The awkwardly named Rescue HQ – The Tycoon was obviously a labour of love. I just wish I could say that I could requite that love. Oh, I wish. There were a lot of elements in the game that had potential. Prior to playing, I was definitely excited – I love me a good building / management game – but I can’t help but feel underwhelmed by the experience. Stillalive Studios, known for the Bus Simulator series, seems to be struggling with the transition from the highly technical and realistic into the more casual, laid-back experience of Rescue HQ – The Tycoon.
Gameplay – Building your Rescue HQ
Rescue HQ – The Tycoon (gosh, it really does feel like a slog typing that) has two forms of in-game currency. The first, the actual cash, you can earn by dispatching vehicles and crew to emergencies, and successfully averting disaster. Feels a bit odd for the emergency services to work off commission – I can only imagine after they introduced that, the number of fires in the city probably skyrocketed dramatically. I digress, however. The other form of currency is Reputation. You earn Reputation in much the same way – averting disaster – but can be lost, as well, by failing to do so.
Cash allows you to build new facilities, pay your staff, and expand. You spend Reputation to unlock new vehicles, new items – because apparently, the fanciest firetrucks only go to the celebrity stations. It’s a common trope, but executed poorly, and feels contrived. The slog to build up reputation to unlock new objects really slows gameplay. Doubly so if you’re sitting on a huge cash fortune you can’t spend. Consequently, the net result is that you spend a lot of time in Rescue HQ – The Tycoon waiting for numbers to tick up.
Once those numbers do tick up, you’ll likely find yourself (as I did) pausing the game to build. The actual building – which is 80% of the gameplay – is lackluster at best. You have limited space available, meaning you need to be efficient before anything else. Garages must face on to streets, obviously. Hence you’ll find your HQ looks a lot like everyone else’s; a ring of garages with clusters of rooms inside them. I didn’t feel like I ever got the chance to be creative in Rescue HQ – The Tycoon. Just efficient.
Design & Aesthetic – A Smorgasbord of Mediocrity
What really disengaged me from Rescue HQ – The Tycoon was the frankly woeful art. The game’s featureless NPCs, boring textures and placeholder UI made it all feel unfinished. Normally, I’m a big fan of low-poly art, when done right. This was not done right. Everything feels like programmer art. Certain objects – such as the kitchenette – clip through nearby walls. For a game Stillalive are charging €24.95 for, that’s not up to scratch.
On top of this, check out the Tropico-esque caricature gracing the dialogue boxes. Nowhere else in the game are there assets with this level of detail, nor in this art style. It’s completely incongruent, and just highlights the lack of detail in the rest of the game’s assets.
Unfortunately, the localisation of the in-game text is poor. Jokes don’t land, descriptions are awkward and cumbersome. I’m sure everything reads very well in German, the native language of the developers – but the English-language translation is very lacking.
It seems that Stillalive skimped on this feature, perhaps considering it unimportant – and that approach has coloured the whole of the rest of the game. I don’t know if they felt they were pushed for time, but the final product has many cut corners.
If you’re a huge, unshakable fan of building / management games like Two-Point Hospital or Prison Architect, it might be worth waiting for a pretty big sale to pick up Rescue HQ – The Tycoon. At the launch price, it’s not worth the quality or amount of content you’re paying for.
Here’s hoping that Stillalive take a number of lessons learned from Rescue HQ for their next games! Bigger, better and brighter things ahead, and our best wishes to the lovely Stillalive folk in Austria.