“Sort the Court” Review
This is a game that takes all the complexities of European city – building and squashes it down to three numbers and a bunch of obligatory charming characters. This is no “Civilization,” where it’s true to the real world. You control your armies and make tough decisions. The powerful win, but at the same time, so do those that spend time in STEM. This game has none of that, so don’t expect it. Civilization has aliens at the very end of a game. This game has then in a week.
Another game this isn’t like is “Papers Please,” which has a similar set – up but layers on the challenge with a trowel and then plants story into that. While I’ve read that game is unpitchable thanks to it being a bureaucracy simulator, there are far worse ideas that have sold much better, say Hunie Pop. Hmm, puzzle game porn. My take on the situation? It was released at the right time. But Sort the Court is both easier to summarise and carries no stigma of being for weebs, I mean virgins.
You are the mighty king of your land. You can also be a queen, but nobody would listen to you, har har. Your power is limited towards whoever happens to be in the neighbourhood asking you about whether to build a house or charge taxes or rub a cat’s belly (which you will do a dozen times in three months), all framed in the convenience of the thumbs – up or down. It’s not as hard or challenging as it could have been. You can tell by the art. Art always spoils gameplay.
Here ye and me
An obligatory charmingly – dressed human comes along and asks you about whether or not to build a new tavern, which costs you some fat cash. In exchange you get happiness. Happiness means more people. More people means a bigger town. A bigger town means you get more story, which is important, because there is almost none at all. This game had the audacity to say that thirty text boxes were “too long,” pausing halfway through to thank me for not falling asleep. This game is a visual novel more than anything. There is no need to apologise for what you are.
There are almost no consequences to your decisions, and any such consequences are flown to the wayside by the game’s bias in ensuring your stats are up. There are some budget threats during the later game when you have to throw money around to make the town grow, but your advisor can bail you out at the cost of some happiness, which you will have already had enough of to finish the game with. It’s in these qualities that there is no meat in the game, no big moral decisions, no big challenge to it. While I admit this is due to my good leadership skills, I have no doubt that any reasonable person will find this game a tad bit easy.
This is a game that has a good mechanic done slightly worse in practice. While the game is never frustrating, it feels like filler when you have to shoo away the same vampire twenty or thirty times even though you haven’t gazed into his crystal ball yet. At least the ball is a meaningful gambling mechanic; the one where you get free happiness such as answering a ghost’s simple question (who also comes back twenty times), just serve to hurt the game, because there isn’t a challenge involve in doing the same thing, but nineteen more times, and which rewards you for doing that thing.
Tæles of Chivalrie
I brought up Papers Please because I would have liked this game to take notes. That game had several long plot threads that you were a critical part of; this game has a dozen plots that are resolved within a few days and aren’t really interesting. While there is certainly a sense of pride in seeing them happen, I feel this is from the natural progression of the town itself, as well as the cutesy art style being welcome. Whatever pride the developers instilled seem to be a coincidence, and not a result of planning.
For all the designs and new characters the game introduces, they are hardly used. They never tell you grand stories or create any justification for what they do. They tell you what they need, you give it to them, and they skedaddle. While this makes for an easy experience, I really would have liked to get to know more about my subjects. If all I’m doing is sitting on a throne, then their visits should be joyous, not just something they do when they need something. I would have liked to know more about Skelly and Molder. They never told me about themselves.
This is a game where patches can be dropped in at any time and create new and positive experiences, removing the filler decisions and adding in more that make you stop for a moment and think, rather than being an automatic thumbing. There isn’t an overarching story, just a bunch of characters who are doing things off – screen that you give them permission to do. It is satisfying being a benevolent dictator, and this game certainly could have been done worse, but there is potential here that is not being used, and I feel pained to call it like I see it.
Overall, I did eke some enjoyment out of this experience, but it is a shallow one. Gameplay is simplified to the point of barely mattering. The character writing is decent and everyone has a distinct personality, but it’s one – note and one never gets the feeling of anything deeper going on besides how they present themselves. The art is cheery and unrefined – on – purpose and it all works very well, striking that just – right balance between detail and simplicity. As a bonus, the game’s single – song soundtrack didn’t get old.
A forum poster says the game is biased towards answering “yes” to decisions. I’ll go further and say it’s biased against the player ever failing. There is no reason for the player to ever fail; I’m not even sure if there’s a punishment for losing all your money. Under these conditions, all that’s left is how well the story presents itself. Not very well. It’s a bunch of little journeys that never go anywhere further, and whether or not that’s something you want is up to you.
Whenever I play one of these games where people are remarkably easy – to – please, all for story purposes of course, I wonder just how well the tactic works in real life. In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, you can be a real bag of dirt to everyone and you can get what you want. That doesn’t work in real life. While it’s nice to see a game that doesn’t give false expectations of what people are like, it’s not so nice to see a game that goes too far in the other direction. Even the mice like me in this game. The mice! They weren’t even cute!