Park Beyond Impressions: We've played a bunch of the wacky simulation game
While the newest digital theme park is still under construction, we are happy to report that no one has been injured despite some pretty dangerous rides.
The Germans are known as a thorough and industrious people. Whether the stereotype is true or not, they certainly love their simulators with games like Farming Simulator and Euro Truck finding a niche market in German speaking countries.
In that regard Park Beyond from the German studio Limbic Entertainment aims to continue the trend by delivering a pretty complex amusement park simulator. That being said, emphasis is clearly on accessibility and fun making for a game with hopefully a wider appeal.
As part of our Gamescom coverage, we got a chance to try an early build of the game, and actually came away quite impressed.
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A Crazier Ride Than Usual
The developer's previous game is the wacky sim game Tropico 6 where you, as the dictator of a stereotypical banana republic, can lead your nation to glory or transfer the treasury to your offshore bank accounts. The exaggerated and satirical tone is even more pronounced in Park Beyond, where Limpic Entertainment has introduced the new word impossification. In simple terms, it means that we have access to the same rides, staff members and facilities as in a normal amusement park - everything is just a lot crazier than usual!
This results in some fanciful inventions. Sanitary workers collect equal parts litter and unlucky guests with a huge vacuum cleaner (sort of like in Ghostbusters), explosive cannons shoots carts from one track to the next on the rollercoasters, and the toilets are designed as merry-go-rounds. Actually, I had to make up the last example about the toilets, as we didn't really get to see that many of the impossified features during our preview. We did however get to try another one of the game's selling features.
Learn the Game trough the Campaign
During our time with Park Beyond, we got to play the first mission of the campaign. It all starts with the player - known as The Visionary - waking up in a nicely designed apartment filled to the brim with elaborate models of rollercoasters. It doesn't take more than a minute or so before you get to try your hand at the real deal, as the spirited Blaze tasks you with building a huge rollercoaster right trough the heart of the city. At the end of the mission, you are then introduced to the park manager Pete that takes you on as his new protégé.
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The campaign is probably not going to win any awards for its storytelling, and the game even pokes fun as its own writing. But it does - based solely on the first mission - seem to do a good job of easing you into the various mechanics. Going further, each aspect of the park management, such as finances and guest satisfaction, is represented by a cast of colourful characters that are gradually introduced during the story. The developer promises that missions will not be completely linear, and even during the brief first missions we got to make a few choices on how to proceed.
Rollercoaster Construction Shows Great Potential
But what about the actual gameplay? As already mentioned, the first mission had us designing a complicated rollercoaster with twists and turns through a sprawling city. During a brief presentation, the game's creative director, Johannes Reithmane, spoke about how Limbic Entertainment wanted to make the game easily accessible while still containing advanced features underneath all the high-pitched screams and sticky candy floss. The track editor in many ways seems to capture this design philosophy perfectly.
The tracks are easily placed and automatically adapt to the terrain if there are obstacles in the way or smaller changes in elevations. Still, it never wrestles control away from the players, and by adjusting the height of the tracks or the angle of the final track piece, you can control the layout with great precision. As the track design is modular, it's also easy to adjust an earlier part without having to undo all of your previous work.
The first mission didn't take more than 15 minutes to complete, but despite the short play time, a lot of interesting features were gradually introduced such as the opportunity to build rails with lifts for going uphill. We also got to try some of the zanier features such as canons shooting the carts over obstacles, and we even tunnelled trough a mountain - security and environmental protection be damned.
The Gates Are Opening in 2023
After clearing the first mission we also got to dabble a bit in the sandbox mode. Park Beyond is still very much a work in progress with the UI consisting mostly of placeholders, and we only got to try one of the many different park themes. So, while it's a bit early to draw conclusions, the park features seemed pretty intuitive, and there was a nice sense of life when the gates opened, and the guests started flooding in. While we only briefly tried the many customisation options, a short video presentation showed some quite impressive user-created designs that you will be able to easily share with friends or strangers online.
Of course, everyone who has played the original Rollercoaster Tycoon knows that it's probably not a good idea to embark on a ride until you can see if the tracks are actually complete, or else you might end up with some unwanted flying lessons. It's still to early to tell how Park Beyond will turn out, but what we have seen so far certainly seems promising, and, with the full game not releasing before 2023, the developer has plenty of time to fine-tune what already looks to be an enjoyable experience.