Turmoil is a simulation game from developer Gamious that situates players in the midst of the 19th century North American oil rush. Players must balance the amount of money they spend on drilling equipment with the income from oil to turn as much of a profit as they can in one year’s time. The game offers both a single-play mode, in which players mine a single plot of land, as well as a campaign, in which the player competes against three other oil industrialists to raise the money to become town mayor. The game presents a thorough yet casual simulation experience through the system of oil-operation factors to consider that make each round an engaging experience. Turmoil‘s campaign, however lacks an element of challenge that holds the campaign back from being as exciting as it could be.
Between the upgrades available for mining equipment and the various techniques that the game allows for making a profit, Turmoil offers an experience that challenges players to weigh the costs and risks associated with their drilling business. In town, players may choose to upgrade an aspect of their drilling equipment at one of the upgrade shops or head to the tavern to make business deals that will affect the coming year’s profit. Most importantly, players head to the mayor’s office to bid against their competitors on plots of land and to buy town shares at auction. At each of these points, the player balances the cost of the buff with the potential reward in a way that introduces a deep level of strategy to the game.
Once they’ve begun mining their plot of land for the year, players face decisions that affect the year’s profit. These decisions allow for a variety of play styles and experimentation. Two factories compete for your oil by adjusting their prices throughout the year. On top of deciding which factory who to sell to, players also have the choice to store up oil for a time when the market is better. In this case, player needs to budget their time wisely to sell all their oil before the year ends. This level of careful and impactful decision making, added to the randomly-generated oil pockets pushes players to constantly consider how best to make money.
For all the engaging systems-thinking that Turmoil presents, the opponents who are competing against the player to become mayor of the town do not pose much of a challenge. After a year of drilling, the player gets a report of their own profit as well as the profits of their competitors. The profits of the competition are low every year. Because they don’t have much money to work with, these competitors don’t stand in the way at auction for town shares. The lack of challenge that this leaves strips the game of a touch of the excitement the campaign goes for, especially later in the game when profits really begin to add up.
The plot of the title is thin: the player’s goal is to become mayor of the town but they need to beat their competition to do so. However, in a game like Turmoil, which focuses so much more on the simulation aspect of gameplay and the systems at play, lack of plot depth is easy to understand. Each of the competitors have a short backstory presented at the beginning of the campaign about why they are entering the oil business, but until players beat the campaign and unlock expert mode, these backgrounds don’t play into the actual gameplay. Even in expert mode, they only serve to explain a character’s unique bonus.
Turmoil‘s graphics suit the game in terms of simplicity and accessibility. The bright colors and organized interface allow the player to quickly carry out actions in the game. For a game layered with gameplay factors and systems, the design helps the players to quickly make sense of the controls and adjust their mining operations.
One of the great aspects of Turmoil‘s gameplay is the ability that the player has to choose to play just a few levels or a many more. The game is easy to jump into. It is definitely well-suited for either fans of simulation games who are looking for a light experience or gamers who are looking for an approachable simulation title to get into the genre.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.