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Imagine Earth Review (PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, Linux, macOS, Steamdeck, & PC)

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Imagine Earth Review

Mars may be beginning to feel like a pipe dream, which is kind of great because numerous companies are taking climate change more seriously and are taking steps to mitigate the effects of global warming. Imagine Earth, on the other hand, wants to test your preparedness for a new world. It wants to see how well you can learn from your mistakes and build a better world from scratch. Right off the bat, it’s easy to see the daring venture Imagine Earth has set out to accomplish. It carves out a relatively underrepresented sub-genre in the simulation gaming space. 

With a new planet free to do with it as you please, Imagine Earth sees that you explore and exhaust all possible options for a sustainable future. The question is, does Imagine Earth achieve all it sets out to do? Is playing the newly released Nintendo Switch and PlayStation port worth it or are you better off spending your time elsewhere? Read till the end of our Imagine Earth review to find out.

New World Order

Alia in Imagine Earth Welcome screen

Imagine Earth in the year 2048, when human beings have done their worst and rendered Earth uninhabitable. So, ambitious companies set out to space, vying to explore new planets and build a new home. And in charge of operations on the ground is none other but you, the player. You’re free to chart the course you deem fit. Even though your first round of building and managing a new planet doesn’t work out, you’ll have five more planets to rectify what went wrong. 

In total, Imagine Earth offers players six planets to colonize. These serve as your campaign’s missions, with each planet having its own unique benefits and risks. Your job is to balance the benefits and risks for the good of your planet’s inhabitants. 

Second Chances

Building Colony

You'll discover new ways to sustain your ever-growing population by experimenting with different resources. Meanwhile, as your planet's population grows, thereby consuming more resources, your attention will shift from exploration to enforcing better strategies for a sustainable future. 

At the heart of Imagine Earth is one central theme: environmentalism. Its plot never passes up the opportunity to incorporate thought-provoking ideas about environmental conservation. And it never strays from the root question of all your troubles: Can you build a better world? 

Hit Or Miss

Old man delivering news

Unfortunately, while the story infuses heavy themes relevant to today’s world, the writing lags behind in creativity and engagement. You’ll find the writing weak at best, and can sometimes detract from the gameplay given how frequently the story unravels, even while navigating the menu. 

At least some of the voice acting is well-suited to the sci-fi sub-genre. Still, it’s a shame the voice acting isn’t stellar either, with poor lip-syncing on some characters. Fortunately, the soundtrack redeems the delivery of the campaign mode. It infuses calming and relaxing retro sci-fi music scores that keep you engaged in the gameplay throughout your run-through.

No Three Ways About It

CAMPAIGN MODE

Imagine Earth offers three game modes: campaign, competition and endless mode. Campaign mode serves as your tutorial, ushering you into the resource management, building and construction, and environmental conservation mechanics of the game. Admittedly, the tutorial section can pack a ton of information, so much so that you have to pause the game to let it sink in. 

It can be overwhelming at times, especially as the difficulty increases and you have to remember multiple controls. Some sections will have menus and text that are simply too hectic to digest. Indeed, many simulation games in this genre struggle with concise delivery. As a result, perhaps veteran players will get up to speed quicker than newcomers. 

Yet even with experience, the UI can be too busy, spilling over to the corners of the screen. This is probably more of a bug, but I assume narrowing the information down to only what’s most important will help a lot to put up the most concise menu that’s easy to navigate.

Meat and Bones

Exploding a mountain

Thankfully, once you get to the actual gameplay, the mechanics hold up pretty well. You discover just how in-depth the mechanics are, especially when you discover the variety of resources each planet provides. You’ll explore resources like energy, food, and consumer goods. Energy varies, whether solar, nuclear, or fossil fuels. Food, on the other hand, can come from farming or fishing. Meanwhile, consumer goods can come from mining or factories. 

You’ll set out to gather resources for your growing population, with the freedom to pick whatever resource you prefer. So, for instance, you can decide to provide your people with fish, power a textile factory with wind turbines, and so on.

