Rating : 6/10
I have a bit of a thing for sandbox type games. I sank hundreds of hours into Prison Architect, wore out a copy of Theme Park on the Atari ST back in the day, and I’ve built more bases into the side of volcanos in Evil Genius than I care to count. There’s something cool about creating the perfect “whatever this game is about” that really draws me in. Because of this, I was hoping for good things from Game Dev Studio.
If it wasn’t obvious from the name, this is a game that puts you in the shoes of the CEO of a game company, trying to make as much money as possible from your electronic entertainment products. There are a few games like this already, so there’s a fair bit of competition, but what did developer Roman Glebenkov do to make his game stand out from the crowd? Actually not that much if I’m honest (which I try to be, otherwise what’s the point of reviewing things?)
There’s a lot to see and do in this game, but there’s nothing that feels particularly fresh and new. That said, re-inventing the wheel isn’t always necessary: a refinement of an existing genre is just as good as the creation of a whole new one. I should know, half of my newly created genres in Game Dev Studio were massive flops. This is a title that takes existing genre tropes and techniques and tries to improve on them. If you already have something like Game Dev Tycoon or Software Inc. then there’s not really much to recommend here unfortunately. There’s nothing wrong with this game, it’s just not overly original.
You can play the game as a complete freeform sandbox, or try your hand at various scenarios that also serve as tutorials for some of the gameplay mechanics. This is a nice touch and makes the game a bit more accessible, but it doesn’t feel totally finished, with a number of mechanics never covered. Add a lack of any documentation to this and there’s a lot of trial and error involved. As an example, I saw a good 20 odd industry expos announced as coming soon or now on before I worked out how to actually attend one.
As you build up, you’ll be able to hire more staff, get larger buildings, and work on more games at once. Your games have a very finite lifespan, so you’ll need to be constantly moving, giving you something to do at all times. The issue I found though is that after a little play, it gets very repetitive. Yes you can design new genres, create new engines and even get into the hardware game, but they all boil down to clicking a few drop downs and then waiting for a progress bar to fill up while your staff randomly ask for holiday three days before the project finishes.
That brings me onto another bug bear. Staff requests seem to be random and not hugely well implemented. There’s no negotiation, just a popup once a week saying “John wants holiday, can he have it?” or “Susan wants a wage rise, is that OK?”. Responses are binary. You can’t say “well John, we’re a week away from finishing a two million pound game, how about you take holiday when it’s finished?” Neither can you point out that Susan hasn’t actually given you reason to give her a 40% pay rise, but perhaps a more reasonable raise would be feasible. It’s little things like this that detract from Game Dev Studio, making it feel a bit unfinished in places.
Along the same lines is a rather mixed art style. The graphics are largely pixelated 16-bit style and they look lovely. But the menus are a dull grey affair with a clean modern font which doesn’t match the main aesthetics. Some consistency would have made this look a much more polished and professional affair. I get the impression that there’s some bought or default assets used and whilst it’s not a gamebreaker, it’s a little bit jarring.
It’s worth bearing in mind, regardless of everything that I’ve already said, that this is a game made by a lone developer. It’s his first game, and considering the lack of budget it’s quite an achievement. Kudos to the developer for constantly updating the game too, at the time of writing development is still ongoing, and if you consider it an early access title, then it’s easier to forgive some of the omissions. Mod support is included, which will likely make a massive difference. The author has included a Hotline Miami style mod which sees you shooting up the office of your rivals as an example of how the mods can be used, and it’s very enjoyable.
Overall, I find it quite hard to rate Game Dev Studio as there’s a lot of double-edged swords present. There’s lots of features, but many aren’t explained well, or are implemented poorly. It’s a great achievement for a lone developer, but the choice of genre means that there are bigger games that do it better from larger companies. I can’t say that you should rush out and buy it, but if you don’t already have one of its competitors and want to help out a fledgling indie developer then it’s worth a look.
It’s a great achievement for a lone developer, but the choice of genre means that there are bigger games that do it better from larger companies. I can’t say that you should rush out and buy it, but if you don’t already have one of its competitors and want to help out a fledgling indie developer then it’s worth a look.
Gary maintains his belief that the Amstrad CPC is the greatest system ever and patiently awaits the sequel to “Rockstar ate my Hamster”