STAFF REVIEW of Imagine Earth (Xbox One)

Friday, July 23, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Imagine Earth Box art When you think city building games, Sim City, Anno or Cities: Skylines are most likely the first titles that come to mind. You know the genre, where you start with nothing and need to build a bustling city full of people, commerce and prosperity. Imagine Earth does this, but on a global scale upon a small planet. More than a simple city builder, Imagine Earth also has a large emphasis and focus on sustainability when it comes to the global climate as well.

Imagine Earth task you with building colonies on various planets, starting with a city center, building power plants, food supplies and establishing trading partners. Hopefully if you do things properly and responsibly, you won’t have to deal with too many natural disasters or population leaving in droves because of pollution. Of course, you’ll have to deal with pirates and other unknown anomalies along the way.

The year is 2048 and massive corporations have depleted all of Earth’s resources, forcing energy companies to look to the stars for new habitable planets. Looking for a new home, your job is to take a virtually untouched planet and create a colony that thrives, but of course your boss will have specific objectives for you to fulfil before being successful and giving you a promotion to work on the next planet.

The campaign takes place over the course of nine different planets, each becoming increasingly more challenging as you progress. You’ll be harvesting the planet’s natural resources, creating income, attracting population, making trade partners and more. You’ll have to deal with numerous different people and aliens along your journey with objectives constantly updating or changing based on how you’re playing. For example, I was using a lot of Oil Factories for energy generation on one planet but eventually had to clean up all the spills afterwards.

While the campaign isn’t terribly challenging, you are given three different difficulty modes with the harder ones offering more score bonuses. The last few planets do get quite difficult in some of the situations it throws your way, but nothing unfair or unmanageable. I did appreciate how Imagine Earth has a large emphasis on climate change and pollution, but doesn’t come across as too preachy or as if it has an agenda. You can build your colonies with whatever energy sources you wish, but coal, oil and other toxic ones will have detrimental effects on your planet, just like our own.

The first planet acts as a tutorial, teaching you the basics of how to start your colony by placing your main city center, creating farms and energy sources, then warehouses and harvesting numerous types of resources from within your set boundaries. Speaking of boundaries, even though the game is played on a small planetary scale, the grid itself is done with triangles instead of your typical squares or hexagons. You’re able to extend your borders for a cost, and will be able to place multiple city centers almost anywhere you desire.

Any resource within your borders can be mined and harvested, but you’ll need a warehouse to store them. You can set how much to always keep on hand for crafting items or even set to automatically sell any excess inventory. Figuring out all this isn’t really taught well, so it took some time to figure out on my own, but once you have auto selling setup it becomes much easier to earn money passively as you build your colony. Much of the game had this problem, where you’re taught the basics but are left to figure out everything else for yourself. Given that there’s a lot of menus to delve into if you want to get really in-depth with the management side of things, it takes some time to figure it all out.

The more you expand and build your colony, the more energy and food resources you’ll need. To attract more population you’re going to need housing as well, requiring more resources, so there’s always a balance and adjustments you’ll need to be mindful of. Any resources you don’t need, you can sell to other merchants or donate to potential allies. Some resources can be used to craft unique items like medicine, bombs and other items that can be quite useful or traded, depending on how you want to play.

Almost everything relates to the environment of your planet. Too much pollution and not only will people not be happy, but natural disasters like tornados, fires, oil spills or storms will appear. You’ll also have to deal with asteroids falling from space, though you could create a tower defense system should you feel inclined. You’re also going to have to deal with other organizations looking to make their mark on the planet as well, so you might make some rivals along the way if you approach on their borders.

Where you place all your buildings is quite important, as placing a specific factory or food processing where resources are nearby will make it much more efficient, so placement take an important role. With a whole tech and upgrade tree, you’re able to improve certain aspects of nearly every unit and building, offering more production, less energy consumption and more. You’ll also need to be quick on your toes, as you’ll need to deploy medicine for sectors that are in quarantine, de-escalating riots or fending off pirates trying to steal from your warehouses.

When you do finally complete the campaign there are a few other modes to keep you playing afterwards. Endless mode is just that, allowing you to freely play however and as long as you wish. There’s also a Competition Mode where you compete with other companies for the settlement license on an uninhabited planet where the first colony to reach a certain number of victory points is the winner. You can even set a custom game here to your exact preferences. Lastly, Editor Mode allows you to create a complete planet however you want in a ‘God’ mode, allowing you to even terraform if you wish.

Gameplay is quite smooth on an Xbox Series X, as I never had any slowdown when spinning the planet around from one side to the other. Buildings and resources are varied, able to distinguish what they are when zoomed out, but can see much more detail when inspecting close up. Seeing asteroid orbiting the planet above looks great, as does watching it crash down onto your buildings. The voice acting is decent but the calming ambient background music was the highlight, especially when I wasn’t worrying too much about my objective and simply working on expanding my borders or harvesting resources. One annoyance was seeing that some Keyboard/Mouse commands prompts were left in by accident on a few of the tool tips, so clearly this was ported from it's PC counterpart.

Every now and then you need a game that allows you to chill on the couch and just simply relax. Imagine Earth fits that bill perfectly. Being simple enough for anyone to jump in and start playing, but also deep enough for those that want to micromanage nearly every aspect of their colony, Imagine Earth is an entertaining colony management game that also focuses on its ecosystem and sustainability.

**Imagine Earth was provided by the publisher reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.8 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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