Pioneers of Pagonia is a world-building simulation game developed and published by Envision Entertainment. Envision had a hand in ‘further developing’ Command & Conquer – working alongside Electronic Arts. They also received the Best Studio 2011 award, MMO of the year award, and many, many more. So we have an award-winning indie studio with buckets of experience… I go into this one with high hopes and great expectations.
The Return of Volker Wertich
Colony Sim fans may remember a gentleman who goes by the name of Volker Wertich. Back in 1993, he was the brain behind The Settlers – a classic real-time city-building game. Considered by many to be an all time childhood memory, we’re excited to see Volker make a return to the industry with Pioneers of Pagonia, acting as creative director and co-founder of Envision Entertainment.
As stated already, Pioneers of Pagonia is a city building exploration game… but what does that mean? Well, Pagonia boasts over 40 different buildings and 70 different types of goods. Players are encouraged to get creative when building and managing their colony, production chains and economy. While doing all of the usual city builder things, players “can explore and discover the fabled islands of Pagonia”.
To get started, Pagonia offers the following map choices; rich forest (easiest), wet grassland and dry rocks. Probably safe to assume that the resources are fewer on the grassland and rocky terrains. So for the sake of this playthrough, I went with the rich forest.
One thing that immediately stood out to me, was the procedural generation. That’s right, Pioneers of Pogonia boasts procedurally generated islands. This adds a level of uniqueness to the game which we don’t see from a colony sim. But what else makes Pagonia unique amongst the genre?
Well, snapping points for one. Buildings aren’t limited to a grid, meaning you can create more life-like towns and villages… not bound by straight lines. Although one thing I found a little strange, is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to manipulate time. It’s common now that colony sims offer a 2x or more speed boost to help pass the time on length constructions. Interesting that Pagonia doesn’t seem to have that. And while I was unable to test it myself, Pioneers of Pagonia does feature multiplayer co-op.
Overall Pioneers of Pagonia plays well, my only real worry is the passage of time. Not being able to ‘fast forward’ means a slow start and some lengthy wait times. Otherwise though, there’s nothing overly concerning or out of the norm for a pre-alpha build.
Graphics & Audio
Pioneers of Pagonia is playable on the most basic of systems, requiring only 4GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce 510 and an Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 to run smoothly. My RTX 3070, Ryzen 5 3600x and 32GB RAM honestly didn’t even notice the game was running! But let me just point out that these low requirements are no reflection on the games graphics or size, instead they highlight how optimised the game is. Bravo to the development team on that one, the game truly is accessible to those with even the most basic system.
In terms of graphics, I’d describe Pagonia as low-poly, cel-shaded and incredibly upbeat. Bright colours and happy little animations just scream exploration and invite the player into a warm, welcoming world. What really stands out is the level of detail, take the sawmill for example. You can see villagers sweeping up and dust clouds form, wood being cut with sawdust dropping to the ground, while workers yawn, stretch and wipe dirt from their hands.
And this is all backed up by some incredible sound design. You can hear the sweeping, the turning of the sawblades, the splitting of wood and the murmur of villages. What really stands out though, is how the sounds fade or appear as you zoom in and out on individual buildings. Honestly, the attention to detail is astounding.
For a pre-alpha build, things are already pretty well polished too. No screen tears, graphical glitches, misaligned textures or bad animations of any kind.
Pioneers of Pagonia is a difficult game to categorise in terms of longevity. Being a pre-alpha preview, and with all the content still in development, it’s hard to put a number on the playable hours. What I can say, is that Pagonia has both single player and multiplayer content, procedurally generated worlds and plenty of features yet to be added. The build provided for this preview, offered around 2.5 hours of gameplay.
With a solid foundation and some already polished content, Envision Entertainment have done a great job so far. There’s no doubt in my mind this’ll be a solid entry into the colony sim genre, but with some huge names behind it, there was never really any doubt.
Pioneers of Pagonia is set to release on 13th December 2023.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.