Mountaincore – PC Preview

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Mountaincore (formerly known as King Under the Mountain) is a fantasy colony sim, now available for PC in Early Access. Taking inspiration from Dungeon Keeper and Dwarf Fortress with the art/design style of Prison ArchitectMountaincore has been a passion project of developer Rocket Jump Technology for nearly a decade. The development cycle seems to have had its ups and downs over those years, but it is now available for further community playtesting and input via the developer’s Discord server. You can pick it up over on Steam, Epic, and Itch.io.

Throw Out the Micromanagement in Mountaincore

I’ve spent my fair share of time in Rimworld. And just like many people probably will at first glance, I instantly thought Mountaincore was a Rimworld rip-off. It has the same art style and core mechanics after all. But then after reading through the developer update from April 30th on Steam, I decided I would give it a fair shake and see what made it unique. As they say, don’t judge a book by its cover. After reading through my thoughts below let me know if you’ve ever come across the game you expected to play out just the same as another that was released before it.

A sample colony layout is shown with individual rooms dug out of the rock and raw materials being stored outside.
My colony. Fairly small.

Gameplay

Mountaincore is a colony management sim at its core. Developer Rocket Jump Technology draws inspiration highly from games like Dwarf Fortress and Dungeon Keeper. Though I am sure Rocket Jump Technology, which began as a single person developer, had its own ideas originally when starting to work on the game, it is hard to ignore the striking similarities between Mountaincore and Rimworld. It also doesn’t help that basically since development began, Rimworld has been available in the form of early access since late 2013 and has garnered plenty of popularity and interest since then. Mountaincore began development in 2015. But I digress.

Rather than micromanaging every aspect of your settler’s lives, Mountaincore’s focus is more on the management of the colony as a whole. The player is not overburdened with ensuring that every single settler has everything they need to be happy at all times. Settlers go about their business and you need only adjust their skills and military status as needed. It’s a nice change to be able to focus on the overall design and layout of the colony. The tutorial for your first colony gives you a general idea of how things work, though I wish there was a place to go back and reference different aspects after the fact. I wasn’t able to find this anywhere in the menus and the tooltips only came up again on certain things. Most of it became learn as you go, but again, much easier to do without the micromanagement of your colony members.

Early Access Woes

During my time spent with Mountaincore thus far, things eventually took a turn out of my favour. Without micromanagement comes the inability to specifically direct a settler to complete a certain task. This became troublesome at times because I would have settlers wandering around idle when their specific skill was in need of being completed. The best example I have of this is when a settler given the stone mason task refuses to ever go over to the work room and craft materials I was in great need of. I gave three separate settler this and only this skill but all three just wander around. Also, I could only watch in horror as settlers took rough boulders to the import pallet only to have another settler come and remove it, usually placing it in a stockpile area that I did not designate for rough boulders. I am going to go out on a limb here and say this is likely a bug to fix, but it became rather frustrating to have a colony go belly up when things like this and my settlers died of starvation despite an abundance of food. Then I could not get the remaining settlers to dig the graves and remove the dead bodies. Frustrating to say the least.

Settler overview is shown. Each settler's happiness, vitals, and assigned skills are shown.
The overview pages give a nice summary of each of your civilians and military colonists.

Graphics & Audio

With Mountaincore having a graphic/art style that is fairly simple, there isn’t much to tinker with that would display obvious changes. One thing that does set this apart from similar games is the attention to lighting and shadows. Rocket Jump Technology says that the dynamic lighting is one of their proudest implementations of the game. A light source not only follows your mouse cursor but also some of your settlers as they move about through your colony. I don’t recall any similar games with this art style having anything like this.

Much like RimworldMountaincore has a soundtrack that leans toward its casual nature. Again sorry for the comparison but it is unavoidable. Sound effects and other audio cues are similarly non-intrusive. I did not encounter any enemies yet so I can’t say as to how or if the soundtrack changes to reflect threats. Overall the audio is fitting of the game’s style and I wouldn’t expect much different.

A training dummy and sleeping areas are shown for the barracks room type. I summary of military deployment and assignments is on the left side of the screen.
You can create different squads and assign civilians to them to become military.

Longevity

The longevity of Mountaincore really will come down to the individual player. Currently, there are three map sizes and the choice to turn on peaceful mode. The player is only able to play on that map with that colony. There is no overarching story or anything that ties the game together other than building the colony. As long as you don’t encounter game-breaking bugs, someone could easily spend many hours playing. Only time will tell what improvements come down the line in the time it spends in early access. The estimate is at least one to two years according to Rocket Jump Technology.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Mountaincore has a solid foundation. There are, however. some key quality of life components that are missing that could vastly improve the game. If you’re looking for something similar to Rimworld or Dwarf Fortress that is easier to get into, this will probably be right up your alley. I personally will give it some more time to cook. I’ll be certain to revisit it again and keep an eye on updates in the meantime.

If you enjoy this review, be sure to check out my other reviews here.

Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.

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