Workers and Resources: Soviet Republic 1.0 Review: Throw Out Tradition and Make a Fundamental Revolution in City Building


If nothing else, Workers & Resources Colon Soviet Republic will allow anyone to appreciate the incredible complexity and difficulty of building and maintaining a city. Another time I might call it the first ever city building game.

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Not even Settlers or Factorio can match their extreme focus on logistics simulation. This is not realism per se (you don’t have to look at automated vehicles and the absurd behavior of citizens to deny it), but a fundamentally different interpretation of what it means to build a city. It’s about coordinating all the pieces so that they are in the right place to support each other, and that the whole is all that matters, but the whole will fall if you don’t put the parts in order. That’s a lot. Sometimes it’s too much. But if you have moments like that, it will occupy them like nothing else.

In other city builders you can turn on recycling to reduce pollution by 10%. At W&R, populated buildings fill garbage cans with “mixed waste.” You need to organize garbage trucks, build a warehouse for them and a place where they can throw away their collections. But it is better to build centralization tanks here and there and then a transfer station for centralization these for a mass collection. The topic is not “lol, specific communes”: it is centralization at the very bottom.

I'm trying to move a building and I'm told

Image source: Rock paper shotgun/hooded horse

The city overlooks a beautiful lake in Robotnica and Resources: Soviet Republic.
Image source: Rock paper shotgun/hooded horse

There’s more. Research (at one of three types of universities) unlocks a depot that sifts through waste to recover construction aggregate. Further research unlocks more facilities where the rest can be treated, recovering various materials in the process. Better yet, work on sorting them so people can separate them at home. This allows for a greater range of resources to be recovered (the exact weight of each material in each container is constantly tracked), and this is not half the details of one service. Every step means moving materials, which means sourcing, fueling, and instructing vehicles specialized for different resources, and integrating them with a hundred other things you have to provide to your employees in return for all their efforts. Being responsible for everything means exactly everything.

This isn’t a game about painting zoning or cutting taxes. It’s a game where providing running water (instead of tanker trucks) instantly turns people into sewage factories. There are also trucks for this, as well as pipes and pumps. Vehicles and buildings wear out and require repair crews or scrapyards to recover their components. Demolition of a mine or demolition of a mine (and these are the most crucial things in the world) require vehicles and workers to dismantle them and remove many substances. You cannot demolish an inhabited house at all. It is not possible to “modernize” the building. If you want a bigger one, you’ll have to take care of its function while you wait for the crew to tear it down and build it again. It is a multi-stage process requiring the import, production and delivery of several additional materials.

You have to build something to tear something down. This could be Employees and Resources for tiny. You don’t manage budgets (money is only for import/export), you organize things. By thinking about what all your assets, vehicles and distribution networks are doing, rather than guessing what percentage of abstract businesses will disappear if you raise your tax rate by 3%. You have to organize and instruct your little mechanical vehicles, hoping that they will join a well-oiled machine and not another well-oiled machine, but you used the wrong oil and now everything is on fire.

Let’s just say it: it sounds like a nightmare. Even after several years of playing on and off, with mods on top (which I’ve played without this review, and I’ve noticed the game plays the same way), it’s still paralyzing at times. But W&R wants you to have fun.

While the popular “Realistic Mode” is entirely about doing everything from scratch, a special interest in the All The Things simulation is not mandatory. You can turn many challenges on and off at will. Simplify electricity if you are bored, teleport supplies to stores to save time, activate infinite money. You can’t automate everything like you can with Far Worlds, but you can relax its requirements. God lend a hand you if you never teleport – build a short-lived wind turbine for the millisecond of power needed to activate a satellite city, or utilize saves and codes to test the layout, rather than risk dismantling and rebuilding an entire district with a single train put three pixels to the left .

Play however you want, because that’s what games are for and because, my god, it can get finicky. If I’ve ever felt sorry for an urban planner, it’s when the decision to destroy a high-speed logging camp turns into two hours of moving and microscopically rotating buildings and about fifteen modes of transportation to move things between them, each with its own quirks. It’s more like thirty if you count every kind of power line and road that costs different materials, which puts a strain on different industries. Each recent design brings with it consequences and competing ideas.

A train passes through a rainy town in Workers and Resources: Soviet Republic.
Image source: Rock paper shotgun/hooded horse

The dramatic powers of terraforming offer immense and detailed possibilities, but there’s endless, endless swishing around trying to get the damn conveyor to where it’s sure to go. But only if you determine the exact order necessary to arrange everything, and then extract the right angles and lengths from the treacherous, counter-revolutionary path. The logic of where things fit and overlap is variable and sometimes maddening. And let’s not get started on four completely unrelated time systems or the alien logic of workers who will starve if the lights go out at the supermarket but teleport home after their shift.

I could recite a litany of frustrations and wishes, but it would overshadow how gripping and fascinating Workers & Resources is. I like his conceptual engagement with the planned economy, which genre advocates de facto observe but do not study. Complex models and processes built for the joy and satisfaction of watching them come together. Its foundations in Slovak history and experience and its refusal to be like anything else.

Many of you already know that you would hate it or wouldn’t have time for it. You should trust your own instincts. But some of you will love it as much as I do. Play the simplest modes at first, spending a few one-time towns to bail yourself out to learn the basics, the still-obscure UI and the esoteric logic behind it. Give him some space and you will be elated that you allowed him to take control of your life.

Bonus mini-review of the Biomes DLC

3Division and publisher Hooded Horse have released a pre-release version of Biomes, the premiere DLC. It is what it is and I say it with love: it’s okay.

You get three recent climates to build, each with a handmade map and place in the base game’s fairly user-friendly map editor. Each brings recent challenges: very long winters (heck, frost is by far the most severe problem) in Siberia, fairly negligible, road-slowing rains in tree-lined Asia, and the extreme limitation of water sources in the Middle East, a map of which also begins from the lack of electricity import points. This last one is definitely my favorite (hence the rather restricted number of standard screenshots – sorry) because limiting farmland and wells redirects your plans in an engaging way, and your concrete faceplates actually look nice against the sandy yellow.

Desert City in Workers and Resources: The First DLC of the Soviet Union.

Another desert cityscape from Workers and Resources: the first DLC of the Soviet Union.

Image source: Rock paper shotgun/hooded horse

Disappointingly, there are only three maps (currently no random maps) and the recent themed buildings can only be used when editing the map. I imagine a growing fashion scene will fill these gaps. Biomes are a nice bonus. A bit disappointing if you want to go all-in, but completely skippable if you don’t mind the default setting. So: it’s okay, but it may become more attractive over time.

These reviews are based on compilations of game reviews provided by the developer.

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