Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lethis Path of Progress

Smart game developers make a habit of giving away games to full-time streamers in the hopes that their audience will discover the game and in turn lead to sales. It would be fascinating to me to see some actual numbers on how that works out. In any case, it certainly seems to be working for me, as I have recently stumbled upon yet another enjoyable indie game known as Lethis - Path of Progress.

Lethis - Path of Progress is a city-builder along the lines of Caesar, Zeus, and Pharoah with a decidedly zany Victorian Steampunk setting. Like those games, your purpose is to grow a city from its humble roots to a thriving city. But unlike more traditional city-builders such as the Sim City franchise, in Lethis this process is much less about zoning and population growth and much more about carefully balancing a variety of services and ensuring that your citizens have access to the right resources at the right time. This is accomplished by what is generally referred to as the "walker" system, where each resource building spreads it services by means of a "walker" who will follow your transportation routes for only a limited distance before turning around.

While at first your population consists of migrants who are happy to settle without any infrastructure, they'll quickly begin to make demands for a particular service. Provide it, and their homes upgrade to a slightly higher density, allowing you to increase your workforce and tax base without having to build more homes. These progress from simple access to food and water to more exotic needs like an exorcist to chase off ghosts, copper utensils for proper dining, a theater for endless entertainment, and newspapers to keep up with everything that's fit to print in the empire. And then there are the bourgeois, who have their own set of demands, which mostly consist of a small army of automatons to cater to their every whim. While these rich folk don't actually provide any workers, they do generate considerably more taxes.

The game includes both a tutorial and sandbox mode, but the heart of the game is a series of 26 missions across three difficulty levels, each presenting you with a different mix of terrain and available services by which you must meet the victory conditions. There is thus quite a bit of gameplay for your money.

Overall Lethis Path of Progress has proven to be an enjoyable diversion. Both the art and the music are excellent. The game is also simple enough once you get the hang of it, but each scenario feels like a unique puzzle that you have to solve. The exact mechanics of some of the services, such as balancing the number of wheat farms to windmills to bakeries in order to provide bread for your population, are not clearly marked out for you, forcing you to experiment and innovate as you move through the scenarios. Making sure to keep all of your walkers moving in such a way as to cover all your population can be quite daunting at times, especially when a misstep along the way can cause all your buildings to revert to a less dense status when a service is no longer being delivered properly. Despite its status as a full release, the game feels like it still has some polish missing; fortunately, its small but devoted development team is still hard at work on the game.

For $20 on Steam, I found Lethis - Path of Progress to be well worth the investment. If you enjoy city management games, particularly games like Caesar or Pharoah from many years ago, this is definitely worth picking up.

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