Wine is certainly not my drink of choice, but tycoon management games certainly are. Terroir is a tycoon simulator about managing your own vineyard. Developed and published by General Interactive Co, the game released on PC on September 20, 2017 after successfully being Greenlit before the Greenlight system closed a few months ago.
The first aspect of Terroir that stood out to me was the game’s aesthetic. The minimalist art style attracted me. The clean and simple UI stands out as one of the game’s strongest points. While menu structure is very limiting, you can easily find any relevant information within a click or two. I did find that when trying to read some menu items that some text is cut off and unreadable due to a line being in the way. This may have been down to the resolution I was playing on, but it did leave me wondering what the mystery text was that I couldn’t see.
The menus were nice to look at, but along with the hidden text problem, a number of tooltips also have a horrendous flashing problem when mousing over them. This too doesn’t aid the legibility of valuable information.
One of wine making’s key elements is time; the way Terroir handles the passing of time is pretty special. The camera angle is mainly focused on your vineyard, and the day and night pass by as the stars and sky fly by circling around your farm. This simple animation added a lot of character to what could have quite easily been substituted with a bland clock snuck in the corner of the UI.
Terroir offers a relaxing soundtrack. In fact, even before jumping into the game, I left it on the main menu screen for a little while I finished up a few jobs because of how relaxing the soundtrack was. There isn’t much variety when it comes to the music, though. There just seems to be the one track thus far, so I can only imagine that it will grow repetitive after more than a couple of hours of gameplay.
There isn’t any sort of story, or back plot as to where you came from, what the aim is of the game, or just about anything else. You are just thrown in at the deep end of running your own vineyard. The game offers a short and basic tutorial which at least made the gameplay bearable by some mediocre voice acting. If not for this voice acting, I would have found it a heck of a lot more of a task to understand the basics of the game. The in-game manual is just pages and pages full of text which gives me anxiety just thinking about reading through them all from scratch.
The aim of Terroir is to build up a vineyard which not only pays for itself but also generates profits. You do this by growing, picking, producing and selling your wine at retailers. If you have played another tycoon game, Game Dev Tycoon for example, then you will be familiar with the mechanics. After you pick your grapes at their optimal ripeness, you must then fiddle around with sliders in order to produce the perfect wine. A lot of trial and error goes into this method, much like there is in other games of this style, but there is some methodology behind it.
Once you have created your wine, you must then get it reviewed by critics. For some reason, it is then the critic’s job to choose how much you can sell the wine for. While the price they give will probably be right and end up in you selling the wine at the market, you may want to be the Apple of the wine industry and have a 300% markup on everything you sell. Having the option to price your own products should really have been a standard feature.
While you can pretty much work out the best combination of sliders for your wine creation, a good portion of the game also requires some luck too. You can only harvest your fruits at a certain time of year, and you should only pick the fruit when they are at their optimal ripeness in order to not have negative effects on the statistics of your wine. Sometimes, when the harvesting months roll around, your grapes are either nowhere near being ripe enough, or they have been left out in the sun too long and lost all their flavor. This is caused by the randomly generated weather patterns, so no matter how good your recipe is for the wine, you are still at the mercy of dice rolls every year. This ultimately left me feeling frustrated during my time playing. I must have gone through 5 or 6 yearly rotations of having horrendous weather which left me with unripe fruit which then results in wacky stats on your wine. Poor stats basically mean poor reviews, poor reviews then mean you can only sell it for bottom of the wine barrel prices. Dealing with adverse weather effects is certainly part of the winemaking process, but it doesn’t mean it makes my gameplay experience any more fun.
After three or four hours or so of battling the elements, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t exactly having a huge amount of fun. I was just sort of playing, and fiddling with sliders. I have to say, I learned quite a bit about the winemaking process, but I can’t say it was my most enjoyable tycoon experience ever. I would have hoped for a better tutorial system to explain more of the game’s features, rather than having the player read through a thick virtual handbook.
The pleasing art style and relaxing soundtrack certainly pull back some points for Terroir, but ultimately unless you are an absolute wine enthusiast wanting to get a taste for running your own vineyard, you may just want to check out Game Dev Tycoon.
- Minimalist art style
- No Story
- Issues with text readability
- Uninspiring Gameplay