The prospect of easy money can motivate people from all walks of life to abandon their boring lives in the pursuit of fortune. It is what has called you, oh green-eyed gamer, to begin your quest to strike it rich in the oil fields of the American South West. To paraphrase the words of some equally untrained gold miners, “The oil is there, you just need to get it.” Turmoil, the most recent game by Amsterdam-based Gamious, offers the ability to do just that.
Turmoil is still in the alpha phase of development and, therefore, not all planned features are available. This also means some of the negative aspects of the game mentioned here may be rendered moot points as development continues and improvements are made. That being said, the game will be reviewed as if it was a full release in order to inform readers in their decision to purchase it now.
Set in North America during the 19th Century oil rush, Turmoil is an oil management/simulation game where the goal is to find, collect, and sell oil. Accomplishing that goal is relatively simple. You lease a tract of land and hire a guy with a dowsing rod to wander around until he signals that there is oil under him. You then build an oil derrick and drill down into the earth until you reach the hidden pocket of oil and begin to collect it. As you collect the oil, you bring it to one of two oil companies where you sell it. Simple huh? But like every wealth accumulation/simulation game, you are not just driven to get and sell oil, but to get more oil and sell it for more money in less time. You can never have too much money right?
In campaign mode, one of the two available play modes, you begin by picking your character. Currently there are four to choose from, each with their own short backstory. There is really no compelling reason to pick one over another aside from wanting a particular avatar. Their backstories do not modify gameplay in any way. In my opinion, this is a lost opportunity. A bonus to horse speed for the ex-cattle herder or better terms on loans for the ex-lawyer would add some additional levels of strategy to the game. Hopefully additional characters and character related bonuses will be added as the game continues to be developed.
Once you have selected your character in campaign mode, you compete with the remaining NPCs over a number of drilling seasons. Each season lasts for a number of months and after the season ends, your lease on the claim ends, and all the oil under the ground is revealed. This can be extremely pleasing when you have tapped into and mostly emptied all the oil pockets, or supremely frustrating if you missed tapping into a big pocket. Additionally any oil left in your horse carts or storage tankers is abandoned as are all the equipment you have purchased. This makes it important to keep track of the time and sell off all your reserves before the end of the season.
As the campaign progresses, upgrades to your equipment become available for purchase as well as the ability to place bribes for thing like price guarantees for an oil corporation or 1/2 off spillage fees etc. Speaking of spillage fees, these occurs when you wait too long to collect oil from your derrick and it overflows. The first time it happened to me I considered it a loss because it was oil that I wouldn’t be able to sell. But noooooo… The 19th century EPA is really proactive. A spill could end up costing you the profits of an otherwise successful season. I cried a little.
After the end of the season, you return to the town to buy upgrades and lease more land for the next season. The leasing of land is a bit of a hassle. The player and the NPCs each pick an available plot of land and if two players pick the same plot, the price of that plot goes up. This can be costly, but because it seems that each of the plots are randomly generated, there is really no reason to want one plot over another. During this process you can also see how the competition is faring in their quest for that sweet Texas tea (hopefully the fools got into a bidding war and spent extra on their leases).
In the single game mode, there is only one season and you don’t have NPCs to compete with. You start with access to all of the upgrades, and can purchase them during the game as needed. Single game mode is great when you have 20 minutes to kill and want to see if a certain upgrade is really worth buying. While there is no multiplayer, the ability to use the same plot of land as a friend can facilitate playing independently and gloating over who can squeeze the most profit in the fastest time.
The world is simple but pretty thanks to the art design by Jan-Maarten Nachtegeller and the soothing soundtrack of guitar music brings back completely fabricated memories of my grand-pappy plucking away on the porch on a cool summer evening. The relaxing sounds match the even pace of the gameplay. The simplicity of the game matched with the sound makes Turmoil a nice game for relaxation (and makes the title somewhat of a misnomer).
I really enjoyed playing Turmoil. I found it relaxing, and was willing to look past a number of bugs and a slight lack of technical depth as the slow picking of the guitar soothed me. If you enjoy simulation/management games you will probably also enjoy Turmoil. If you are so-so about the genre, you should wait until its full release or until more features are added. I must note, however, that the developers have already released an update for the game fixing a number of issues including a much needed wagon AI update. Hopefully they maintain a similar level of responsiveness in the months to come!