Review: Turmoil

Drilling oil is not something you do on a Saturday afternoon because you think it is a fun activity. It is an expensive and complicated process of managing rigs, prices, piping, horses, land and moles. I am probably not making much sense, but Turmoil definitely is.

Turmoil takes you back to 1899. A simpler time when oil was still available in abundance and no one had the slightest idea the fossil resource would melt our planet. In this time of the black gold utopia you get to run one of the companies that made America great. Or at least full of cars.

The game by the dutch developer Gamious might take you back if we look at environmental laws, but it is decades ahead of its time with feminism. Who knew that 50% of oil companies CEO’s were actually women? This slight inconsistency is quickly forgotten when you arrive in the small town of oil magnates and are swallowed by a cartoony layout of the saloon, stables and workshops. Small details like a bull’s skull on a barn give a very american pioneering atmosphere, that made me think of Sid Meier’s railroads. Turmoil is not going to win any prizes in the graphics department, but the 2D layout does a very nice job in bringing you back to the late 19th century.

Turmoil village

Before you can start building oil rigs you need land. Every game represents an in-game year and starts with choosing a plot of land that you will exploit that turn. The map looks like it is an expansion of Colonist of Catan, with four different area’s: Grass lands, a desert, a prairie and an arctic province. The first area contains the most oil and has the easiest soil to drill in. No rocks or gas bells to disrupt your oil drilling. As you advance to the next area’s though, these elements are added to make the game more difficult. An obvious game mechanic, but one that works fine.

Turmoil map

Once you arrive on the site, you will have discover the oil first and there are three ways to do this. You can send out a dower that will search for oil with a stick, moles that will tick of random tiles in an area or a very precise – but expensive-  scanner. I used the moles the most because they could go very deep and almost always found every oil reservoir as long as I send out enough of them.

When you hit an oil reservoir you build a right and shoot piping into the ground the get the liquid gold above ground. Then all you have to do is wait for the right price and watch millions of dollars flow into your coffers. Well..not millions, it will be another couple of decades before companies will make millions, but a lot of money. At least a lot more than my opponents did. The key to make more money than your competitors is being as efficient as possible: spending as few as possible to get all the oil in the level out of the ground, without spilling any of it. Every level is a new efficiency puzzle, with new obstacles that disrupt your drilling plan.

Turmoil drilling

The first play through took about 5 hours. The first few levels were a bit rough, but after that I often made double the money my opponents did. I finished the campaign and won fairly easy. As a reward you will get an expert mode, were things get a bit more interesting. You get to pick between four new characters and it seems the male domination of the 19th century has caught up a bit in expert mode, because only one of the characters is female. More interestingly: they have super powers!

OK, maybe the powers are not that super, but you do get to choose one that will make you specialise in certain techniques to get an advantage over the rest. The expert mode is also quite a bit harder, but still very doable. The campaign takes about 5 hours on each difficulty and after that you will probably be done with drilling oil for a while. Ten hours of excellent puzzle/tycoon gameplay is still very nice for the price of €9,99. (€8,99 until June 9).

Turmoil is available for PC on Steam right now.

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