Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Turmoil and its new DLC for review.
Sometimes a game comes along that you didn’t know you wanted to play, but when given the chance, you realize its a title you really, really enjoy. Turmoil is exactly that kind of game for me.
Glancing at it, you might mistake Turmoil for a simple clicker mobile game (it’s also available for iOS, but I’ve no experience with that version), but it’s not that at all. Also even on the game’s own Steam page, one of the review quotes is “Turmoil is the epitome of simplicity”, which is also wrong IMO. Turmoil is in fact a pretty deep strategy game, with a lot of moving parts that come together in a very neat package.
At its core, each round has you manage an oil field. You place rigs, you drill down into the ground with pipes to connect your rigs to oil reserves, and you use wagons to transport and sell your oil for money. You then use that money after each round to buy upgrades and bid on the next oil field. Simple right?
As mentioned, there are a lot of moving parts that are gradually introduced during the campaign. For one, you have a time limit on each map, and you get bonuses for ending a map early. You also get bonuses for getting all of the oil, and later gas. You get a penalty if you spill oil, which happens when a rig is full but a wagon doesn’t arrive in time to empty it. Prices for oil constantly change at the right and left-side buyers, and the price at either location can be temporarily increase by a significant amount if you connect gas (also found underground) to that location. Gas can also be used to speed up oil coming out to your rig, which can either be very helpful or an oil-spill disaster.
Some of the upgrades include wagons that hold more oil or move faster, pipes that move oil faster, the ability to drill through rocks or magma, faster drilling, upgrades to dowsers (oil finder) to allow them to see deeper or work faster, and moles that can be send underground to look for oil, gas, or treasure. You can also place and upgrade oil storage units, which are useful when oil prices are low.
A typical level goes like this: You start with about 50% of the underground in view, and this slowly increases as time goes by. You place a dowser to find your first oil spot, and once they do, place a rig and drill down to connect to said oil. You then buy some wagons and start selling oil. Since you only start with $2000 each map, you have to pace yourself. You then continue looking for and connecting to oil spots, and if there is gas, plan how to best use that. You can’t cross pipes, and the number of connections is also limited. Pipes, rigs, storage, and wagons all cost money.
Each map has different quantities of oil, so a map with a lot of oil and gas is a great candidate for a big final push where you store up oil, then connect all the gas to one buyer, have the price spike, and mass-sell all your oil. When it all works perfectly, its a massive score, but timing it is tricky, and sometimes you will sell too early, or will run out of time before you can sell all your oil. That also means you will want to fully buy and upgrade your wagons and a lot of piping, so your investment on the map is also high (each map all upgrades have to be purchased, they don’t carry over). On a map with limited oil, perhaps spending on upgrades doesn’t make sense, and you make the best out of a poor situation.
Between rounds you can buy upgrades, which open up the ability to buy them each time on a map. For example, the wagon capacity upgrade costs a one-time payment of $20,000, and then costs $750 on each map. I like this because it still leaves the decision on whether to upgrade something or not per-map, but also results in long-term planning for the big cost one-time payments, since there are many and you can’t get them all quickly. In town you can also purchase price-locks for oil on the next map, reductions in the penalty for spills, or hire someone to find a prime map location.
Each location has an unknown amount of oil, but will likely have a similar amount to the squares next to it. You and the three NPC players bid on spots, and the spots that look like they will be better will likely cost more money. You win the campaign by owning 50% or more of the stock shares of the town, which are also bid on and sold between rounds.
The initial campaign, which I’ve beaten, wasn’t terribly difficult, but once beaten has a veteran mode that is much harder. The DLC campaign, of which I’ve played only a bit, starts off right away at a high difficulty. I’ve yet to encounter a bug, and the simple graphics and sound are pretty charming. Game starts up quickly and runs well.
Turmoil can be played in small bursts, one map at a time, which take about 10 minutes each. The original campaign took me about 7 hours to beat. If I had to guess, I’d say the game and the DLC are in total about 30 hours of content, assuming you also play veteran mode. At the price of $10 for the base game, and $5 for the DLC, it’s a great value for anyone who enjoys strategy/management games. Highly recommended!