Grab your pickaxe and get caught up in the California gold rush in Somasim's western town-building sim, 1849.
South of the Oregon Trail
1849 was a crazy year in the United States. People traveled from all over the world to go out to Northern California to try their luck at striking gold. Small settlements that had hundreds of people, such as San Francisco, turned into "boomtowns" that housed thousands of people over the span of months. 1849 puts you in charge of these towns as you to try to expand and exploit the land.
Each level in 1849 is based in a town in Northern California and has a number of objectives that must be completed in order to advance. Usually these objectives involve shipping a certain number of goods to another city or raising your population to a certain number. You're also given a bonus to start with in 1849 which is something along the lines of cash, free trade routes, or some buildings.
Your settlement in 1849 initially starts out small with a few shacks, a depot for storing your supplies, and some place for your settlers to work. As you construct more buildings and open up trade, your city will expand and more people move to the town. In terms of gameplay, 1849 is fairly standard town-building sim fare. You manage your steadily growing town by resource-producing farms and ranches while also keeping an eye on safety and welfare by building sheriffs offices and fire brigades.
The best way to ensure that your city will grow is to check out the resources you can export. If you don't, you run the risk of getting caught in the frustrating trap of making just enough money to pay the bills, but not expand.
The gameplay works well in 1849 and there's something oddly satisfying about achieving the objectives and watching your sparse plot of land grow from a couple of shacks to a vibrant, mansion-filled city. There's also an open sandbox mode that let's you play in a much more city-builder sim style. If there's two glaring problems I found with 1849, it's that it requires a bit too much micromanagement and it's too realistic. There are tons of resources in the game including stone, gold, iron, hides, salt, meat, pickaxes, lumber, fabric, cotton, grapes, and so on. Each of these resources needs to be micromanaged which can become daunting, especially given how fast they get used up.
As your city grows it needs more types of complex resources. For example, to upgrade your housing from large houses to small mansions, the residents will want furniture. In order to make furniture you must log or import lumber, refine the lumber at a saw mill, and finally build a furniture makers shop. It feels convoluted, albeit realistic, and can make 1849 drag on a bit.
It's also difficult to keep up with resource usage. Your town burns through resources and citizens start moving out almost immediately if they can't get access to something like fabric. Since there are so many different types of resources, it's difficult to tell how many you have. To avoid this, it's a good idea to periodically tap on the buy/trade button which shows your stockpiles. It can also be frustratingly difficult (and realistic!) when your only option for something as crucial to lumber is to import it.
How to grow your town
The controls in 1849 work very well. The screen isn't overloaded with alerts and control panels are hidden away and pop out when clicked on which frees up the rest of the screen. Using a mouse is much more intuitive than the touch-based tablet version of 1849.
Oddly enough, buildings in 1849 can't be rotated, but they're easy enough to place and more often than not, cities turn out looking more neat and orderly rather chaotic. There's also helpful hints to push you in the right direction and the game's learning curve is appropriately implemented.
Unfortunately, one of the weaker points of 1849 are the graphics. Instead of going towards a hyper-realistic look, the graphics are quite cartoony. However cartoony as they might be, they still look a bit dated and you're likely to see lots of repeated character models. Most people don't play sim games for the graphics and they won't take too much away from the gaming experience.
The music for 1849 is generic Western guitar Musak that sounds like it's from a cowboy town at a theme park. Like the graphics, the music isn't of a high quality, but it doesn't take anything away from the game and definitely doesn't distract. There's also a wide array of sound effects from all the buildings which can get irritating due to how loud they are, but it does admittedly add to the realism in 1849.
A bit too realistic, but still a good time
Although it's possible to get bogged down in micromanagement of your resources, 1849 is still a fun and addictive town-building sim.