May 25, 2017

Andreas Betsche

Terroir: Like a good wine this game may get even better over time (Early Access)

May 25, 2017 | Andreas Betsche

When you think you have seen it all in tycoon games, an indie developer from Singapore releases a game with a new setting: winemaking! With Terroir, developer General Interactive Co. wants to deliver a simulation of what it means to own a wine estate and get into the fine arts of winemaking business. Let’s take a sip and discover how that works out in this very Early Access version of the game.

Terroir 1
Our Terroir. Each tile serves a different function: growing wine, managing a château and a lake for watering.

The first thing that caught my attention is the clean look of the game. All low-poly and very modern, the game’s hexagonal design is a clear break to what I expect from a wine industry, that often has a tradition of using convoluted and old-fashioned imagery. The game is not ugly but lacks some graphic details that would freshen up the winemaking process instead of sheer loading bars. The look isn’t the most important feature in a tycoon game, you might argue, so what about the gameplay?

Terroir 2
Cabernet-Sauvignon is one of currently two available grapes.

Terroir allows players to control the whole process of winemaking and management of a château, meaning home and cellar and adjoining wine growing areas as well as lakes and forests. The game reduces winemaking to its core mechanics: planting, cultivation, collecting, crushing, fermentation, pressing, ageing and bottling. Then comes the business part, organizing wine tastings and finally selling the wine. Currently, two kinds of wine are available to grow: Cabernet-Sauvignon (red) and Chardonnay (white). Each type of grape has distinct requirements to their tastes, which are categorized in acidity, sweetness, tannins and body. These characteristics can be controlled by the ripeness of the grape (how long they are exposed to the sun), the use of different fermentation processes or the duration of ageing in specific barrels. Terroir offers a weather and seasons system, that gives some welcome unpredictability to the gameplay mechanics. Other aspects like diseases or soil quality come into play but have only minor consequences at the moment.

Terroir 3
The process of ageing wine is tricky: how long should the wine be stored in which kind of barrel?

The goal of the game seems to become the most wealthy or renowned winemaker, hence the two currencies in the game: money and renown. Money is needed to maintain the estate, buy new grapes or unlock new mechanics. With renown, you attract better wine tasters and upgrade your château. While the process of making wine is very detailed and transparent, the selling part of the game is not yet satisfying. The wine tastings, for example, seem very random. I had very different results from zero to five stars without an explanation. The same can be said about sales, as it is unclear how many bottles can be sold to whom and why.

Terroir 3
Success! Our first wine won the ranking at the wine tasting: 5 stars!

For an Early Access game, Terroir is in very good and playable condition. The base mechanics work and the game runs quite stable. Overall, what is missing is content, and the developers at General Interactive Co. are well aware of that. They already teased more wines and a quest system to be added to the game before its scheduled release at the end of 2017. The developers have already been busy addressing bugs and also announced other localizations in addition to the already existing English and Simplified Chinese versions.

Terroir 4
Terroir offers day and night cycles as well as different seasons and weather conditions.

Some wines get better with time and I hope the same will be true for Terroir. In the current state, it gives a satisfying yet a bit light idea of what a good winemaking tycoon game might look like. I had some fun digging out the mechanics and enjoying the love of detail you can see in the game. Unfortunately, the game is missing the “soul” of a good winemaker: the tradition, the knowledge and the prestige. For some, wines are just a business but many consider it a form of art. Terroir is enjoyable but strangely clean. Developers, add some heart to your game and it will be a success! Also, the best wines grow on slopes, so please add some hills and valleys to the otherwise strangely flat terroirs. Anyway, we will follow the development closely and may get another look at the game on its final release. Terroir is currently available on Steam (Early Access).

Cheers and Santé!

Andreas Betsche

Andreas Betsche founded Virtual SEA in early 2016 after researching Cambodian mobile games for his Master’s thesis. He has a background in Southeast Asia studies and has worked and lived in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Since he has been actively playing games since the early 90s, combing both worlds in Virtual SEA brought together both of his passions.

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