A few months back, Windows Phone Central revealed that Game Insight would be releasing a sequel to My Country on Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. The California/Russia-based publisher couldn’t announce a release date at that time, but at least we knew that 2020: My Country would be their next game for mobile Windows platforms.
At last, 2020: My Country is here on Windows 8 and RT; the Windows Phone 8 version should follow shortly.
Like the first My Country, 2020 is a complex and comprehensive city simulation game. Think closer to Sim City than Kingdoms & Lords. This one takes things into the near future, throwing a few sci-fi elements into the mix. It’s still free to play, which has its ups and downs. Read on for our review on this new Windows 8 game.
After launching the game, players are thrust directly into a tutorial - no title screens here. You begin with a small section of city to call your own. The player’s first order of business is to construct an office building. Everything takes real-time to build, but spending a little energy causes tasks to finish instantly. You shouldn’t run out of energy during the tutorial phase, so just hurry things along.
Having erected the building, you’ll need to hire an entrepreneur to run the place. But you can’t just hire a building manager outright. First you’ll need to collect a handful of resources that the professional will need – in this case, a cell phone, briefcase, and folder. To get these and other items, just hop over to one of your other buildings and complete a task. Materials randomly drop after finishing these short tasks, so you might need to repeat the process a few times until you get the goods.
After hiring a professional to run the building, players can then select contracts for the business to work on. Initially you’ll have only one contract duration to choose from, but raising a business’s star rating will unlock longer and higher paying contracts. Whenever the contract wraps up, collect the money it produces and start a new one.
Making money and progress
Other types of edifices such as residential buildings just produce money on their own schedules with no need to choose a contract. After reaching level 6 (the end of the tutorial), players can perform short tasks at any building at any time in hopes of finding materials – or just to earn extra money. Collecting money from any building also causes a VTOL aircraft to come along and drop XP and more money for the picking.
Perform a building’s tasks enough times to raise the place’s star rating and earn a free spin at the upgrade wheel. Depending on where the wheel lands, players can win upgrades to the location’s money production or environmental rating, and even free money, energy, and premium game dollars. Or you might get unlucky and not win anything. The wheel minigame provides a fun little reward for leveling up a town’s buildings.
Like other city builder games, players always have one or more missions to work on. Some involve erecting new businesses or houses, while others might have you purchase upgrades for buildings or clear out space for future developments. Standard stuff, but cute animations like people rushing to a store or celebrating with fireworks instill more personality than you might expect. Events like UFO crashes, fires, and floods also keep things lively while giving players more things to do.
Let’s face it. There is no point in pouring countless hours of your life into a city building game unless your friends can see what you’ve built. Luckily 2020 does not disappoint in that all-important area. The game allows you to build a friends list from both Game Insight’s servers and Facebook.
I believe that makes the social features platform agnostic, so Windows, iOS, and Android players should all be able to interact with each other. The only catch is they actually have to accept your invites before you can visit them. Speaking of which, send me a friend request if you're playing! My username is EastX.
Upon visiting a friend’s country and remarking at how much nicer yours is than hers, you can also interact with your friend’s buildings. Each time you select one, both you and your friend will gain money or XP for your trouble. You’ll also get social points, which contribute towards unlocking unique goodies for your town.
Finally, players can send one gift per day to each of their friends. Daily gifts include materials and even professional workers, all of which are quite handy. Get a few friends to play and you’ll have an easier time of things.
Graphics and performance
2020 gives players so many things to do and systems to manage that it can get confusing at times, especially early on. The Windows 8 version makes things more confusing than necessary with tiny text and icons that are spread much too far apart. I expect things probably look right on low-resolution screens like the Dell Venue 8 Pro’s, but definitely not on my notebook's 1080P display.
The previous My Country on Windows 8 was also poorly optimized for high resolution displays, and things haven’t improved here. The tiny text and icons are particularly strange because the iPad version (which also runs at a beefy resolution) has adequately sized UI elements. Why not scale them properly on Windows 8 too?
On the other hand, the game does have a few graphical options that will allow it to run better on low-end hardware. You can adjust the pedestrian density from high to low to off, and even turn buildings completely off. Doing the latter will replace buildings with colored panels, which can also be handy just for taking stock of your country or cutting down on clutter. In short, 2020 should be perfectly playable on the more affordable Windows 8 tablets.
Currencies and energy
The currency and In-App Purchase (IAP) systems could also lead to player dismay. 2020 has too many currencies going on for its own good: game dollars, country bucks, gold coins, reputation, and energy. Country bucks are the main premium currency; you can buy game dollars, gold coins, and energy with them. Gold coins are used to buy specific items like hot dog carts and ice cream trucks.
Most processes in the game require energy to perform, whether it’s the actions that buildings offer, constructing a business, or speeding up a process’s completion time. The energy mechanic doesn’t annoy too greatly except for when you’re trying to earn a rare material from a building. You might have to perform a building’s action ten or more times to find the part you need, which can easily drain more energy than your meter holds. In those instances, it might be tempting to just buy the rare item with country bucks.
One of the most important features in free-to-play games with In-App Purchases is undoubtedly cloud save support. Nobody wants to pour money into a game only to lose all of their progress when they switch devices or whatever. Sadly, 2020 has no cloud save support. A game like this would be great to play on multiple devices - phone, tablet, and PC. Keeping the user's save data on the device and nowhere else really cuts into the potential to enjoy the game anywhere. Game Insight needs to get onboard with cloud saves and never look back.
There are about a million city building games out there on phones and tablets. Each game needs a little something to grab players’ attention, and then something to hold onto it and keep them playing. The last genre entry I reviewed, Kingdoms & Lords, accomplished the first part with its PVP battle system. But it totally dropped the ball at long term play value; there just wasn’t enough game there.
2020: My Country first stands out by offering a more fully-developed simulation than typical mobile games. It also packs a ton of content, with numerous missions, buildings, and ways to interact with those buildings. Like all of these games, you’ll need to be able to stomach the time mechanics in order to enjoy this one past the tutorial phase. Perhaps that’s fitting – you can’t build Rome in a day, even in the year 2020.
- 2020: My Country – Windows 8 and RT – 94 MB – Free – Store Link