Empire Simulation, Summer Edition
It’s camping season, which means paying for overnight fees and wandering around at night looking for an outhouse. Idle Camping Empire: Game, the newest tycoon game from indie developer MEDU, offers players the chance to simulate the management of an outdoor recreation spot. While it can be fun to expand your park, Idle Camping Empire: Game’s limited and unchallenging design can quickly drain interest.
The duo behind MEDU has explored several different iterations of their tycoon model, including a freelance simulator and a furniture store simulator. Idle Camping Empire: Game fits within the typical framework for the genre. Players begin with a small amount of seed money and some basic camping infrastructure that gradually generates income. Players can increase revenue by upgrading existing facilities or increasing the number of facilities. Some structures bring in small amounts of cash with every use, while others produce larger amounts after a long period of time. With each upgrade, facilities serve more customers and, by extension, generate more income. It’s not long before players are making several millions of dollars every ten seconds.
Every action comes at a cost, but even a few upgrades have a high return on investments because of the setting’s endless supply of customers, who never seem deterred no matter what delays the park might encounter. Once the setting is filled with tents, bathrooms and rides, players can choose to start fresh in a newly designed campground.
While it can be fun to generate so much revenue so quickly, the rapid pace of Idle Camping Empire: Game ultimately does the game a disservice by making it too easy for players to get ahead of the system’s inherent inflation—it only took me an hour before a new tent cost six billion dollar. In two hours I earned enough revenue to start another cycle from scratch in a new setting.
The setting determines where players can build specific facilities. A bathroom goes here while tents can only be placed there. This limits most of the creativity that a simulator game might otherwise allow. It creates a game that is less a sandbox and more of a guided exercise in money management. The most creative choices one can make are in deciding to increase the park’s Wi-Fi or to hire more maintenance workers, and both choices yield essentially the same results.
The Waiting Game
The more tents you have, the more customers you can serve, which can result in long lines at the bathroom and laundry machine. This never seems to deter customers, and this is one more of the title’s problems: There are no setbacks, just endless progress. Idle Camping Empire: Game never really challenges the player.
If you want to build more grills or get a new picnic table or hire another janitor, all you have to do is wait for enough revenue to accumulate, which it always does. The alternative to waiting is to watch ads that give players a burst of revenue. This creates a game that is easy to put down and pick up again a few seconds later with more money. Between watching ads and waiting for customers to use the bathroom, there isn’t much else to do.
That said, if an easy relaxed game is what you’re after, Idle Camping Empire: Game can be satisfying. The stakes are low and the interface is easy to navigate. MEDU certainly does not want to produce a game that is in any way frustrating. If that means Idle Camping Empire can feel a little bit like, well, idling around, that might suggest you aren’t their target audience.
Is It Hardcore?
Idle Camping Empire: Game is fun, but it’s also not much of a challenge. It’s good for killing time, but lacks the satisfaction that comes from overcoming real obstacles.