The Sokpop Collective is an ambitious game development group where its four members individually work on a game for two months, leading to a rotating schedule of two games being released a month. Their Patreon essentially acts as a subscription service, though, you can simply buy the games separately on itch.io. Together, they’ve put out a large quantity of experimental games.
Of this output, I’m going to be looking at Simmiland, which was developed by Sokpop member Tijmen Tio. Simmiland is a combination of card and simulation game, where you’re a god that’s cultivating humanity until its eventual end.
You begin by placing a card down representing humanity, giving you a few AI controlled fellas that will run around your new world. From there, you continue placing cards. Some cards, like the sun and rain, will change the biome of an area. You can also place generic resource materials like trees and plants, though the resource that pops up demands on what biome you played the card in. Raining down on a place will turn plains into a swamp, then the swamp turns into a tundra, then the tundra turns into a snow field, etc.
There are two important resources in the game: faith and IQ. Faith enables you to play cards and you get more faith over time when characters pray to you or by fulfilling their prayers. A lot of these requests are reasonable things like creating a coral reef (mineral in water). Requests like creating a plague? Maybe far less so.
The IQ stuff in the meantime is tied with the “inspect” cards, which are important for advancement. If you inspect certain objects, your people will learn what they can do with it and their collective IQ rises. However, a lot of things can’t be inspected until you reach a hidden IQ requirement; like, you can set things up to discover cooking pots (inspecting puddles generated by rain), but you’re not allowed to actually do it until later.
So this leads into the main challenge of Simmiland: how can you stop your society from imploding?
As it turns out, just planting wheat won’t be solving hunger problems. After all, wheat is a finite resource, and while apple trees can regenerate over time, they don’t give enough to feed a sizable population. You have to figure out how to bring humanity to the point where it can be self-sustaining. After that, well, it’s kinda the general thing with these kinds of simulators: it’s pretty much impossible to lose after clearing the big hurdle.
But there is another hurdle to find for yourself. When you reach a certain amount of surplus faith, your people will build a church to you. The good news is that you’ll have unlimited faith for the rest of the game. The bad news is that the IQ of your people will be capped, so after a certain point, the discoveries just kinda stop. At first I kinda thought this was a “hur dur religion is stifling scientific advancement” thing dumb internet atheists like to spout, but also, a sustainable society can still easily be made within this limitation, so it isn’t exactly portrayed as a bad thing.
Instead of merely getting humanity to survive, you can also strive to lead humanity into space. The goal here is to push humanity along – but not enough so that your people don’t become completely dependent on you. The true end is to create a balance in belief and human intuition, to create a perfect world that’s neither ruled by religion or cold rationality. To do this, you have to balance out your faith to prevent the lock while still having enough to deal with problems. Or maybe call down a meteor to destroy the church when it gets built. It’s a simulator, gotta find some way to destroy things.
The game is split up in a classic and endless mode. The classic mode is the main mode where you have a finite amount of cards, where you’re unlikely to create a good society from the get-go. After each classic round, you gain stars from your deeds and meeting milestones and you spend those stars to get card packs.
I’m not going to lie, playing classic mode kinda gets a bit annoying to play as you get more cards, as you’re increasingly likely to end up with a hand of cards that aren’t helpful to you. You can try to get to cards you need faster by selling the ones in your hands, but then that runs into the fear of wasting a card that could be used later. Even gods are beholden to the whims of fate, I guess.
Endless mode, instead of giving you a selection of finite cards, provides you a hand with each usable card that can be used infinitely (as long as you have the faith). It’s here where you can play around with your society, where you can just build things up and destroy things without consequences.
As a simulation, it’s nice to watch your little people roam around while a chill tune plays. You don’t exactly command them; at the least, you can use wind cards to blow items toward them in hopes that they pick it up. Like, if you want to place your own buildings, it’s going to be a letdown because you have no control over that. However, considering the line between human intuition and faith the game’s mechanics presents, it feels fitting that your beings personally choose how to build their cities. Well, them choosing to build a farm next to a tundra and freezing to death sucks, but that’s just how life be sometimes.
You don’t have complete control, but Simmiland still manages to be a nice and relaxing simulator, with a weird focus on religion and science. I mainly enjoyed endless mode the most and got simple joy out of seeing these tiny people start farms and build up cities, eventually leading their own lives without needing to depend on me so much. They grow up so fast.