First look: Clockwork Empires looks freakin’ awesome

Earlier this week, Gaslamp Games formally announced Clockwork Empires: a civilisation management game formerly codenamed Project Odin. The game is being developed exclusively for Windows, OS X and Linux, and looks set to combine the core gameplay mechanics established in games from series such as Anno and The Settlers, with a story driven narrative and unique steampunk backdrop injected with additional juicy Lovecraftian themes.


Players will venture forth into a frontier world. Their primary tasks will be to build new infrastructure for their nation’s people, and to acquire new natural resources to send back home to fuel the production lines of their burgeoning empire. To spice things up, the game will not be tied down by things like historical realism, or scientific accuracy. Expect to encounter Kraken and other mythical beasts, as well as “more chaos and strange things and magics.” Describing the world [in this gigantic, glorious interview with PC Gamer – Ed.], Gaslamp CEO Daniel Jacobsen made reference to “those old globes that have everything poorly drawn and had monsters all over them.”

Having said that, the game world will be based on 19th century technology, so players will have access to steam power and things like gears and pipes, as well as Tesla coils and even pickling. You will have to adequately populate your colony with upper-, middle- and lower-class citizens, who will fulfil different important roles, from scientists to factory workers.

One of the more interesting angles the game takes is its “Lovecraftian twist”. The game will take clear Victorian ideals, and offset them against deeper, darker themes, such as madness, dark magic, mythical horrors and uncharted, volatile scientific discovery. “If you’ve got a whole bunch of people researching in a building and you just sort of leave them to it and you don’t keep tabs on them, there’s a high probability that they can start doing evil things and summoning demons or something,” says Jacobsen.

One of Gaslamp’s goals with Clockwork, is to recreate some of the gameplay ideals from Dwarf Fortress, but wrap them up in a pretty, user-friendly framework. This is exactly what the developer did with Dungeons of Dredmor, which is a descendant of the roguelike genre, but presented in a way that is accessible to the average gamer. When discussing Clockwork’s relation to Dwarf Fortress, Jacobsen said, “We’re trying very hard not to outwardly or ostensibly label it as ‘Dwarf Fortress For Everybody.’ But that’s sort of our goal at heart, to try and take that experience and make it accessible.”

“Two of the reasons why Dwarf Fortress isn’t for everyone right now are the graphics and the user interface. So we’re doing things that will allow us to try to get a lot of the functionality through while making it easy enough for people to pick it up.”

I’m also pretty excited about the game’s super ambitious procedural 3D building tech, which allows players to customize their colony’s buildings. Before they go up, you will be able to tweak the building materials that are used as well as the floor space and various additional aesthetic features.

And if that’s not enough, here’s a hit-list of features, because my word count’s running out:

  • Dynamic citizen simulation – every subject you see on your screen has a purpose and agenda that makes them a cog in the broader system.
  • Land and sea combat – also, battle Sky Pirates in steampunk Zeppelins!
  • Design complex plumbing systems and build “Megaprojects”
  • Four-player multiplayer available in co-op or PvP.
  • No always-on DRM!
  • User created mod support!

There doesn’t seem to be any word on when Clockwork Empires is expected to be ready, but everything Gaslamp has revealed so far has my mouth virtually watering.