By: Brian Gunn
Turmoil is a management strategy game that casts players in the role of a rising and ambitious oil baron. Developers Gamious kept the game on early access for about a year, and released it in full recently. Does the game strike that virtual oil, or is there only dirt to sift through?
Turmoil controls relatively simply and is on the more casual side of most management games. While there are hotkeys for a handful of actions, players will largely be using the mouse for everything. There are only a few actions to take, especially in the first half of the game, and so it is quite easy to pick up and learn.
In fact, the only weakness is that it perhaps takes way too much control from players. The sale of oil is controlled by the way your transports behave, and at times they felt counter-intuitive; such as getting oil from my low-supply rig instead of the one that was currently in danger of overflowing.
While a generally pleasant looking game, Turmoil doesn’t do too much to stand out. It feels like many elements of the design, including the visuals, were inspired by board games. At least it has a clean and bright style to it that allows for clear and quick communication of the game’s mechanics.
For instance, you can use moles to dig up random spots, and even if they don’t dig right on an oil patch, you can be clued in simply by the surrounding dirt being a different shade of brown than normal areas.
The sound design is similarly fine, with obligatory western frontier tunes and good audio cues. Those tunes get a little grating after a while as there’s really only a few that are played, and after eight hours of levels, the jingle to end the match starts to get a little old.
Audio cues and sound effects work well to alert you to some abrupt changes like hitting rocks or a dowser finding oil, though a few more for like when oil prices tank would have been appreciated.
Turmoil is set up like a board game with three other players, though they’re controlled by the A.I. Each year the players bid on a piece of land to mine, all while managing whether to upgrade their equipment or pay bribes to keep oil prices high. Eventually a victory condition is introduced where the first player to own 50 percent of the town’s stock shares will become the new mayor.
While all that’s going on in the campaign the moment-to-moment gameplay of the oil fields is much more focused on the short term. You’ll start off only playing on a piece of land for a few months and with only a few tools, but soon enough each turn lasts an entire year with new mechanics introduced fairly regularly.
For example, the first area is just basic mining for oil, and once that’s used up, action moves to a desert area that has rocks to avoid or drill though. Natural gas is introduced later, which can be used to force oil to the surface faster or to manipulate prices. It’s a very effective progression that leads to increased mastery without overwhelming the player.
Still, the game is not without issues. Several of the upgrades feel kind of worthless compared to others of similar cost, and the nature of the campaign doesn’t leave much desire for replay. When you do finish your first campaign you’ll unlock Expert Mode, which introduces things like the players all having special abilities, which feels like it should’ve been part of the basic game mechanics.
The randomness of the oil fields can also be a little frustrating if you get stuck on a nearly dry map for a year, but I suppose that enhances the joy when you do finally strike it rich.
Turmoil is a great management game that’s accommodating to new and casual players alike while still having some depth for genre fans. It has a fantastic “one more turn” sort of charm to it; it’s just a shame Turmoil doesn’t have enough meat on its bones to make repeated plays appealing.