Even in the busiest of seasons, smaller games deserve some attention. In that spirit, welcome to Month of Coverage Club. Come back each day in November for a full-length impressions piece based on a hidden gem you've probably never heard of.
City builder games fall into a niche of things that I love but am not the greatest at. I enjoyed the heck out of Banished, but goodness knows how I managed to go for as long as I did without everyone dying of a horrible disease or three. Developed and published by Evil Bite, Depraved is essentially Banished set in the wild west. This is something I just had to check out. This Steam Early Access title holds a lot of promise, but - as always - the devil's in the details.
I began my first game by changing the video mode to Borderless Fullscreen. Why a game defaults to general fullscreen in 2018 is beyond me, but alas. You have three options to set at the outset of the game: whether or not there are bandits, whether hostile animals are aggressive, and whether wild animals breed and continue to repopulate the map. You also can enter a numerical seed for map generation; It was rather disappointing to find that 8675309 generated an absolutely terrible map. What a shame.
One enters the map with a wagon filled with ten pioneers and some starting supplies. You'll have to find somewhere in the world to plop down a town hall. Unsurprisingly, the town hall acts as the center of your town. It determines the borders of where you can build, and these can be expanded later. It's also used for buying or selling goods to traders that periodically come by.
I tend to play through a few dry runs before sinking any time into a game like Depraved. My very first town was plagued by animals mauling my residents. My second town began with the purchase of ten Winchester rifles for my current residents. Fifty Colt revolvers went out to those who came afterward. I made a number of logistical and building mistakes, so my third save file was where I really feel like I hit my stride.
Depraved is in Early Access, and one of my biggest challenges was the lack of information about things. For instance, the terrain matters for different kinds of buildings. You'll want lush, green terrain for grain farms or sheep farms; it's also necessary for good quality wells and forestry operations. Conversely, dried tan ground is best used for buildings where the quality of the soil isn't as important like shacks, your saloon, and most of the remainder of your town's infrastructure. Wells are important, not only for providing water but for serving as a firefighting tool.
The former was obvious. The latter didn't click in my head until a shack burned down after a bandit attack thanks to my Pioneers getting buckets from the only well on the far side of town. I still have no idea what exactly is needed to allow Shacks to be upgraded into Small Houses so I can change my Pioneers into Settlers.
Another critical element of the game is the way buildings interact with one another. You would want a Lumberjack near some lush land to source trees, a Forester nearby to replant those trees, and a Woodcutter and Sawmill nearby to make use of the logs. Other buildings have similar flows of resources in and out, and placing related buildings too far away from one another can severely impact your productivity. This means that you'll likely have to rely on buying resources to fill the production gap, something that plagued me for a good portion of my time until I figured it out. It's a mistake I won't repeat in the future.
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Pathfinding and AI in Depraved are pretty terrible at times. An undertaker's cart clogged up a bridge and people would spin in place trying to figure things out. Discarded firearms from dead Pioneers or Bandits would remain on the ground until I specifically sent someone to pick them up. Perhaps worst of all, people in the fine Western town of Hoobstank (and its later sister mining town Wu Tang) were completely indifferent to the plights of their fellow man.
It was much like the movie A Million Ways To Die In The West. A bear could be mauling someone and a dozen heavily-armed civilians would just walk by and do nothing unless I specifically order them to intervene. Thankfully, double left-clicking on any citizen selects everyone in that town. After that, you can order them to move or attack wherever you please. Once I figured that out, the Hoobastank posse dispatched both ornery wildlife and murderous outlaws with swift justice.
The graphics in Depraved are serviceable. There are a few issues like people just walking through moving trains as if they didn't exist. I'd comfortably say that this is just one of those things the developers haven't gotten around to yet. The music is some pretty great Western-style stuff, but going into the menu switches it out for a different track. I feel this breaks the flow of getting into the game musically, especially because the menu music doesn't quite feel up to par with the tracks you hear in the game.
Depraved has an awful lot of potential and feels more complete than most Early Access games I've played. If you're a fan of stuff like Banished and the like, I believe you could pick it up right now and have a heck of a lot of fun. After four or so hours, I know I did, even in spite of the handful of bugs and lack of information on how the game works in some areas. I'll be eagerly looking forward to seeing what's to come in the future.
TechRaptor covered Depraved on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer.
What do you think of Depraved? Does the idea of a Wild West-style game like Banished appeal to you? Let us know in the comments below!