Beware the New Wave of Simulation Games
Posted on June 14, 2022 by Aywren
I’m a huge fan of simulation games. I can sit there and play a game with repetitive and chill content loops for hours. But this wave of new lazily-developed simulation games I’m seeing has me shying away from simulations on Steam.
I’m going to make an example out of the game I bought earlier this year – Animal Shelter Simulator. The premise is cute and plays on your goodwill towards animals. I originally bought it for the same reason most people would – it seems like it would be lovely to take in strays, nurse them back to health and find new homes for them.
The game as it stands now has a Very Positive rating.
It’s not a terrible game. It hits all the positive notes that I listed above. The animals are cute but…
After putting in almost five hours of playtime into it, I suddenly realized everything I saw in my first hour of playing was all there was to the entire game. I see this echoed in a handful of other reviews, but I’m honestly surprised at how few people are calling the game out for lack of content.
It’s not just lack of content, but lack of depth as well. I’m not one who wants an overly complicated game, but even to me, there’s very little variety in what the game offers. You even start to see repetition in the game’s pet blurbs and the repeat people who come to adopt.
Working up trust with an animal (which you need to do to uncover personality traits for adoption) is simply marking off a checklist of needs and wants – the same things over and over. While pets have different personality traits, I never saw them act any different when I interacted with them based on those traits. The only thing the traits did was determine if they were a good match for adoption to different individuals.
While there is some use of cute pet-themed original artwork in the game, the majority of the game’s assets look like things you could buy at the unity store. The 3D graphics aren’t bad, but neither are they anything that strikes me as designed just for this game, if you get what I mean.
This game had no early access. It hit the store on a full release that was riddled with bugs – some quite game breaking (loss of saves, unable to move forward with objectives, etc). To the team’s credit, they made quick work of fixing these bugs and communicating with the community about the fixes.
Even on the negative reviews, the devs are quick to respond asking for feedback. So they seem like a caring dev team, right?
Tell me why, then, have they already announced paid DLC for puppies and kittens only a few months after the game’s original release instead of fleshing out the base game I already paid for? When I saw that and thought of how little content was in the base game, it turned my stomach to see them already churning out new stuff that should have been in the original game.
Add to this that the team’s name is Games Incubator. And when you go to their Steam dev page, you see a list of similarly uninspired seeming simulation games with pretty neat pitches.
I’m not picking on Games Incubator – they just happen to be the one I had personal experiences with. I’m seeing this happening more often with these simulation/building games in general. The thing is, it’s hard to gauge a simulation game in the first two hours (when you can refund it) because it usually takes a bit more time than that to learn a game of this type.
Like for me, it took about 4 hours in before I realized I’d seen everything there was to do in the game. If I’d known that before 2 hours in, I probably would have refunded it. The idea is cute, but I wasn’t that attached to the pets in the game. And that’s odd for me when it comes to a pet game.
So I suppose the point of this post is to take care when looking into picking up new simulation games - because it's hard to tell the good from the lacking. Look at the other games the dev has out there – if they’re just shoveling simulations, certainly double check the negative ratings on a game before putting money into it. There’s too many good games out there to play to put your time into something unfulfilling.