City builder games come a dime a dozen, with so many options to choose from, so Patron from Overseer Games has a bit of a hill to climb from the very start. However, the folks at Overseer recognize that challenge and have made the social structure a core part of the gameplay in Patron. The question is, is it enough to make Patron stand out in a crowded genre?
The most important thing to note about Patron is that it is hard. One wrong decision or bad allocation of resources can undo all of the hard work you’ve put in. That challenge is expected in a city builder, though, so it’s definitely not a bad thing. I was warned by the developers to build patiently and prepare for the first winter. Did I do either of those? Of course not. Did I regret it? Absolutely. The warnings to not expand too quickly and prepare for the first winter are absolutely necessary unless you want to restart the game after only a few hours of play. Once I listened to that advice, the ball really got rolling.
Like any city builder, careful planning and resource management are vital to success. Patron does a great job introducing you to the basics and then letting you off on your own. I found the building system to be quite clear and easy to understand. If you have played a city builder before, that aspect of things will feel refreshingly familiar. Obtaining the right resources and upgrading your existing buildings to make them more efficient is a must. The sooner you get started on that, the better. While those might be familiar parts of a city builder game, Patron breaks out of the mold a bit from there.
The biggest selling point for Patron is the important and intricate social interactions. Overseer has made that the highlight of their marketing, so I was interested in seeing how well it worked in action. Every character is said to have their own unique opinions and reactions to what you do. This requires a skilled ability to wade through political waters in a fictional medieval world. I really appreciate the focus on the individual citizens, even if they feel a little repetitive at times. That is to be expected as your city grows. In reality, it isn’t easy to make every character truly special. While I would not say the social focus of the game is mind-blowing, it is still a refreshing addition to a genre that is typically full of spreadsheet managers. Success depends on keeping your citizens happy, which is much easier said than done.
Patron is still a city builder, though, so you will see a substantial amount of familiar events and interactions outside of the emphasis on social interactions. Disasters play a key role in Patron, and you will need to be prepared to think on your feet to help your population rebuild. This will be familiar to fans of the genre, but the added focus of individual citizen emotions and responses adds a level of difficulty that I really appreciated. You will also have to deal with both good and bad weather, taking advantage of the former to prepare for the latter. Failing to do so can be devastatingly catastrophic.
Outside of weather and disasters, you will also face many political decisions, such as whether or not to welcome immigrant refugees. The developers specifically warned me about this before playing, that I would have to weigh my desire to help over the practical ability to sustain added citizens. I made the hard decision to turn them away when I was first faced with this issue, knowing I simply didn’t have the food and other resources to make it happen. I actually felt bad doing it, even though they were completely fictional. It also made me put a larger emphasis on increasing my food production and storage.
There is also a research aspect to the game, but it is not too different than what you would find in other games. I didn’t have any issues with how it was implemented, but I didn’t think it was groundbreaking either. It is a functional system, much like the way building operates in the game. Those things being familiar allow you to focus more on the social interactions in the game, which is helpful.
Overall, I think Patron is an ambitious game, working hard to stand out in a saturated genre with countless clones of each other. The social system is intricate, although I think it still has some work to be done to make it feel as massive as Overseer Games would like it to be. Still, there is a lot to like about Patron, and it is a perfectly enjoyable city builder.
Patron is available on August 10th on Steam.
- Rating - 7.5/107.5/10
Patron is an ambitious game, working hard to stand out in a genre that is saturated with countless clones of each other. The social system is intricate, although I think it still has some work to be done to make it feel as massive as Overseer Games would like it to be. Still, there is a lot to like about Patron, and it is a perfectly enjoyable city builder.