Don’t let the soft piano music fool you. Community Inc by developer T4 Interactive and publisher tinyBuild GAMES is no simple, stress-free game. There’s so much to do – wood to gather, libraries to build, fights to break up, diplomacies to keep track of, fires to put out – that it takes some real time commitment, skill, and juggling to end up with a successful village.
The premise of Community Inc is that you’re a property manager, and all of these funny-named fellows running around on your property are your Lings. These Lings collect resources, build, fight, complain, and – if you don’t feed them well enough – occasionally start squabbling and setting things on fire. They’re your employees, helping you create the best possible village within thirty days. Why thirty days? Community Inc puts a slight spin on the SIMS-style gaming, giving you thirty days before you sell the property. Your goal, therefore, is to get the best value for your property by selling time.
Easier said than done. The three-level tutorial somehow manages to be both overwhelming and underhelpful; there’s a lot to learn, not only in the technicalities of controlling Lings, building, making deals, and assigning new jobs, but also in adjusting to the controls, which are a little bit awkward at first. The tutorial gives you a chance to click around a bit and provides a basic understanding of the game mechanics, but it falls short when it comes to teaching you things like how to feed your Lings, craft on the workbench, protect your Lings from the cold, and follow through with contracts.
The amount of trial and error to actually get into the game was frustrating, and unfortunately, (don’t tell them I said this) so were my Lings. Cute they may be, but when it comes to working independently, or, well, not setting things on fire, they fall a little short. Once you build up enough of them, it becomes increasingly difficult to remember who is where, and the auto controls for the Lings aren’t good enough to let them work on their own. And one Ling doesn’t necessarily equal another. You have to assign specific Lings specific jobs, leveling them up as they go, so that they can complete certain tasks that other Lings can’t. It’s an interesting idea, and it’s certainly a realistic look at an individual’s function within a society, but practically speaking, it makes it harder to find the Ling you need at the moment you need them.
You also have the option to forge relationships with other races. These neighboring villages have a strange cast of characters – giant tree people, wolves, dragons, ogres. If you treat them well, you can open up new trading options. If you treat them badly, they might pay you an unwanted visit. The idea is creative, but I would have liked to see more done with it. You don’t actually get to learn much about the races themselves, or why they all seem to be randomly angry at each other, and all of your existing contracts and relationships become twenty more things to keep track of.
Community Inc is a very specific type of game, catering to people who like to multitask and micromanage even the most tedious decisions (and they do get tedious). That isn’t to say it can’t be enjoyable for anyone else, but it certainly requires a great deal of patience. I wish the controls had been a little simpler, the premise a little more eye grabbing, and my Lings a little less petty (sorry, Lings), which is why I’ll give this game a 6 out of 10.