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Ready to trickle down
Capitalism Plus is a business simulator in which you become the CEO of your very own publically traded firm. Your goals are to expand the company, prevent bankruptcy, and avoid being bought out by one of your many competitors.
The game allows you to build a variety of different organizations, but the starting point for many will be a department store where you can sell goods directly to consumers. You buy this stock either from docks that ship in foreign products or you buy them from suppliers, which can be other firms or just another part of your business empire. Farms can grow crops and breed animals, lumberyards and mines strip the land of its resources, and factories turn raw resources into valuable new products.
Each tile of the world has a value to it. Inner cities are attractive for department stores, but come at a high land cost. This makes it financially risky to put factories inside or even near cities, but putting buildings in the middle of nowhere increases freight costs for moving goods and leaves department stores without a soul to visit them. Raw materials like gold, coal, and oil must be obtained at nodes, which list the quality of the resources found there and their reserve, which both determine the cost of building on that land. The quality of the resource translates to the quality of the products made out of it, whereas the reserve determines for how long that node can be used before it is empty.
Simply creating a building is not enough, however. You also have 3*3 grid of empty squares where you can set up business units that can be connected by the lines between them. At its simplest, this can be a purchasing unit to buy stock that feeds into a sales unit that sells this stock, but you could also attach a marketing unit to raise brand awareness around the product being sold, fit in an inventory unit to store products into, or create a department that labels over a competitor’s brand so you can resell their product without shame.
Capitalism makes a good effort to educate you in these mechanics through its tutorial that counts 9 step-by-step missions covering most of the essential mechanics. Its systems are also well designed and I was especially fond of how the products work. You see, products are defined by their price, quality, and brand, but each type of product has a different balance for these qualities. People don’t really care about the brand of the eggs they buy, they just want some good eggs for a good price. However, people are more inclined to buy sports shoes with a nice brand on them, even if the price is higher.
Despite its excellent tutorial, the mechanics are just really complex and Capitalism is a game you gotta sit down with for a while before you’ll get anywhere with it. I think I replayed the first scenario at least a dozen times before eventually beating it, because the tutorial just can’t account for everything. When working with farms I had to figure out how to set up enough chicken pens to make sure I was constantly stocked on eggs in the store and I had to learn how to raise crops without going bankrupt between harvesting seasons. For factories, I had to discover how to make complex manufacturing chains and find out how to cheaply get raw resources so my products would be affordable.
Even during this learning phase Capitalism is an engrossing game and once you grow familiar with its inner workings, there is still a lot to play through. The game has a great number of scenarios with mission criteria, as well as a free mode where you can tune the difficulty to be just right. The game also features a remarkable world generator, allowing you to set some guidelines and have the game construct a new map to play on.
Gameplay score: 8.5/10
Is this work?
Capitalism is the kind of game you could fool your kids into thinking was part of your actual job. It’s all-beige background color and simplistic, desktop-like icons immediately tell you that this is a serious simulation game. The only comedic levity comes from the sound-effects when you click on farms.
Even so, this is a busy game with a lot of visual elements to wrap your head around. The top screen displays a world map, a zoomed-in map, and a number of filters to apply to it. The bottom half displays various functions related to businesses, like a build tool for new buildings or a statistics screen. These are the bare essentials needed to play the game and it’s fortunate that all these elements are easy to use and clear. The true complexity lies in the sub-menus found under the hidden taskbar, which lead you to complicated financial reports. The depth is there, but if you are happy so long as the overall money counter keeps going up, then just sticking with the main screen will suffice.
The game also has a narrator who reads the tutorial and mission briefings to you. However, during the game itself, it is sparse on sound. Considering putting on some of your own music or a podcast.
Presentation score: 8/10
This game is a business simulator through and through. It purposefully looks like some kind of financial software from the previous era and many might be turned away by how dull it looks. However, if you enjoy a game about manipulating numbers to make graphs go up, then Capitalism has a lot to offer. With a wide variety of products to produce and sell, as well as the random map tool to generate an infinite amount of worlds to play in. You can really sink hours into this humble DOS game and it’s not even as hard to learn as other titles within the genre.