Blueprint Tycoon – What We Think:
Blueprint Tycoon, from Survivor Squad developer Endless Loop Studios, is a new take on the colonization-style game. Build your settlement. Hire workers. Add factories. Research new products. Expand to outlying islands. Hope you can manage everything at once without tanking your economy.
Despite a simple premise, though, Blueprint Tycoon offers a surprising level of complexity as well as some intriguing new twists on the genre. They start with the game’s presentation, but by no means end there.
Blueprints (and Red and Yellow)
My first impression: with a design scheme this basic and cheerful, the game itself is going to be a breeze! Instead of the isometric cartoon buildings usually associated with city-building simulators, each building is a simple primarily colored square on a large grid. With roads leading between them, the town map is just a happily colored series of flat boxes, an abstract diagram of activities resembling the titular blueprint.
The chirpy chiptune soundtrack, most of which is almost unnervingly perky in a vintage JRPG way, adds to the impression that Blueprint Tycoon is a casual little time-waster, a way to relax when taking a break from more challenging fare.
Rarely has a first impression been so far off the mark. Blueprint Tycoon is a bear of a thing, requiring constant attention and micromanagement. Not only are you required to constantly manage your buildings and your workers, you also have to make sure all of your goods are transported to where they’re needed.
A click-and-drag interface simplifies things a bit, but there’s still a lot going on. Not only do you need to harvest your raw materials and then assemble them in crafting buildings – harvested cows can be processed into beef or milk (which itself can then go into crafting cheese) – but raw material and crafted product has to be directed to its endpoint, whether that’s the market that feeds your workers or delivery storage for sale to the wider world.
Add the fact that you also have to keep in mind the individualized idiosyncrasies of each building – construction storage will accept iron bars but not raw iron ore, for example – and the different means of transporting them (on foot, by ship or even by blimp), and things get hard to follow in a hurry.
Switch views to see all the routes you’ve set up, and the mess of lines criss-crossing in every direction is bewildering. Suddenly the game’s minimalist graphics make a lot of sense; anything prettier would make Blueprint Tycoon impossible to follow.
A few neat twists on the genre also set Blueprint Tycoon apart from the typical settlement construction sim. For starters, there’s very little emphasis on building up money. You can (and must!) accept contracts to sell goods and keep your workers paid, but the focus is simply on maintaining a positive cash flow and increasing your net income, not on hoarding cash.
Most innovative, and – coincidentally or not – least accessible, are the individual blueprints themselves. Each crafting building has its own blueprint, which perhaps might better be labeled a work-flow chart. It indicates each move each worker in the building makes, from gathering parts or materials from one area to assembling the finished product elsewhere. It’s less like Settlers and more like SpaceChem, albeit not actually set in space.
Until You’re Blue In The Face
Each blueprint is also totally modifiable; fiddle with worker routes, rearrange areas, and micromanage to your heart’s content, and you might increase efficiency by a little bit. Frankly, I found it completely baffling. A quick perusal of the Steam forums showed me to be in good company; a lot of Blueprint Tycoon players seem to be skipping this particular aspect of the game.
It helps that it’s possible to play using only the default blueprints for each crafting building. That’s a bit of a shame, though, because it really is one of the more interesting aspects of Blueprint Tycoon. If only it was just a little more accessible…
Manipulation individual blueprints wasn’t the only thing about Blueprint Tycoon that made me feel kind of stupid, either. There are so many factors in play that even with an extended tutorial, there were a lot of things left for me to figure out on my own. Pop-up error messages help some, but they’re brief enough that the obvious solutions don’t always present themselves.
In one instance, I couldn’t figure out why a certain route I’d set up for goods wasn’t working. It turned out that I’d skipped adding a square of road outside the delivery location.
Admittedly, the occasional opacity of the game mirrors the “figure it out as you go along” confusion of actually running a business, especially one large enough to colonize and develop entire islands, but I can’t help worry a little that Blueprint Tycoon’s complexity and need for attention to detail might put some gamers off. That would be too bad, because it’s a fascinating little sim – if occasionally a maddening one – especially for players that prefer their simulations to be as “hands-on” as possible.
Blueprint Tycoon is available via Steam.
Watch the trailer for Blueprint Tycoon below: