This week Hinterland was released over Steam created by Tilted Mill, which is their first original IP since Children of the Nile. Information on it was kept to a minimum but with the game finally out I have my review.
Hinterland is one part hack and slash and one part city builder. As the story goes, the king wants to make a region filled with creatures such as the undead, bandits, and orcs (there are always orcs in these types of games) peaceful and has charged you with building a town and cleaning up the region. At the start you can choose different variables that effect the difficulty of your game, visible map at start, game length , etc. The most important factor is what character class as this determines how well you fight, starting resources and equipment, and any bonuses or weaknesses you have.
Building your town requires you to wait for visitors, who belong to different classes (farmer, hunter, etc) and if you meet the prerequisites and have the gold you can build a house for them to take up residence in your town. The dynamics between your town and fighting in the wilderness makes up the key game play mechanic.
Villagers can supply your town with food, gold, potions, among other things as well as improving the quality of the town convincing more people to show up. Out in the field by clearing all the enemies from areas you’ll be able to supply your town with fresh water, iron, etc which act as prerequisites for villagers to move in. You may also find special items that can help villagers do their jobs better as well as items that will unlock higher classes of villagers. At any time you may take villagers into the field with you to make up your party of up to 4 people.
The game really has that one more turn feel as each new area clear could provide you with better loot to help your mission. From time to time the king will give you missions such as ” send X amount of food”, clearing them will give you a better rank that will make higher level villagers come visit. So chances are I may have just describe the perfect game for a lot of the city builder fans out there, unfortunately it’s time for me to rain on your parade.
Hinterland is billed as a budget title (with a $20 price tag) and it really shows. There are numerous path finding bugs, as well as glitches. A lot of the mechanics are hidden from the player, such as the benefit of giving your hunter a bow vs giving them a knife to do their job. The game also slows down when your village has more then 15 houses, for me anyway. Both creature and villager AI is pretty basic, ranged villagers don’t understand the concept of “ranged” and will run right next to you to fight. The interface is clunky and graphics are at least several years back. While the interaction between the combat and city mechanics are there, both are fairly simplistic. With the bad out of the way let’s go back to the pluses.
The core game play mechanic of Hinterland (build a village by getting supplies through combat) is excellent, and a lot of these problems should be easily fixed through patches. Tilted Mill has shown that they will support their products, with updates coming to Children of the Nile and 5 huge content patches for Sim City Societies. Hinterland is a game that expansions and updates could make this game amazing, as there are so many things they could add.
I’m interested to see how in a year or even a few months how different Hinterland will be compared to the launch version. If you haven’t bought Hinterland by now, I would wait until the first content patch is either released or announced, that way you won’t burn yourself out playing the release version. Hinterland is a great start to a game, but it is just a start and is rough around the edges. I give Hinterland a fresh pint of goblin juice (I don’t even want to know the recipe for that).
10/07 update: Turns out that Tilted Mill is planning on releasing an update in about a week, so who knows how many complaints I’ll have left after that.