When I first started playing Turmoil, I didn’t expect more than a simple yet well designed business sim with solid mechanics and great style. However, Turmoil has proven to be more than just another artsy take on the business sim genre. With a deep meta-game, an easy to learn but hard to master gameplay system, and one of the more enjoyable art directions I’ve experienced in years, Turmoil definitely strikes gold.
Set during the late 19th century gold rush in the United States, Turmoil puts you in the boots of an oil baron looking to make their profit out west. You begin your journey by choosing one of four (non-status effecting) characters, going to the mayor, and getting your first plot of land as you enter into competition to make the most money against the other three entrepreneurs. From there it’s a simple race to the top dollar as you hire prospectors, build rigs, bid for new plots of land, and upgrade your equipment.
The minute to minute experience of Turmoil is straight forward to start but grows at a palatable pace; allowing you to grow in the game as it introduces more and more to you. After the tutorial level every new drilling period, about a year, begins with you bidding on spots of land against the other oil hunters. This process starts routinely enough as there is a large swath of land to choose from, once you get deeper and deeper in however, you may end up having to get into a bidding war if you think a plot of land is worth the investment. Once you arrive with cash in hand you start your operation by hiring prospectors, building rigs, and selling to the highest bidder. This process, while simple on paper, grows increasingly more complicated and rewarding as you move on.
Turmoil’s meta-game is truly where it shines as it challenges your ability to manage spending, production, and resources as you look to maximize profits. Whether it’s dealing with constantly fluctuating gas prices, managing the amount of oil you pump so you don’t get fined for spilling, or even knowing when to pull out of a venture to gain a bonus. It gets even deeper than that though, as the town that acts as a hub between drilling jobs, offers numerous upgrades for you horses, prospectors, and rigs, lucrative deals that will set a company’s prices for a year, or even getting some tips from the mayor for a price.
These assets, while useful, also require some forethought; while it may be immediately advantageous to purchase a bigger, faster rig to drill, the price might require you to get a loan and if you’re nearly done mining a part of the map, do you want to run the risk of operating at a loss if your final dig location isn’t oil rich? These questions and choices are a huge part of what makes Turmoil so enjoyable; as it forces you to think critically about how to run your business in a way that is both challenging and rewarding. This, added with multiple types of currencies including diamonds, which can be mined with trained moles, and the constant race to beat out your competition makes for a sometimes hard to master but overall rewarding experience.
Of course, for those who aren’t interested in starting small, Turmoil has released a DLC titled The Heat is On starting you off with access to endgame resources, a new map, new NPCs for upgrades and support, and a new magma system for mining. The Heat is On is a great way for experienced, or simply impatient, players to dive into the deeper systems of Turmoil and kick start their oil empire. Oh, and this is all wrapped together with a beautiful art style and incredibly soothing soundtrack.
The only major downside to this game is that, like many business sims, it can become repetitive once you’ve found a groove with success. This can become more of a problem in the late game as once you’ve locked into certain upgrade paths you might find yourself just racing to get to zero. While this doesn’t make the game unenjoyable by any means, it does lend itself to being played in small doses.
Turmoil is a game that offers the depth of a $60 business sim in a much more manageable package for those who don’t have the time or energy to build a corporation from the ground up. With a solid set of core mechanics, a great art direction, a soothing gameplay experience, and for only $9.99 with pretty frequent updates from the devs, the only thing that Turmoil might be missing is a system for multiplayer.
Turmoil earns 4 GiN Gems by striking gold with players…black gold anyway.