Build Your Own Virtual Colony With Unknown Horizons
<firstimage=”//static.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/ships.jpg”>Last month, I took my family to Plymouth, Massachusetts to visit the Plimouth Plantation, where there is a reproduction of the original settlement built by the pilgrims when they landed the Mayflower there in 1620. The amazing thing about these early settlements on the Eastern shores of the “New Land” is that they serve as a historic example of what it takes to build and maintain a colony of people in the middle of a rough and wild land.
A while back, I reviewed a colony simulation game called Nemexia , where you could start a new colony on an alien planet. Now, wouldn’t it be interesting to see if you could survive while building and growing a colony of your own on Earth? Unknown Horizons is a free colony simulation game that lets you experience what it would have been like to start a colony – to strike out in search of unknown horizons.
Game Start & Settings
What impressed me about this game is that even though it is free and open source (available for either Windows or Linux) – you get the impression that it’s a commercial game. The graphics and the soundtrack are enthralling, and will immediately draw you in. From the main menu, you’ll see a ship steering wheel with options to configure the settings, view the help menu or start playing a game session.
Keep in mind that while this game is a fully functioning colony simulation, you’ll come across a few premium features, like multiplayer mode, that aren’t implemented. With that said, the core of the game offers an awesome game playing experience. The settings menu lets you define the resolution, colors and rendering engine that works best on your machine.
When you start a new game, you can define whether you want a defined “campaign” or just free play. Random map isn’t active yet. In Campaign mode, you have certain goals to reach before moving on to the next map. In Free Play mode, you simply land on a massive island and work indefinitely toward building a strong and thriving colony.
Landing & Founding A New Settlement
Once you launch the colony simulation game, you’ll find yourself just approaching new land. The control system to the right displays a world map, all ships, and all of the controls.
Once you locate a good area that looks like it has plenty of trees and wildlife (you’ll actually see animals walking around and grazing), go ahead and press the little “anchor” button on the control menu under the picture of your ship. You’ve just founded your first settlement!
Remember to unload the supplies (food, lumber and tools) off your ship, or life won’t be easy for you! Also, even after your settlement has started, your ship is still useful for trade.
You’ll immediately want to start building the basic structures for survival. Specifically, you’ll set up a lumberjack to start creating lumber so you can build structures, and you’ll want a central village area where members of the colony can come to exchange supplies. Toss up a few tents and you’ve got yourself the early beginnings of a colony.
Once you get rolling, you’ll quickly discover that the real trick of this game is to master the balance between supply and demand. Your colonists will produce lumber, food, tools, textiles and bricks (in time), but they’ll also consume as well. If anything gets off balance, you’ll watch your funds sink faster than a brick in a pond. All of these balances are displayed at the top of the screen.
At each stage in the game, you’ll have available structures you can build, which add to the productivity or serve the needs of the colony. These show up under the build menu on your control panel. Every level opens up a new build menu (labeled with I, II, II, etc..) which allows for new and more advanced structures.
Part of the balancing act also comes from making efficient use of the land. Each structure you build will show you the area of land that it can manage. Here, you can see that the farm can manage about one square of land all the way around it. If you build farmland or sheep grazing anywhere outside of this range, it will go untended. Build other structures on available farmland (as I’ve done here), and you’ve just wasted precious farmland.
Unknown Horizons is one of those few games that I could see spending many hours playing some Sunday afternoon, just to pass the time and relax. It’s fun to watch your colonists toil away, and to watch the colony goods multiply. Make the wrong decision, and you could watch the entire enterprise fall apart before your eyes.
Do you have what it takes to found a new colony? Give this colony simulation game a test drive and report back with your own thoughts and feedback in the comments section below!