Rise of Industry Review
Reviewed on PC
Dapper Penguin Studios’ logistics management sim is stepping foot out of Early Access into the great wide world.
It’s been in Early Access for just over a year now, constantly updating and adding new content, and Rise of Industry shows no signs of stopping. Harking back to the tycoon games of old, Rise of Industry is a beautiful blend between SimCity and Factorio. As an early 20th-century industrialist, you must build up an empire capable of revolutionizing an industry. You’ll build towards one of three prototype models, alone or against AI opponents, much like a race to scientific victory in Civilisation.
Like any good empire, Rise of Industry is constantly growing and evolving, and its visual roadmap details months of planned content long beyond the May release. Steam’s listing even includes a promise from the developers: “We are extremely active in the community and we will always be open with our plans for the future of the game”, it reads. From what I’ve seen, this is certainly the case.
The official Rise of Industry wiki is never more than a few clicks away, as well as a short series of video tutorials. The ever-changing nature of the game’s development does mean that these tips and guides are often rendered inert within a few months, however. Modding support is also being rolled out, and there are even a few cheats for those that like to play fast and loose with the rules.
All of this somewhat compensates for what is possibly Rise of Industry’s biggest shortcoming: the in-game assistance is a little sparse. There is a tutorial that runs you through the basics, but it can't capture everything and tooltips can be sporadic from there on, often only appearing to tell you something that was already obvious. Heading off the beaten track to look for answers is no substitute for a robust, detailed tutorial, but you’re welcomed with open arms by a wealth of community knowledge. The official Discord group, which can also be accessed from the main menu, has hundreds of active users, with developers and testers readily available to assist you, solve issues, and listen to new ideas.
Rise of Industry is somewhat like learning an instrument. It’s complex and unwieldy the first time you sit down with it, but put in the hours to master it and you’ll be surprised by what can be achieved. In this way, Rise of Industry is symbolic of its namesake acronym; RoI, or ‘Return on Investment’, measures the output of something based on what you invest into it. Until you’ve invested a few hours and digested the wiki, you won’t get much out of it. Soon after, however, the return grows exponentially. Systems start to click and the reward of turning a profit stacks up as you progress through the many research trees.
You can customize each new empire, too, fine-tuning the difficulty to match your preferences. Want to adjust the upkeep cost of buildings or the difficulty of events? You can! Want to disable terraforming or traffic management? You can do that, too. It’s an incredibly user-friendly feature of Rise of Industry, and one that makes for a malleable experience. At the higher difficulties, the game is about tailoring your supply to meet the demand of the local towns, constantly having to adapt in order to survive. But the option to kick back, disable AI opponents and expand at your leisure is delightful. The calming, peaceful music eases you into a laid back mood and wicks away some of the stress like a nurse assisting a surgeon’s heart transplant.
Even on the smaller maps, games will last the best part of 10 hours, and I quickly lost an entire Saturday to one campaign before I knew what had happened. This is testament to the rich, engaging gameplay, and the level of variation in a successful empire. As you research new areas of business, you’ll expand into a wide variety of industries, from steelworks to textiles, furniture to fast food, and so on.
The low poly appeal of Rise of Industry is best appreciated up close. When viewed at close range, everything from plumes of chimney smoke to bustling traffic is crisp and clean, but this charm loses some luster when you zoom out. At a distance, Rise of Industry still looks good… but no better than that. The UI can also range wildly, at times hiding vital information behind clunky menus. Once you learn your way around the interface’s complexities, though, you can practically make it sing for you. Pressing ALT, for example, brings up a particularly clean view of each farm and factory represented by a traffic light bubble. This is invaluable, allowing for a quick scan of your empire at the macro level to ensure everything is running smoothly. It’s a shame the entire interface can’t look this clear, but it’s understandable, given how much data there is to process.
Despite an extremely steep learning curve, Rise of Industry will keep you occupied for hours to come. If you can overcome the barrier to entry, you’re bound to enjoy your time here, especially if you like having your management skills put to the test.