Urbek: voxels and cities – GOG, Steam, RockGame Warszawa, Estudios Kremlinois – Article

In these (too) hot and sunny times, how about a little breath of fresh air? So come and dive with me in Urbek, a little one city ​​builder out of nowhere, filled with voxels that look alike pixel art and which should be able to occupy you for a good few hours or much more…

This is the story of Urbek…

Personally, I had never heard of the title until a few days ago. It must be said that the publisher RockGame Warsaw is a very small Polish brand and the developers Kremlinois studies is actually apparently just a Chilean developer who worked alone on his project until its final release on Steam and then on GoG on July 13th and 25th.

But the small developer has worked well, as his project has nothing to envy some of the ancestors from whom he was inspired. At the head of which we will easily find the old Sim City in isometric 2D, but also for grandparents, the venerable Caesar III for its information by building the needs necessary for its development. Finally, I also find a touch of NewCity, other city ​​builder recent indie also has for him the concept of automatic growth by addiction.

It must be said that it is the concept of organic growth that is of great interest to Urbek. In fact, there is no money in this game, only tangible and intangible resources. No ROI either. But if you know, the demand indicators for housing, businesses and industries. Well, here there is none. There is also no traffic management à la Cities Skyline, the traffic is purely decorative, and the few transports (airport, subway) are limited to a building and surface subway entrances. No train lines so Transport Fever 2 either. And no relief or terraforming. So you want to tell me: what’s left? Well, there are still needs and limits.

A box too far

Let’s take an example: at the start of the game you can place roads, houses and fields.
The homes house 6 residents who produce 10 labor but need 10 food. Fields produce 14 food but require 5 labor, and fields do not grow in the desert or in the snow. Houses do, but they cannot exist further than 3 spaces from a road and 5 spaces to fields.

So we already understand that we are not going to go too far from all these little people from the roads, and that we are not going to build one more en masse than the other at the risk of running out of either food or labor. ‘ occupation. Then comes the farm. It can only maintain itself if it is not too far from the road and has 12 squares within its perimeter. So we’re adding farms that bring 100 food and will store up to 200. But we can’t place a farm within 5 squares of another farm…

After a while you will exceed the 300 inhabitants and the 3 farms, i.e. the conditions for the rudimentary dwellings to develop into houses. But who says houses say more residents to feed, and more needs. Needs that are created at each new level of prosperity and that will diversify more and more: needs for leisure, advanced food, sports, trade, energy, stocks, culture, education.. .

Therefore, types of tangible and intangible resources will gradually be added to meet the needs of the residents, new buildings, new vehicles will be unlocked, and an organic city will gradually emerge on the small wooded meadow.

In the end, this principle of needs and constraints works really well, and can be played out in a fairly zen way as well as with a certain degree of location optimization, so that a building is also within reach of resources if he needs or other buildings, who will take advantage of his presence. Or both.

The graphics in voxels made under Magicavoxel are very pleasant and colorful. It’s not Sir Carma (to which we owe the graphical touch of Industries of Titan), but they are quite atmospheric and very varied. The teaser announces 200 buildings, but although I’m far from unlocking half, you can see from the screenshots that the result is a varied and cohesive whole, and the day-night cycle is deactivable!

The game also offers 2 cameras: isometric or perspective, as well as the ability to see the small voxels in first person, which are not so small. A word about the music, which, without being memorable, is perfectly suited to this kind of game, neither too repetitive nor too slow. Just fine.

Urbekistan

Regarding small gripes, we note that some French translations are not always on top (it’s participatory development on that side), some texts are even still in the local language.
In another genre, the diversity of the buildings quickly makes it difficult to discover the small special buildings in the many variations of houses. I discovered late on the key to highlight buildings identical to the selected one, but despite this you can end up inadvertently deleting a special building, thinking it’s just a house, and watching your entire neighborhood sink due to a now missing need.

Another point, if the game shows the litters regarding the building to be placed, it does not highlight the existing buildings that will give a bonus or, on the contrary, that must remain at a distance in order to place ours. We therefore find ourselves moving our marker until we finally find the box that will be close enough to affect the area we want to cover, but far enough from other buildings that shouldn’t be nearby.

What is generally missing is the ability to display data layers that allow you to see the levels of each box, starting with pollution or happiness, and the only existing view that shows all types of buildings quickly becomes an inextricable patchwork of colors .

Slightly more annoying: a few sizes of buildings are missing, which therefore remain in their base version, but still indicate why they haven’t evolved. Destroying them and one or two squares around them often allows the game to replace buildings of existing and therefore evolved sizes.

Finally, one last little point: if the buildings no longer have access to resources, they will either go backwards, or if they have no development stage, like certain factories, they will fall into ruins. The action isn’t instantaneous and red icons appear above the buildings for a while, but if you’re busy at the other end of the map there’s nothing to tell you, and when you see the message that they’re in ruins, that too late.
 

Urbek and orbek

Apart from these youth apartments, the rest are very well managed. You can click on each existing building to have the list of required needs at your fingertips and see which buildings they can evolve into according to which needs are not yet present. Ditto for the soon-to-be-unlocked buildings, which appear in advance in the construction bar with the levels needed for their unlocking. Obviously, you also have other more secret ones that are only unlocked when you meet their conditions, unknown to everyone.

To help you (and slow you down later), you can also apply general policies, but like everything else, each of them will give a bonus on one side in exchange for a penalty on the other. Enslaving your peasants will make them produce more food, but at the expense of their happiness level.

Upon opening, the game offers 5 types of maps, forest, desert, atoll… and after completing my first temperate city in just under 8 hours, I naively launched the desert map, telling myself that it must be the same background routine in a second option…. Well not at all! The desert has no wood, one of the basic resources of the temperate map, and requires specific houses and desert-specific crops to be placed around water points with their separate placement rules. The atolls allow little farming and bridges are prohibited, forcing the creation of ferries and tourist buildings etc etc…

Finally, before launching your procedural map, you can change all its parameters and get an indicator of the difficulty that awaits you to reach one of the 3 development paths on each map, between leisure, productivity or wealth. Choices that you will have to make after a good start in the city, and which will then determine the development that it will take throughout your game.

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