SimCity, the most popular and most enduring game of the city-building genre, was first released on 2nd February 1989, exactly eight days before I was born. Growing up, I spent what felt like solid weeks playing SimCity 2000; building vast, intricate cities and then watching them either succumb to flooding or earthquake, or a giant bug-eyed monster that descended from the sky and caused havoc. Sadly, EA effectively killed the SimCity franchise in 2013, with their lacklustre reboot that was so constrained by the always-online design and tiny map restrictions that it felt more like “SimTown” than a proper SimCity game. Thankfully, Cities: Skylines in 2015 proved to be the modern city-builder that everyone was looking for, and filled the void left by SimCity.
It’s been several years since Cities: Skylines came out and more than enough time has passed for a new spiritual successor to SimCity. Rise of Industry focuses on just an individual element of city-building, specifically the industrial sector, as the name suggests. The cities are already built, and it’s your job to supply them with the various wares and goods they require. While it takes inspiration from SimCity, Rise of Industry is a substantially different game, instead focussing solely on supply chain and production. Rise of Industry has a gorgeous style both visually and aurally, but is let down by a gameplay loop that feels rather one note and repetitive.
Rise of Industry’s main game mode is Career, where you start from nothing and build up your industrial empire to span the game world. Games take place on a gigantic randomized map, which is auto-generated with a variety of settlements. You start by choosing the location of your headquarters, and then it’s up to you to decide how you want to start growing your business. You can go into farming, logging, oil extraction, mining or a variety of other sectors, depending on the initial unlocks you choose from the enormous tech tree at the beginning of the game. Each location on the map has a variety of demands for items which changes over time, be they apples or office furniture. Your general objective is to fulfil these demands by supplying the requisite items. However, almost every item in the game requires other items in order to create it. Cattle farms require water and grain to feed the livestock, requiring you to build adjoining grain farms and water extractors. Drinks factories need various fruits to produce smoothies, meaning you need to invest in orchard construction. Every decision in the game is like this, eventually building up to some extremely complex supply chains with multiple levels of production.
Furthermore, you must work out the logistics of getting all of your produce to not only the final destination, but also between each stage in the production flow. Each building has a radius around it where it will deliver goods to automatically, meaning you want to situate buildings that rely on each other close together. Truck depots can be used for longer haulage tasks, and later down the line trains and boats can transport goods even further afield. All of this is well and good, but the problem comes once you’ve set your supply chains to basically run themselves. Money starts to flow in at a relatively steady rate, leaving you to mainly micromanage choosing the best destination to ship goods to in order to generate the highest profit. Unlike SimCity, where gaining more money allows you to build grander parks or establish universities, Rise of Industry rewards your success with more ways to make money. The eventual end goal of Career mode is to build a mega-factory, which will produce automobiles, computers or pre-packed meals. It takes a tonne of resources to construct and run a mega-factory, but doing so completes the tech tree and wins the game.
There is a free-form sandbox mode, which is the same as Career mode but with all buildings and unlimited funds (allowing you to really go wild with supply chains should you so wish) and also a scenario builder, although no pre-constructed scenarios are in the game at present. Visually though, Rise of Industry is a feast. The asymmetric view has been done to death in RTS and city-management games, but the art style means the locked perspective never gets boring here. Watching all of your trucks shuttling to and fro across the map is strangely satisfying, and the cut-out picture book aesthetic enhances the appeal. Similarly, the game has a truly splendid soundtrack, which thematically sounds straight out of a SimCity game.
Rise of Industry can and without doubt will become a gigantic time-sink for those so inclined. The regular rhythm and cadence of managing your supply chains becomes relatively stress-free later on when you have ample funding, allowing you to live out your dream of running a continent-spanning conglomerate. But while the production chain management is satisfying for a while, you’ll be wishing there was something more substantial to keep you involved. Although there are AI-controlled competitors in the game there are relatively few ways to “compete” with them, but new functionality such as permit bidding, mergers and hostile takeovers has recently been added. Indeed, the developers are regularly updating and adding new content, which no-doubt will help alleviate this concern. With further tinkering, Rise of Industry could grow to become a fully-fledged and well regarded tycoon game that can stand the test of time.