Keep in mind, though, that each decision you make comes at a cost to the environment. Some factories will emit poisonous gasses into the air, while others will cause soil erosion. As you can imagine, you want to place factories farther away from residential areas while also regulating their effects on the environment to put a lid on pollution and wildfires.

Best of the Best

Merchant

In competition mode, you’ll go up against rival companies, some of whom align with your conservation policies, while others are hellbent on profitability. You’ll compete for scarce resources against AI and seek to dominate the galaxy. To make your colony even more prosperous, you can embark on the economic route, which allows you to trade and sell your consumer goods for profit. 

It means you have to place even more focus on producing competitive goods by investing in technological advancements and putting in place sustainable measures for a constant supply stream. You do so via the technological tree, which serves as the upgrade system for Imagine Earth. It ensures that you can upgrade your mining and factory plants with advanced farming techniques, for instance. 

Easy Does It

More casual gamers will prefer the endless game mode. It's a sandbox mode where you can build and manage your colony at your own pace. Overall, the beauty of Imagine Earth’s diverse systems lies in the content variety that gives you more than one path to take and combats the consequences in varied ways, too. As such, the campaign, competitive, or endless modes seldom get boring, with lots of content variety for replayability. 

Visually, Imagine Earth is a scrumptious delight. Its charming and vibrant color, beyond being a sight for sore eyes, also infuses intricate detail. From the buildings to the surrounding nature, each element in Imagine Earth looks stunning. The only caveat, as in most simulation games, is the sometimes crowded nature of multiple buildings. Still, you can always move the camera over the planet to view your scenic progress at different angles.

Grease the Wheels

managing city in Imagine Earth review

As for the performance, Imagine Earth runs smoothly. All the controls work responsively, even as they build up in the latter stages. It’s impressive that Imagine Earth works smoothly using a controller because most simulations tend to respond better to the mouse and keypad. 

You may spot some bugs, like obscured texts, some framerate issues here and there and a few reported crashes, which infrequent auto-saves don’t help. However, none of the bugs you may experience detract from the overall impressive gameplay.

Verdict

Clean Sheet

Imagine Earth infuses a thought-provoking story in its campaign mode, which sees you create a better world from scratch. It accompanies its compelling story with sci-fi voice acting, albeit of varying quality across its runthrough. Indeed, some of the story elements are derailed by weak writing at some junctures and poor lip-syncing at others. Still, when combined with the gameplay’s own interpretation of environmental conservation, you come to appreciate all Imagine Earth has set out to do. 

Of course, the gameplay itself has to be entertaining, and it sure is. Packed with a wealth of content and variety, each run on Imagine Earth feels fresh and new. You encounter different scenarios that each have different ways to approach and solve the problem at hand. Whether it’s choosing between renewable and non-renewable energy or everyday farming and investing in advanced farming techniques, Imagine Earth often always infuses deep but not too complex decision-making processes that put your simulation and strategy skills to the test.

It can be as simple as placing poison-emitting factories away from residential cities. Alternatively, the competitive mode can push you to take risks in a bid to remain the top-performing colony. On that note, it would have been perfect if you could compete against a co-op partner instead of AI. Also, the tutorial can feel cumbersome, with too much information relayed all at once and not enough time to digest it all. When the building and management systems grow deep, the UI and the world itself can become too busy. Some UI spills over the edges of the screen. Meanwhile, the controls can be too many to remember them all.

For all its mishaps, though, Imagine Earth remains an overall in-depth and entertaining experience any fan of the genre ought to try.

Imagine Earth Review (PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, Linux, macOS, Steamdeck, & PC)

Taking Climate Change to Space

Three years ago, Imagine Earth launched on Xbox and PC platforms. Now, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch owners can enjoy the sci-fi climate crisis simulator and economic strategy management game. The game packs content variety beyond expectation, allowing for delving deeper into its gameplay through repeated playthroughs. Its story relays relevant themes of environmental conservation, and the fact that it plays well using a controller feels like just icing on the cake.

Evans I. Karanja is a freelance writer who loves to write about anything technology. He is always on the lookout for interesting topics, and enjoys writing about video games, cryptocurrency and blockchain and more. When not writing, he can be found playing video games or watching F1.