Everyone remembers Breaking Bad right? The television series captured the interest of millions of viewers by telling the captivating story of a man who produces drugs as a means to ensure his family has a future but it became so much more than that. The series became so popular that it won numerous Emmys and recently a spin-off series titled Better Call Saul was launched. It hasn’t had a video game though, or at least one representative of it — that is until now.
Okay, so Basement isn’t a Breaking Bad game. But it is the closest we’ll probably ever get to one. That’s because Basement is a simulation game all about building a criminal empire from the ground up. Or at least, that’s the premise. In actuality it’s a little less than that, at least right now. The game recently launched on Steam under the Early Access program and since the game can now be purchased, I figured I’d give it a spin.
That’s about all the set-up you’ll get for Basement. Once you actually download and install the game, you’re quickly greeted by a screen that says the game is a work in progress. There’s no story here, only your imagination. There isn’t even a tutorial to explain the game. Instead after you click okay, you’re immediately dropped off to begin taking over the city. Thankfully, Basement is very straightforward and there isn’t an incredible need for a tutorial, for the moment at least.
The goal is to take over all of the districts in the city. You do this by building up your base, adding production facilities and other things along the way. Since it’s pre-alpha, there isn’t a whole lot you can build. It’s just the basics. But the basics are actually pretty extensive. You can build various production facilities for marijuana, acid, heroine, and speed. All of these can be built from the beginning, but to actually make use of most of them you need to take back the dealers from the police.
In order to do that you have to build security stations and hire guards. The goal is to have enough guards to defend against police brutality while also expanding. Expansion can be tricky though because the more you expand, the less time you’ll have in between police attacks. Pick up too many districts too fast and you might not have a large enough force to defend yourself. Lose all your guards before you can manage to afford more and you’re effectively out of business.
Being so early in development, there are a few issues that are notable in the game. For one, the game doesn’t have a fail state. It’s not too big a deal since you can restart the map from the options menu when you fail, though it is something you’d expect from a game. Additionally, as of version 0.1.4, Basement also lacks a save feature. There’s currently only one level however, so a save feature wouldn’t necessarily help out that much. There was only one time when I wished I had a save feature which was when I permanently lost two of my buildings and a handful of my guards thanks to a bug.
Most of the time you won’t need a save feature, especially once you familiarize yourself with the game. I played roughly four or five games of Basement. While I failed to complete it on the first couple of tries, I started to pick it up after a while. Eventually I had eliminated all my problems. In my most recent run I managed to acquire a total of over $10,000 before finishing up, which goes to show just how much you learn while playing this game.
Of course, Basement is an Early Access game as well. By the time you read this Early Access review of the game, these issues could already be fixed. It might be a little bare right now but it serves as an excellent proof of concept. Basement has what it takes to be a great game, it’s just going to need some more time to get there. Thankfully, the developers at Halfbus are hard at work on the title. Among the other things in progress, a save feature is supposed to be added to the game with the next patch.
Right now you can beat the game in an hour or so, which is pretty short if you take into consideration the $8.99 price tag. The length, coupled with the present bugs and lack of a save system make Basement a tough recommendation in it’s current state. But it is getting better. With that in mind, I wouldn’t recommend picking up the title yet unless this type of game really calls to you. If the next patch does what it says they will, then that could easily make it worth buying for most. For the moment, Basement serves as a fantastic proof of concept and I look forward to seeing the game as development continues to progress.
Release Date (Early Access): 4/30/15
What I liked about it:
Basement offers an addicting premise by combining strategy, simulation and management to enable the building of your drug empire. While the game is in its early stages, I’ve already spent several hours replaying the latest version, and I can see myself spending more in the future as the game continues to grow.
What they can do to improve:
Beyond the obvious fixes, there are a few improvements that I think Basement could stand to make. Firstly, when there’s a raid clicking on the alert should take you to the district that’s being raided. At present, it takes you to the cop car which starts on the other side of the map. Before you familiarize yourself with the game, that can be pretty confusing, and ultimately cut down the amount of time you have to prepare yourself.
I’d also like to see more room to build, as it seems to be rather limited so far. Out of the ten locations you can capture, only a very small handful can be modified to add extra rooms. Beyond offering dealers and achieving progress toward completion, some of the districts you can acquire just aren’t very useful. I’m sure that’ll change in the future, however, as the game is only in pre-alpha.
What’s in store for the future:
According to the Early Access page on Steam, Halfbus plans to add a number of features leading up to the launch. Here’s a list of what they plan to include in the full game, direct from the Early Access page:
- Random events
- Loot items and powerups
- Dialogue system
You can visit Trello to find a full up to date list on what they’re working on as well as what is planned for the future.
When you can expect the full release:
Halfbus is looking to have the full release available in six to eight months. If you want to pick it up now, you can do so over at the Early Access page for the game over on Steam.
UPDATE 5/16/15: Basement has been updated to version 0.1.7, and there are a lot of improvements over the previous version. The game now includes save functionality, along with several other improvements including some balancing and randomized maps. No longer will you be playing the same map every time you play, which means the game has received a huge boost to replayability.
Unfortunately, some game breaking bugs still linger, but since the game is still short, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I also found the building areas to be a bit more scarce this time around to the point where some rooms seem useless once acquired, but the variety is nice and you can still complete the game provided you don’t get the bug that I mentioned in the original review.
It’s still early in development, but the recent update brings with it enough tweaks to turn the game into a recommendation. You’ll probably still encounter some bugs, but the low cost of entry and comparatively high replay value in 0.1.7 make Basement worth playing.
Disclaimer: A copy of Basement was provided to BentoByte by Halfbus for the purpose of review.