They are Billions, but you can literally say “no” and fly away when they become too many.
Genre: Strategy, Management
Publisher: Suncrash, Gamera Game
Release date: 14 July, 2021
Dream Engines: Nomad Cities is a strategy and management game where you will command a flying city in search for resources. In between flights, you will land in post-apocalyptic landscapes, searching for new resources to create food, repair your buildings and, most importantly, create new fuel to fly away. The latter will be fundamental when, after staying too long in the same spot, you will attract an ever-increasing number of the nightmarish creatures that inhabit the wasteland.
Land. Gather. Kill. Fly.
From the overview, it is very clear what the main loop of Dream Engines is: an interesting mashup of They are Billions (horde mechanics, defences) and a simplified Factorio (gathering new kinds of resources to build advanced structures, automatization of work with factories and extractors), where you can literally fly away when the risk is not worth taking anymore. Obviously, not everything is that simple: you will have to not only manage the fuel that will keep your city up in the sky, but also the weight of the structures in your city (that won’t otherwise be able to take off). If this is not enough, the foundations upon which you’ll be able to build your structures are limited, and whatever building will be placed outside your city at the moment of your take-off, will be lost. This creates a very interesting and challenging loop where you have to start from – almost – scratch every time you fly away, having more advanced structures at the start of each loop and, most importantly, having to decide which buildings you want to bring away with you.
Luckily, the foundations of your city can be expanded, allowing you to bring with you bigger and bigger pieces of land every time you move away. The same holds for the carrying capacity: you can build hot air balloons to help your central engine lift the foundations and every building upon them. Unfortunately, they also use a little bit of space and fuel, so you also have to look out for those two aspects and keep everything as balanced as possible.
Big Mech Power
One other aspect coming from Factorio is the fact that you are not the ever-seeing eye watching and commanding everyone from above, but you actually control a steambot that acts as a character: similarly to the other title, you can build and fight in two separate modes that are easily toggleable by a button press. While exploring, it is wise to keep the combat mode up, where you’ll be able to face the monsters around your base, while building requires you to be in, well… building mode. The latter puts you in top-down view and displays a grid, in order to give the best view for placing structures.
One thing that you can’t do with respect to Factorio, though, is manually mining resources: this forces you to automate resources extraction, which usually happens far off from the city centre, requiring you to also create small defensive stations around the extraction points. This is especially important during the monsters raid: much like They are Billions’ hordes, monsters will gather and attack you in hordes that will keep getting bigger the more time you stay in the same spot. Much like city management, this requires the player to balance properly resource exploitation and time spent on the map: stay too little time and you won’t be able to properly use the resources the wasteland has to offer, but stay too much and risk your and your citizen’s lives. Also note that, when lifting off and flying away, you will dump all unrefined resources, so having good timing is fundamental in order to not waste anything!
Fly Away, Fly Away
The big, advertised feature of this game is certainly the ability to move the city around when things get too harsh, so it strikes me how this is done in a very simple way that has very little to do with gameplay: you push a button, charge up the engines and a map shows up. There, you just click on your next destination, which also shows the kind of map you will land on, along with an estimate of the resources and enemies in the area. I really hope that this will be improved upon, since it has potential that right now is still untapped. Since the title has “Nomad Cities” in it, it would be great to meet other cities in the skies and possibly even fight or trade with them. The possibilities are there and I’m pretty sure that the Early Access period will help also exploring what will be possible in this regard.
Dream Engines could honestly be a full-fledged game, even if a little short on content. But since it isn’t and it will be sold as an Early Access one, I will not give a verdict in form of a mark. What I can say is that it is a good, fun to play and rather polished title, which strikes me since the developers are expecting an Early Access period of 1-2 years. Yes, years. The complete version of it will include lore, discoverable by exploring ruins and ancient machinery that you can find in the wasteland, plus new mysterious mechanics of which we don’t know anything as of now. But I can safely say that, with a little more diversification, Dream Engines: Nomad Cities could be easily sold as a full, non-Early Access game.