Instead of following the well-worn path of traditional god games, Fate Tectonics doesn’t cast you in the role of an omnipotent ruler. Instead, you are tasked with building your world, one tile at a time, while simultaneously trying to appease the pantheon of gods watching over it all. Complicating things considerably is the fact that the gods, called “fates”, all hold domain over different tiles and tend to get grumpy if you favor some over others. Your end goal is to build your world in such a way that there is some semblance of stability, all while weathering the temper tantrums of the fates.
When starting a new game in Fate Tectonics players are given a choice between two game modes. The campaign mode piles on the pressure with time limits and goals while opting for the Serenity mode offers a more tranquil experience. The first fate that you encounter in the game is Penelope, who is the fate of civilization. Her basic tile is the grassland and as you continue to place more of these you eventually unlock cities and ships. Each grassland tile you get to place is randomized, so fitting together the world is a bit like assembling a puzzle. The tile can be rotated before being placed on the map, but must be connected and matched with other tiles for stability. You can also throw caution to the wind and connect tiles randomly, but these create some nasty fissures and make for a very unstable world. Tiles along the edges of your creation are also more unstable and prone to crumbling, but placing cities or boats stabilize these.
Gain enough experience from placing civilization tiles and you get to unlock Barnacles, the fate of the ocean. His specialty is ocean tiles, but using his powers you can also flood grasslands or create mountain tiles. Next up is Hogweed, fate of the forests, Catlas, fate of the earth and two more elder fates. The last two causes great upheavals when summoned, but if your world survives their arrival you gain additional benefits. Placing the tiles are simple enough for anyone with any type of pattern matching skills, but it soon becomes a juggling act. Basic tiles are free to place, but the more specialized tiles of each fate each come with a recharging period. Also, place too many tiles of one fate while neglecting the others and they will retaliate by taking it out on your world. There is also a fate called Pestur, who shows up uninvited and causes havoc. Of course, it is entirely possible to stick with Penelope and not summon the other fates even when you have gained enough experience, but while this results in peace, it also makes for a boring gameworld.
When playing the campaign mode you are initially given very little time in which to build your world and when the timer runs out you must destroy it. However, all your actions during an “age” earns you additional time for the next one. So, placing 20 grassland tiles in 30 seconds without a loss or mismatch might earn you an additional minute in the next age, while surviving the arrival of an elder fate can net you more than seven. Once you manage to have the entire pantheon active at the same time you are blessed with infinite time.
Fate Tectonics features a beautiful pixel art style for the visuals with plenty of detail, especially for the fates that swirl around the map on clouds. The grassland, forest, ocean and mountain tiles are all very distinct and it is quite satisfying seeing your world evolve. Tiny villages can grow into castles and fields of crops appear around your towns. Anyone who grew up playing Super Nintendo titles will feel right at home with the visual style of the game. In a move that we would love to see more often in the industry the developers also catered to players who suffering from color blindness. In fact, Fate Tectonics features a design and color palette that is resistant to three different types of color blindness. Tying in nicely with the pixel art style is a rocking 16-bit symphonic soundtrack. Initially the music is very calm, but changes as more fates appear in the world or disasters take place, which is a really nice touch.
Thanks to its streamlined interface the game is very straightforward to play and everything is mouse controlled. Tiles are selected from the bottom of the screen, rotated by right-clicking and placed with a left-click. Hovering the cursor over a tile also activates a small animation that shows you exactly what it is used for. This means that despite looking rather complicated at first glance the game is accessible enough to master the basics very quickly. Figuring out how to keep the fates happy and prevent them from tearing your world apart is another matter though.
We ran into a couple of bugs, such as endlessly shaking tiles and corrupted saves shortly after the launch of Fate Tectonics, but Golden Gear Games have been working around the clock to iron out all the wrinkles. After the last update, all the issues appear to have been addressed and we played for hours without any mishaps. Although the gameplay is definitely influenced by Carcassone, there are also hints of Populous mixed in. The combination of strategy and puzzle solving is certainly unique and makes for a very addictive gameplay experience. Since most of the bugs have been squashed there isn’t much to complain about. The game is lacking a multi-player mode and can perhaps become a little repetitive after playing through a couple of ages, but overall it is very charming and quite addictive. Watching Barnacles sink half your continent because you got a little too enthusiastic about placing boats in his pristine ocean is obviously a little frustrating, but all part of the challenge.
- OS: Windows XP or better
- Processor: 2.33GHz or faster x86-compatible processor, or Intel Atom™ 1.6GHz or faster processor for netbook class devices
- Hard Drive: 100 MB available space
- OS: OS® X 10.8.x (latest version)
- Processor: Intel Core™ 2 Duo