First Impressions of… Hearthlands

I’m pretty sure that mine near the southern river is haunted.

Hearthlands is a rather quirky city builder with elements of empire management. You start with a rather unassuming plot of land and you’re tasked with creating a sustainable flow of resources, housing your settlers, developing infrastructure, developing an army, and expanding outwards in a world filled with as many as twelve rivals. The creation options are pretty flexible, though. You can toggle various difficulty modifiers on and off to the lengths of creating a low risk sandbox mode.

Most of the difficulty modifiers relate to natural resources, enemy encounters, natural disasters (such as plague outbreaks), and whether special locations are added to the map.

You can also decide how many rivals you want to play with, and, if you do have rivals, you can make them friendly so they won’t ever engage in war with you. Also, quite oddly, though I could just be inexperienced with these types of games, you are given an amount of starting gold. The default amount seems to be 40,000 but can be adjusted to whatever you wish (higher or lower).

While the above sounds somewhat complicated Hearthlands presents most of these concepts in a rather easy to digest format. I’m not entirely sure if many of the features will remain the same as this is Early Access, but, there are few options for each of the settlers you can play as, which allows you to focus on the meat of the game rather than trying to remember everything they’re good at. You can play as Northerners, Southerners, Easterners, or Westerners and they all have different benefits/requirements. Again, at the moment, these are the only options available when playing as one of the settlers. The only exception to this is warfare where all of the units are available to develop.

Not very viable but helps to understand the way(s) to build a settlement.

Not very viable but helps to understand the way(s) to build a settlement.

To be more concise with the above, let’s say one of the settlers can only breed chickens and roosters- these will be the only farming options available when playing as them. However, if they prefer axemen as military units- the other units will still be available to develop if you wish. Likely because some enemies will be less or more effective against certain unit types.

While building your settlement and making it sustainable is the key focus there are other things you’ll be involved with. There are various enemy settlements added to the map(s) by default which will provide a range of encounters. From the simple theft of items from storerooms to engaging you in combat and/or attacking your fortifications. There are also locations you can visit (like mines or graveyards) where enemies will nest and encounters will occur. It doesn’t really look this complicated at first glance but it does have several layers of complexity.

As an Early Access title there’s a lot of content already in the game as well as regular updates coming through.

The later updates (from November 2015 onwards) seem to be focusing on fleshing out the magic system. So I’d expect there to be more options for units and perhaps even units that don’t necessarily favour any of the settlers. As anyone could build the structures with enough time, resources, and money.

I’m having a lot of fun with it at the moment despite spending most of my time in building phases (see the above screenshot). While not an actual feature of the game I like to generate maps and build settlements to see how I can most effectively access resources, generate appeal, and retain the settlers that come to my city. Hopefully this will help when I actually start a game with the intention of playing and winning (if that’s possible).

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

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