There are two clear yet opposing views to the benefits of space travel and our discovery path to the stars. On one hand are a group who can’t understand why we spend so much money and resources fueling rockets, only to discover a billionaire’s junkyard. On the other hand, the benefits and discoveries we have gained from the space race have been immeasurable, all as we look for new hope out there in the stars. Imagine Earth is a game that deals with a future that is firmly focused on space colonisation, but it’s also about balancing the rush of discovery while keeping those who live in the colonies happy. It’s basically Sim City in space – and it’s a lot of fun.
For my money, Cities: Skylines is the best city sim experience available on Xbox at this moment; a game that comes with a great UI and loads of DLC. The big difference with Imagine Earth is that instead of building one city from nothing you have to build several colonies, all on a whole range of different planets. There is also a big heavy dose of an environmental message pushed forth too, as your goal is centred around creating a clean-living, happy colony across the universe.
The story is that it is now the year 2048 and the resources of Earth have been used up by big money organisations. It’s therefore left to the remaining residents to head to the stars to try and build a new life there. The main campaign is the best way to start Imagine Earth as you get to head to your first planet, taking in a very helpful tutorial.
You start by selecting an area for the main city hub for the colony, then it’s up to you to feed the people so you need to set up farms within the boundaries of the hub. From there, you’ll be left to build power supplies and then warehouses to store the resources you can gather from the surrounding forest and mines. The better your base, the more people will arrive but then the more hungry they get and the more needs they have. Soon you’ll find yourself dealing with unhappy residents, environmental disasters like pollution or oil spills, natural disasters like tornadoes, storms, or asteroids dropping from the sky. It doesn’t take long before the pressure builds.
The control scheme that is present in Imagine Earth is pretty good and although I had thoughts that I may, through play I never felt the need to cry out for a mouse and keyboard like is the case with many of these sim titles. It’s all quite intuitive which is helped by the fact that the locations where you build, reap and grow things are laid out in a sort of grid-like map structure; it’s easy to use and keep an eye on.
Imagine Earth’s upgrade system works well too. For example you start with using stinking coal structures for power, but soon access emerges allowing you to upgrade to wind farms and biomass plants which makes the eco-friendly goal of the game more achievable. Further to that, you will also have to deal with alien merchants visiting the space pads you will inevitably build, letting you trade for new resources or sell any surplus. As you’d expect to hear, it’s with this cash where you can invest in new tech and keep your people happy.
The campaign takes you across nine different planets and as you get towards the latter stages you will begin to find Imagine Earth quite a tricky prospect, all as you end up balancing all manner of problems as the experience becomes like spinning plates. Apart from the campaign though there is also an endless mode, letting you build away to your heart’s content. There is also a competitive mode where you compete with other companies, in hope of being the first to get to several colonies or to acquire a certain piece of tech.
Visually Imagine Earth works brilliantly, with a lovely design in terms of the planets. Seeing the worlds while looking from your God point of view, zooming in and out whenever you want is a delight. As good as it is though, the text is sometimes a bit small, but overall there’s little to not love about the look of the game. Sound-wise it has a nice calming soundtrack and some great effects too, all complemented by a very good piece of voice work that ensures the game deserves extra kudos.
Imagine Earth is immensely enjoyable. The game modes on offer are good and the campaign is excellent. But above all else a good sim game should be easy to use, addictive to play, and it should always make you feel like you want to play it more and more. Imagine Earth ticks all those boxes. At times it can feel a bit overwhelming, the text can seem a tiny bit too small and it certainly becomes taxing in the later levels, but Cities: Skylines aside, this is one of the best city sim experiences you can get access to on Xbox.
Carve out your own space story in Imagine Earth, now available on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One