Imagine Earth by Serious Bros.
Imagine Earth is a strategic colonization and terraforming game that strives to provide a relatively playful simulation of the various challenges that such an enterprise would entail. With systems built around sustainable expansion, diplomacy, economic conquest and more, Imagine Earth sets the challenge of balancing these goals in order to thrive on new worlds.
Optimism Meets Capitalism in the Race to the Stars
The setting of Imagine Earth is initially presented as a relatively optimistic one; humanity has discovered interstellar travel (via a crystal that enables access to hyperspace), and the effort to colonize far-flung worlds is underway.
This optimism is somewhat mitigated by the fact that competing money-hungry organizations are vying for the right to seize these new worlds. The titular Imagine Earth corporation is one of the more benevolent of these organizations, and the campaign is built around their efforts. The focus on this faction is so complete that even the main menu is presented alongside a corporate slogan, as if welcoming a new employee to a company computer.
The main game mode is a campaign set across nine planets, each with its own mission. Early stages feature a great deal of introductory tutorials and guidance to the point of being a little overbearing. Just when I was ready to settle into a comfortable rhythm of construction and optimization, the game had another character lined up to introduce me to a new system that I had to attend to.
That said, this diversity of systems is not a bad thing, and the colorful characters that serve as figureheads for each aspect of the game are charmingly varied.
The primary tasks in Imagine Earth will be relatively familiar to 4X and city management players. A city center serves as a central hub from which to expand across a triangle-based grid stretching across planets of various sizes. From here, several resources must be exploited and managed in order to survive.
Light but Topical Simulation
Food must be farmed for your citizens, districts must be constructed close to the city center in order to increase colonist population growth (and, by extension, taxes), logging and mining camps must be built to provide essential goods and warehouses must be constructed to store all of these valuables. These structures all interact, and it is more beneficial to keep certain buildings closer to each other to maximize output.
Where Imagine Earth puts its own little twist on things is the variety of options available and how they all have differing degrees of impact on the environment of the host planet. It would be a stretch to call this a deep and complex simulation, but pollution and global warming both have knock-on effects, causing populations to become unhappy and sea levels to rise. I think this is a neat focus for the game’s theme, and it feels in touch with the current zeitgeist.
There are many strategies to pursue in Imagine Earth. Opposing factions will eventually begin setting up on the same planets as you, leading to possible conflict.
Board Rooms Are War Rooms
The focus here is less on warfare, though, and more on corporate maneuvering.
Shares in colonies can be sold and bought, something the second mission does a good job of highlighting. I took perverse pleasure waiting for an epidemic to sweep through a rival colony only to buy up shares in their enterprise whilst they were at a low price, moving me a step closer to owning their colony outright. I then gave them the cure, of course, because I’m a kindly neighbor (and now that I owned a good portion of their colony, it wouldn’t do to leave share prices on the floor). I never realized I had such a merciless capitalist in me.
When you aren’t ruthlessly exploiting the vulnerabilities of your neighbors for profit, you can trade with them. Alternatively, you can trade with passing merchants who choose to land at your colony (assuming you have a spaceport). They buy and sell resources, tools or other wares. You can also research new technologies.
Research is performed as you would expect in a 4X game, with the amusing narrative quirk that the technology is actually well understood from the outset; you just need to earn access to the patents, because other companies have locked wind farms, solar energy and other preferable or ecologically friendly technologies behind paywalls. There’s something so delightfully dystopian about this that clashes (in a good way) with the otherwise playful attitude of the game.
Design Your Planets, Design Your Game
Outside of the main campaign, there is a custom game creator with options for playing as one of eight factions and a toolset for designing planets to play on. This comes with controls for tweaking landmass, temperature, events, resources and more. All in all, there are plenty of options for extending the longevity of Imagine Earth beyond the campaign.
The aesthetics of Imagine Earth are of a high quality, with excellent music backing up a very colorful and exaggerated design style. I would have preferred a more realistic approach for this kind of game – the cartoonish, miniaturized planet style utilized here and in games like Planetary Annihilation never really worked for me – but this is more of a personal preference; the developers have executed their chosen style very effectively.
Imagine Earth is a superb, welcoming colony management game drawing on elements of 4X and featuring a unique take on the problems raised when expanding to new worlds. There are a few rough edges here and there – typos in the text and the odd glitch – but nothing particularly noteworthy. Imagine Earth is a solid game and worth a look for any aspiring interstellar entrepreneur.
Imagine Earth is available via Steam Early Access.
Check out the official Imagine Earth trailer below: