fitting place. Sure, it’s not ideal, and it’s not fun because it’s not the player’s fault, but unfortunately, this stems from the way the game currently works, and there’s not really much you can do about it at the moment.
Now, the game’s monument system to be quite interesting, since it inherits some aspects from the gridless building. Instead of having to place an actual building, you can build monuments by placing different modules, in any way you like. For instance, with the market, you get to place the individual stalls wherever you choose, after which you also have to assign a seller for each stand, as well as which products they’re going to sell to other villagers. There are also other monuments, such as a church, a manor, and a keep, which you can build in the very same way, by adding doors, small compartments, and other decorations, wherever you see fit. It’s quite a fascinating system, one which also allows players to play around with their creativity by coming up with different designs to what is essentially a single type of building.
Monuments also play a vital role due to their association with one of the three factions, the people, the King, and the Clergy. As you develop these monuments you’ll gain splendor, which allows you to unlock new buildings or modules for monuments. Sometimes you will also receive requests from the King to send soldiers to aid in the war effort, or you might find yourself having to decide which faction you’ll give a specific resource to because they all ask you at the same time. All these actions will reward you splendor or resources, and while you’ll get penalized for failing them, the same won’t happen if you decide to not do anything.
To put it simply, the gridless building and zoning systems are the strongest attractions in Foundation , but, at the moment, I feel that the game lacks content in order to keep players engaging for more than just a few hours. With that in mind, the game is certainly quite expensive for what it currently offers, especially when you compare it to other city builders. If you’re interested in Foundation but if you’re not completely sure it might be the game for you, my advice would be for you to wait for further updates so that you can see how the game’s development progresses. If, however, you’re certain that what you see here appeals to your tastes, I’d still warn you that you can see everything the game currently has to offer in less than 10 hours, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t currently get many more hours out of it.