Totalling it up, we have sunk sixty hours into titles from 8floor Games in 2023. It’s our second working week of playing them, which is impressive as they don’t take much longer than five hours each to complete. That sixty hours isn’t because we’ve become addicts – good grief, we hope not – but it’s due to 8floor releasing titles roughly every two weeks. We feel like we’ve been tapping on food, wood and rocks forever.
This time round, it’s the Roads of Time series that gets topped up. This series is most notable for switching out the usual workers for robots, trying to insert some comedy in the between-level bits (and failing, we may add), and opting for more puzzle-flavoured levels. Instead of overflowing with resources, you are given barely enough to succeed.
It’s also set in a bygone era, and Roads of Time swaps out the Ancient Egypt stylings of the first game for Ancient Greece. Gone are the pyramids and jackals, and in steps Spartan heroes to save, treasures of Aphrodite to uncover, and the scribblings of Archimedes to find.
We can see why Roads of Time 2: Odyssey chose this route. There’s a dominance of sandy settings, which can be swapped interchangeably between the two titles, and a lot of the enemies remain too. We said that jackals had been swapped out, but not really: they’re still here, just with the Anubis headgear toned down. Even the serpent enemies remain, because Greece loved them just as much as Egypt did. It’s an entirely unconvincing job of telling us that Roads of Time 2 is a progression from Roads of Time 1.
All of the resources are the same too. If you haven’t played an 8floor title before, it’s a reasonably simple proposition. This is an attempt to make city-building and resource-management games as simple and console-friendly as possible. The cities in question all fit onto the one screen, which become levels to complete. Your job is to rebuild everything in each level, and complete the objectives that are listed in the bottom-left of the game screen.
You do this with your cursor. Moving it around, you begin clearing a path around your robot, P.E.T. and his owner, Brian. That not only allows you to click on more and more things, but it squirrels away some resources, seen at the top of the screen. Those resources are essential for rebuilding things, as ruins litter the paths. You can get your robot to click on them and construct farms, crystal mines, lumber mills and quarries using the resources you have stockpiled.
Once the buildings are up and running, they churn out even more resources, and thus the loop of an 8floor title is born. You make resources to spend resources, and the buildings you make will generate further resources. Thus you can clear the paths of snakes, jackals and other baddies which form the level’s objectives. The level is complete, a three-star ranking is handed out based on your speed, and you can work through the fifty-odd levels, all with variations on the theme.
Full credit to 8floor, as it makes a couple of sound deviations from its formula. The first is that it works. Zeus be praised! 8floor titles have a roughly 50:50 hit rate in terms of being functional, non-buggy entities, and Roads of Time 2: Odyssey is one of the good ones. The cursor is small and clicks the things you want to click; there are no phantom icons that stop you from progressing; and the game saves properly. We take none of these things for granted with the series, and it’s nice not to have to complain about it.
We also quite like the harder, puzzle-focused difficulty. As mentioned, the name of the game isn’t to upgrade your buildings completely, pumping out unholy amounts of resources, and then blitz the level. If you adopt this approach, you are going to get zero stars per level and – on occasion – even fail them, as the resources are so sparse that you need to use them wisely. It gives Roads of Time 2 a more cerebral edge that other 8floor games like Gnomes Garden and Garden Story simply don’t have.
It can go a little too far in this direction, in fact. We’ve felt like we’ve played near-perfect levels and ended up with just one star out of three. Bemused, we’ve replayed the level and got two. It’s flipping challenging, requiring spot-on clicks and an uncanny ability to understand the buildings and resources you don’t need to focus on. Often, the best scores are gained by ignoring stuff. Which is all rather refreshing. 8floor titles are mostly known for being cosy rather than challenging, so having a small corner of their universe reserved for thinking and considering choices is welcome.
Otherwise, stuff is much the same, and this is where Roads of Time 2 falls down. Because, much like its sister games, it commits the crime of sameness. It amazes us that 8floor have made a business out of making the same game, over and over, when each individual game is repetitive within itself. It’s a trick that we would love to have explained to us (although we’re rude enough about their games that we’d guess an interview isn’t incoming). Honestly, by the time we had hit level thirty-odd, the glamour of puzzly levels had worn off. This is incredibly repetitive, and no amount of endpoint switching – ah, we’re making the Colossus of Rhodes this time, are we? – can disguise it.
Put it down to series fatigue, but we limped over the line with Roads of Time 2. But that’s a very personal response. Not everyone will be coming to this game having completed a sequence of a dozen or so 8floor. Strip that away, then, and actually Roads of Time 2 is one of the better examples. It plays well, without any bugs of note, and the levels have a hint of challenge about them. You will have to wake from your reverie to complete it.
But come to Roads of Time 2: Odyssey having played none of the other games from 8floor, and you might be in for a small surprise. It’s a much of a muchness, as levels play out almost identically, and we’d challenge anyone to remain interested by level 50. This is what you buy into with a Gnomes Garden or Lost Artifacts, and the same is true here. Play a maximum of five levels per session and you might – might – stick around for the end credits.