Clockwork Empires Springs Out Of Early Access Today

Clockwork Empires [official site], the Lovecraftian colony management game from the creators of Dungeons of Dredmor, has been swelling like a fungal bloom in the cellar of Early Access. Today, it’s ready to emerge. It’s the kind of game I’m surprised to realise I haven’t already spent fifty hours playing but I haven’t touched it at all yet. This weekend looks like the right time to visit the damp, diseased frontier of a clockwork kingdom. Yes. My Halloween game shall be a management sim this year.

Eldritch horrors assaulting a community of hapless settlers? Despair and grief that can drive those afflicted settlers to experiments in the occult? Steam knights? RimWorld-like emergent stories in an offbeat town management game? I’m quite excited by all of this, even if I can’t quite tell whether it’s going to be more The Sims: Dunwich Life or Theme Innsmouth.

The last major update had a fascinating mix of major additions:

implemented an Office Supply system to replace the upkeep system
added biome unlocking
redid guns & ammo (pew pew)
added madness and enraged states
and made enormous improvements to UI all over the place

The leap from “an Office Supply system” to “madness and enraged states” seems like a fairly sizable one, until I cast my mind back to the years I actually worked in an office. I barely left my enraged state for one entire year.

One reason I’ve avoided the game until now is that people I know who played told me again and again that it didn’t seem ready, with expected features either missing or unbalanced. I’m hoping the exit from Early Access is well-timed and that a few more months in the cellar weren’t needed to achieve finest fungal fettle.


  1. Harlander says:

    Cool, I’d been waiting for this to become finished.

  2. HexagonalBolts says:

    The premise for this game was incredible and I have been so eager to buy it. However, the early access reviews always say ‘hold off for a while’ – it will be interesting to see if they have pulled it off with the final release, I am slightly cautious.

    • Xan says:

      I bought and played the game when the last RPS article on it came out: “Will soon leave Early Access”.

      Sadly, I didn’t like what I saw. Yes, the premise is fantastic. But as a management game, I disagree with its paradigms.

      Say you want to cook food. You build a kitchen. In the kitchen, you can build stoves – those serve as workplaces that can be used by an Overseer and his assigned Labourers.

      And then you learn you can’t queue production up. At all. At most you can set one product and the number you want (I think there’s a “forever” option as well). But you can’t queue up production at a single workplace within a building. This is especially daunting when you need to manufacture things like furniture and crafting stations – good luck remembering what else you needed when the previous item finishes.

      Several workplaces are a solution? They are not free, and who knows how workers prioritize between them.

      It’s unpleasant to manage, and for me that kills a management game. I stopped playing very early as soon as I realized that. Decided not to refund (my fault for not researching the game thoroughly), but still left unsatisfied. Back to Rimworld for me..

      • Harlander says:

        Is it still that obnoxious? Their devlogs imply that the devs are quite willing to aggressively tweak and prune gameplay elements that don’t work out.

        • Xan says:

          I can’t comment on “still” since I didn’t play earlier versions.

          But what I saw looked raw and felt obnoxious enough to stop playing after less than an hour.

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        Malarious says:

        Eeesh, that sounds nasty. I’ve been following CE on the periphery for a long time and was thinking about picking it up now that it’s out, but it just seems so plagued and riddled with horrible design decisions and everything I read about it dissuades me even further. It really feels like the devs played Dwarf Fortress for 2 hours and then decided they could do something much better, while totally missing the point of what makes the genre fun or interesting.

        It’s really troubling: I love games like DF, Rimworld, Unclaimed World, (even Kenshi I suppose) — and I’m always happy to have more games to scratch that survival/management itch, but from some of the comments the lead dev’s made on twitter, I don’t think CE is ever going to be fixed unless he relinquishes creative control to someone else.

      • darkath says:

        To queue items you indeed need to build several of the same work stations in the same workshop. The priority of each “job” at a workstation is set from top to bottom (the higher the workstation job is placed in the workshop window, the higher priority it takes). If the colonist cannot build the first item in the list, he will try to build the second item instead and so on.
        So at first if for instance you want beds and planks to make beds, you can create a bed job first, then a plank job. It will ensure the colonist always make beds and if there is not enough planks, they will make the planks to make them. IF they do nothing it means they don’t have any more wood.

        You can also do this with several workshops but then you need several overseers which are in short supply at first, and the raw resource they will consume will be on first come first serve basis. I find it more efficient to build large workshop that have more workstations than workers to create as many jobs as i need.

        • Xan says:

          I find it more efficient to build large workshop that have more workstations than workers to create as many jobs as i need.

          That’s essentially paying a significant resource premium to deal with a severe micromanagement issue. And the mere idea of “pay to automate” is fine, but not when it’s a tax on every production building and feels like a workaround for a broken gameplay loop.

  3. Chiron says:

    I bought this a couple of years ago now, revisited it back in June.

    Its doing well but there was still a lot of work to do, the introduction of “maintenance” items around the same time also went down like a lead balloon as it felt very artificial, arbitrary and frankly didn’t work well.

    Will start it up and see if any improvements since then.

    • kabill says:

      The old maintenance system has been replaced with a new system which is much more intuitive and much less arbitrary (that’s the ‘office supply’ system mentioned in the original article). Works much better.

  4. Legion1183 says:

    I remember seeing this years ago (feels like it’s been years anyway) and while the concept seems interesting I find the graphics to be pretty dated. Reminds me a bit of AOE III, which was great back then but kind of puts me off this game.

    • phanatic62 says:

      I find this to be an interesting comment. Are there any colony management games out there that you could point to that have more “modern” graphics? I can appreciate not liking a given art style, to each their own and whatnot.

      Personally I’ve always felt the graphics in this game were quite detailed, especially when compared to something like RimWorld.

  5. Mattd says:

    I have been playing the early access version for some time – steam reckons 60 hours.

    I wanted to love it – the initial concept really appealed (steam pipes & drive shafts connecting your building! distinct colonies spread around the continent that you can move between! mysterious things going on! 4X-gameplay! interesting personality stuff!), but the game doesn’t really feel like it has lived up to expectations.

    What we have now is a fairly generic – albeit pleasantly whimsical – strategy game without much depth. Its basically the same game as something like Warcraft 2, except without the Orcs – i.e. you just build farms or workshops or whatever on your fixed-size-map and keep getting new peons to chop down the trees or work in the mines or whatever until you get bored and start a new map. I was able to get sucked in and play for quite some time just trying out some ideas etc, but ultimately there is not much replay once you’ve worked out the “optimum” design for your colonies etc.

    Sorry Gaslamp. I really wanted to like it. Sure I’ve got my money’s worth for 60 hours but I was hoping for more and was really surprised to hear it was exiting early access considering it was “missing” so much of what I was waiting for :(