In it for the Long-ish Haul
Have you ever played a game just to say to yourself, “this would have been a flash game had it been released 10 – 15 years ago?” Well, I have on a number of occasions. And, had Turmoil offered just a little bit less content, I would have been saying that about this game, too. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; some games actually work really well if they’re designed and played with (the modern-day equivalent of) a “flash game mindset.” But Turmoil feels like a flash game that wasn’t developed with such a mindset. It’s a bit too long, and a bit too involved to truly be compared to a flash game, but is simple enough (in both good and less-good ways) warrant making at least some comparisons—and maybe that’s why it, unfortunately, was just kind of so-so to play through.
Here’s the (Texas) Tea
Turmoil‘s surprisingly fast-paced simulator is about one thing above all others; making as much profit from oil sales as possible. If you know anything about actual oil sales, however, you probably know that that’s easier said than done. I don’t actually know anything about real-life oil sales, though, so maybe that’s not the best comparison to use. What I mean to say is that it’s harder than it looks. The oil-selling process works in three basic steps; locating oil underground, drilling it out, and, most importantly, selling it—all in a very cyclical manner, of course. Admittedly, the game took me a try or two before I started to understand the ins and outs; while the basics are very straightforward, there are a lot of subtle nuances that you pick up as you play (especially when it comes to drilling and laying pipe), which creates a decently fair and fun learning curve.
Now, based on everything that I’ve said, you might think that beating the game would require you to make a certain amount of oil sales. And that would be a good guess! But it’s incorrect. Partially, anyway. Ironically, to beat the game, you need to become the mayor of the town that you’re currently in. Seriously. Let me explain, though. Despite being an entirely single-player game, Turmoil is set up like a multiplayer one. That is to say that you’re always in direct competition with three other CPU-controlled oil-seekers (I don’t know what the correct term is for this). Fortunately, you’re on your own when you’re drilling, but in-between each session Turmoil allows players not only to buy upgrades, but bid on plots of land and, most importantly, the current mayor’s shares (with the first person to own 50% of the total shares being the winner).
I’m totally fine with Turmoil having players bid on plots of land. What I’m less sure about is the game’s victory conditions. On the one hand, bidding for shares is an excellent equalizer as it ensures that you’re not going to lose just because you caught a few unlucky breaks. On the other hand, if an opponent has more money than you, they’re just going to buy shares before you even get the chance to bid—a fact which is basically just a more drawn-out version of making the wealthiest person the winner, despite(seemingly) trying not to do so. And, given how long playing through an entire session can take, working hard just to lose at the end is a pretty hard punch to the gut.
Turning up the Heat
Alongside its main campaign, the Switch version of Turmoil comes bundled with the DLC The Heat is On. An expansion that essentially doubles the playtime of Turmoil, The Heat is On features a new campaign for players to dig their way through, alongside new mechanics such as magma and treasure-hunting, and a couple of quality-of-life improvements. Overall, everything that The Heat is On has to offer is neat, and enhances, albeit somewhat subtly, the overall experience. With that being said, however, this feels much less like DLC and much more like an update. In some ways, these two things can blur the lines of one another—after all, a lot of updates feature new content. However, given the fact that a decent portion of The Heat is On is based around data that the devs gathered from players regarding this game’s meta and how it could potentially be improved, fixing parts of a game and hiding it behind DLC leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I suppose that I can’t complain too much given that it doesn’t cost players anything extra this time around, but the fact that it did initially, as well as the fact that it feels so much like the original, isn’t something that I can forget entirely.
Watch Your Step, Slick
As far as an audience goes, Turmoil is pretty niche. That in itself isn’t a bad thing—there are plenty of cool niche games out there—but I’m at a bit of a loss as to who this game’s target demographic is. It’s kind of fun, yeah, and it kept me entertained for a while, but it’s too long for its own good, and, much like most flash games, I eventually found my mind wandering to what other games I’d rather be playing,
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC; Developer: Gamious; Publisher: Playdigious; Players: 1; Released: May 28, 2020; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: A Nintendo Switch copy of Turmoil was provided by the publisher.