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, releasing on PC on 20 September 2017 after successfully being Greenlit before the process closed a few months ago.
The first aspect of Terroir which stood out to me was the game’s aesthetic. The minimalist art style attracted me when I first came across this title. The clean and simple UI also stands out as one of the game’s strong points. Whilst 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 is 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 and this too doesn’t aid the legibility of valuable information.
One of wine makings key elements is time; and the way Terroir handles the passing of time is pretty special too. As you can see from the screenshots your camera angle is mainly focused on your vineyard, and and day/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 have 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 whilst 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.
The game offers a short and basic tutorial which is at least made 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, as 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 built 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, 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 trail and error goes into this method, much like there is in there 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. Whilst the price they give will probably be right and end up in you selling the wine at marker, but maybe you 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.
Whilst 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 no where near being ripe enough, or they have been left out in the sun too long and lost all their flavour. 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 wine making process, but it doesn’t mean it makes my gameplay experience any more fun.
After three or four hours or so of battling with 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 learnt quite a bit about the wine making 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 Games Dev Tycoon.