For some, city builders and management games are a pastoral experience—no stress, carefree. Other people like to ramp up the difficulty and look at these games as a way to challenge themselves. If you’ve ever played a city builder or city management game and thought, “wow, this is too easy” or if you laughed at the puny natural disasters that Sim City or the DLC for Cities Skylines threw at you, and if you’re an ace at resource management, I might just have the perfect game for you.
What it is:
As Far As the Eye is a rogue-lite city builder and management game. You have to guide a tribe of nomads to the Eye—the center of the world, but it won’t be easy. There are no enemies to fight, but instead you have to deal with nature itself as you gather enough supplies for your nomadic pupils to move from one halt—or stop—to the next. Each halt is procedurally generated hex map—and that is where the rogue-type elements come in. You have to build and manage resources carefully, though. The more disruption you cause to nature, the more possible vagaries—or bad events—can befall your nomadic group.
How can a game with no enemies use a hex grid and be turn-based? At each halt, you only have so many turns to complete objectives. The longer it takes, the more vagaries can befall you, and eventually, you’ll be swept away in the flood that is overtaking the land. Not only is time a concern, but you’ll need to continuously harvest food for your polymorphic pupils to eat. These pupils are also the ones who do the heavy lifting, and can specialize in various tasks—like gathering, building, etc. Each time they switch tasks, they switch form—a purely cosmetic, but delightful, detail.
As Far As the Eye is gorgeous. It has a vibrant, colorful art style, and cute little characters that shapeshift into even cuter specialized forms. It’s absolutely a joy to look at. Its colorful art hides away the difficult management systems that are underneath its soothing exterior. Unfortunately, the whole experienced is marred by a cluttered UI, and less than stellar user experience. Much of the information is given in huge swathes of text. The pupils themselves are small, and feel hard to select. There is options to tweak some of these aspects, but I couldn’t find a way to enlarge the UI. But even with a larger UI there is just so much information dump. This is further complicated by its cryptic delivery of information.
There is a story mode in As Far As the Eye, first of all, but it’s just a tutorial in disguise. That’s mostly okay, as it’s pretty important to go through it to try and understand what’s happening in this fairly unorthodox game. The tutorial itself can be a little hard to follow because of the aforementioned text dumps. If you make a mistake, which is easy to do, you fail the entire chapter of the story and have to redo it—which includes enduring those long text dumps yet again. After finally getting through the tutorial, I thought I was prepared to play the “real” game—I was wrong.
As Far As the Eye has cryptic mechanics that are intentionally hidden from the players. Vagaries—bad things, like bad weather—befall your pupils if you do too much harm to nature. But there is no way to know what that means, as there’s a karma system that is hidden by design. It is possible to mitigate some of this with the council building, but that isn’t really explored in the tutorial. You either have to learn this, or seek outside help to get the mechanics down—or suffer the vagaries without foreknowledge.
But for as many things that are frustrating about As Far As the Eye, it does offer up a pretty unique type of management game. Each halt is like a puzzle, but there are multiple ways to solve it. Smart play, and taking care of nature can get you far. Upgrading buildings is essential—something else the tutorial touches on but doesn’t take enough time stresses. Upgrading your pupils is essential, too, but I feel like the system used is a little complicated.
If you find As Far As the Eye to be too difficult, you can play a custom game, too. Custom games allow you to tweak certain aspects—like removing hunger, changing the amount of halts, pupils you start with, etc. Playing with these settings can help shed some light on As Far As the Eye’s cryptic systems. I just wish the developers would let us see our karma score.
As Far As the Eye is definitely a pretty game—but it’s also challenging one. A cluttered UI, loads of text, and front loading the tutorial with its esoteric lore make learning its cryptic systems all the harder—but if you take the time to learn it, you’re rewarded with a challenging and unique experience.
As Far As the Eye is available now.
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