I’m not sure I was aware of Colony Builders as a genre until I the spring of 2016, when it seemed like everywhere I turned, people were talking about Rimworld. A very early build was already available through the developer’s website, but I was already deeply invested in Steam’s infrastructure, and I wanted to purchase it there. The purchase price was pretty steep for a game that was still a work in progress, but I decided to sell off a whole mess of trading cards and that way, if I didn’t love it, I wasn’t out much.
As it turns out, I was worried for nothing. I was obsessed with it. I would hazard to guess that a majority of my playtime was over the first few months I owned it, and my history shows I put in almost 250 hours. Unfortunately, I wasn’t all that good at the game. Sure, I figured out a research path that worked for me, and I figured out the best way to arrange my base, but I never did get the hang of the combat, and although I read an awful lot about killboxes, I never managed one that worked very well. I lost colony after colony to raiders and mechanoids and I think in all that time I only managed to launch my colonists into space once.
Which brings me – albeit the long way around – to Clanfolk, another colony builder that just released into Early Access on July 14th. Instead of a group of colonists on another planet, Clanfolk tasks you with the care of a family in medieval Scotland. There are no manhunting animals or hostile clans – the only enemy here is the elements. You’ve got 20 in game days to figure out how to survive your first winter, and I promise you, that’s a lot harder than it sounds.
On the first day of summer, you find your colonists in a new place with almost nothing, including knowledge of how to do much of anything. Initially, you’ll need to assign gathering tasks, but as your people collect more rocks, branches, mushrooms and berries, they’ll naturally figure out new things to try. The whole tech tree works this way – find a resource, or make a tool, and your people will then know what to do with it. You can look ahead to see how to unlock things, but only a little ways. Past that is just row after row of locked technologies, and you’re going to need to figure it out.
For some folks, this might make the first try or two a bit frustrating as you learn along with your colony. I loved it. Sure, my first crew didn’t even last until winter – in my attempt to not overwork them, I failed to unlock a lot of critical tech in a timely manner. I abandoned colony after colony as I made mistake after mistake. But every time I started again, I went back in with new knowledge and did a little bit better each time.
I think it was my fifth group of settlers that made it through the first winter. I still had a lot of things I had yet to unlock, but I’d kept everyone fed and warm, including my livestock. With spring just around the corner, I was dealt a pretty tragic blow – the matriarch and patriarch of the family both died of old age within a few days of each other, and I had not made adequate progress towards growing my clan. I probably could have pressed on and made do with two less folks to handle the work, but again, I had learned so much, I couldn’t resist starting over yet again.
There’s enough similarity to Rimworld, and to the colony builders that have followed it its footsteps, that fans of the genre should catch on quickly enough. But there’s also enough to differentiate it to define itself as its own experience. The currently early access build has three default scenarios, as well as the ability to completely build your clan from the ground up. Right now, the developers estimate that players will have plenty to do to get through two years of game time – assuming of course, you can make it through the first harsh winter.
For folks that are on the fence, there is a demo available. Personally, I have no regrets making this one of my very few release day purchases.
2 thoughts on “Quick Look – Clanfolk”
I’ve got this on my wishlist and am very interested in it. I put a lot of time into Rimworld, too, but the one thing I didn’t care for were the raids and battles. The fact that this game cuts all that out and just allows me to focus on my colony is really appealing. Thanks for the review – I’m even more inclined to pick it up once I have some time on my hands (or catch it in a good sale).
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Glad you did a post on this one, Clanfolk is pretty high up my Wishlist at the moment as well. 🙂 I had thought to perhaps give it a little more time in the oven before picking it up — but I will almost certainly grab it before it comes out of EA.
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