Quick Look – Founders’ Fortune (Humble Choice – April 2023)

I have a long wish list on Steam, and I’m still surprised when something on there shows up in the Humble Choice. Of course, that wish list has an awful lot of city builders and colony sims, since those are a couple of my comfort genres. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to take a look at Founders’ Fortune this month. This colony sim with a cartoony aesthetic retails for $21.99, and this is the first time it’s appeared in a bundle according to IsThereAnyDeal.

I’ve loved city builder games for as long as I can remember, and colony sims since I bought Rimworld when it released on Steam back in 2016. At first glance, Founders’ Fortune looks like a pretty casual take on the colony sim genre, but it’s graphical style is most definitely a trap. So is its rather meager tech tree. I initially dove in on the normal difficulty, expecting to make mistakes, of course, but I wasn’t really expecting a challenge.

I was wrong. I was very very wrong.

Time passes very quickly in Founders’ Fortune, so your colony is going to be in for a really rough time if you spend too many early game days figuring things out. You are only given two colonists to start, and there are way too many tasks that need doing to mismanage them. In order to attract other people to your colony, you will need to build a bonfire, which is easy, but also fulfill enough of your current colonists’ wishes to hit a satisfaction threshold. The wish system, to me, felt ripped directly from later iterations of The Sims, and once I mentally made that comparison, I couldn’t shake it.

Probably my biggest gripe trying to learn the game is that the “tips” which tell you how to play the game seem to disappear into the ether once you’ve viewed them. I’m used to games in this genre having a huge help screen with all kinds of little details, but Founders’ Fortune expects you to immediately commit to memory the way things work. I am frequently guilty of clicking through pop-ups before I’ve fully processed what they say, and I found myself unable to add any further colonists to my initial colony because I glossed over the tool tip of how to interact with newcomers. Oops.

At this point, I elected to re-start on the easiest difficulty option, and promised myself I would pay better attention to the tutorial-style pop-ups.

My second attempt was definitely better, but I also picked a sub-optimal starting location. Since I was still mostly trying to get a feel for the game, I just rolled with it, but I very nearly ran out of food since there were no apple trees in a reasonable range, and I didn’t get my farms producing before spring ended. The seasons could really use a couple more days.

As your colonists do the same job, they will start to gain ranks, which you will need to spend on further perks. A lot of this is fairly unintuitive, and I have to admit I still don’t understand if the benefits of being able to wear a master outfit is worth the two points and the hassle of making them. It is clear, however, that once you have enough colonists to allow them to specialize, there’s a definite upside to doing so.

Your colonists also get reward points as you fulfill their wishes, which you can spend on additional traits, use to get rid of negative traits they might have come with, or to slap a band-aid on if they’re sick, hurt, or just really grumpy. These seem to be fairly easy to come by, at least in the early game, so it’s probably best to use them to buff up colonists early on, since that seems to be the point where most colonies will either succeed or fail.

I have yet to get far enough to see how the other systems actually impact gameplay. There are traders, which probably are useful, and enemy tribes, which I’m guessing are somewhere between mildly irritating and completely terrifying, depending on the difficulty you choose and how much effort you put into weapon production. There is also mod support, and around 50 mods currently available on the Steam Workshop.

All in all, I’m not sure yet how I feel about this one, and I’m not sure if it’s because I haven’t given it enough time and attention, or if I just am unwilling to admit I don’t care for it because I really want to like it. I also haven’t had a lot of experience with games that feel simultaneously like they’re overly complicated and utterly bare-bones. Right now, I’m leaning in the direction of it being okay, but not terribly impressive. If you like colony sims (and are okay with the overly cutesy aesthetic) then it’s worth a spin if you’ve already decided to pick up this month’s bundle for some of the other titles, but as implied by it being the 8th title in the bundle, it’s unlikely too many people will pick up this month’s choice primarily for this title. That said, the total cost of the bundle is only about a dollar more than the historic low for Founders’ Fortune, so if you’re really interested in this one, and have at least a passing interest in at least one other title in the bundle, it might be worth it for you.

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