Turmoil is an oil management game from Gamious, the studio behind titles such as Sprawl and Lines. It’s a curious breed of game, you are given a plot of land and must each out for oil to sell for the highest profit possible. You pick one of four aspiring oil entrepreneurs in 19th century North America, during the oil rush as you bid for land to get as much oil as humanly possible.
The game slowly introduces you to the standard gameplay cycle, between each site where you dig for oil you are returned to your hub. This is where you can upgrade your buildings, pipes and other such things before purchasing another dig site to repeat the process. There is a wide variation of upgrades, most of which simply increase the speed or the efficiency of actions. Each upgrade makes getting money easier but the aim is to get as much money as possible by the end, so you have to spend your money wisely.
Turmoil’s gameplay is honestly slow, even once the speed up button is introduced, the game runs at a slow pace. For some people this isn’t an issue, not all games need to be fast paced or intense but from my personal perspective there is simply too much downtime while searching for oil. Once you get past the initial setting up phase, the game just plays itself while you wait for the oil to dry up. I found myself buying horses to ferry oil until I hit the cap and just letting the time run out, if there was still oil to collect.
You do have to keep an eye on the price you’re selling your oil for however, on the left and right are two different places to sell oil which rise and fall at random. This means you have to switch where you are sending all your oil from time to time or if the prices in both are incredibly low, you start storing your oil. It’s an interesting concept that causes some rounds to play like that of a stock market, just so you maximise the amount of money that you make.
Everything in the hub world however seems to only increase the amount of money you make, so you can make “shady deals” with who you are selling oil to that will guarantee better prices. It just seems that the incentive to get the most money is all that is meant to push the player forward. There needs to be some way for players to interact with their opposition or vice versa.
Slowly the game introduces you to more factors to look out for while digging such as; rocks, diamonds and natural gases but it honestly doesn’t speed up or add change the gameplay significantly. The challenges it introduces are typically countered by upgrades, so they more often than not act like a money sink than anything else. The diamonds for example can only be collected by the upgraded mole, which is somewhere between a $30,000 cost. The mole which apart from collecting diamonds, doesn’t seem as useful as the dowser for finding oil.
There is also a weird bidding element when plotting your next oil site, you and the three other characters bid for certain plots of land. The weirdest part is that there are no hints whatsoever of how much oil you would find, but it informs you how much there was on the previous sites that you can’t select again. It makes the whole bidding process seem entirely redundant.
The player progresses you through four different zones, which as mentioned previously add hazards or obstacles to make collecting oil more challenging. Once all the areas have been expended, the character with the most money obviously wins. Turmoil also offers an expert mode, so multiple play-throughs are recommended if you can get past the repetitive gameplay.
Onto some positives however, the visuals of the game do have a certain charm to them. The 2D geometric style is pleasing and Turmoil has a habit of pulling out these delightful little animations. The end of each level reveals all the oil spots, so you can see how much you actually missed and the animation of how it’s revealed is honestly a highlight for me. You’re also given a whole load of graphs and statistics on how well you did, which is simply a nice touch.
Overall, I can’t say I was particularly impressed with Turmoil. It is a simple game that for those who want a slow paced game to enjoy would easily fit the bill. The problem I have however is the price point, while the game has procedurally generated levels to keep you replaying, the game itself doesn’t have enough to keep me wanting to come back. The game feels like the first few minutes of a Starcraft game, when you’re farming resources to be able to buy bigger and better things. The bigger and better things in Turmoil however are just better ways to get more resources. So, if you’re hoping to feel like the king oil baron, you might want to look elsewhere.
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