We live in an age where gaming has expanded into households, even though the platforms might not be the same. Making video games for all platforms is an uphill task. Not all gamers have the same taste, and there’s no saying which game could be the “next big thing”. If there’s one game that has successfully managed to captivate people across all platforms in recent times – it’s definitely The Bonfire: The Forsaken Lands. Naturally, I was excited to see that The Bonfire was getting a sequel that boasts a further improvement in the game mechanics. The Bonfire 2: Uncharted Shores is at times, a brilliant multi-platform strategy based city-builder that will often leave you scratch your heads.
Let’s have a look at the game in detail before the (bon)fire goes out permanently.
The Bonfire 2, like most other simulation games, employs a singleplayer-only approach to gameplay. Working out an effective way for multiple people to manage a simulation is quite difficult – and it seems more work went into ensuring the game ran flawlessly on all platforms rather than building additional gameplay modes which few would play. Multiplayer does have some technical limitations, and it’s better not to alter a fully functioning build for adding extra features that might not work the way it was intended.
While the lack of multiplayer might be forgiven, the absence of modes for exploring the game is not. There’s no abject tutorial for telling you what to do and how to do it. I have played quite a few simulation games before stumbling on The Bonfire 2, so I do know how to play the game pretty well. Unfortunately, many other players might not share my enthusiasm for simulation games – especially on mobile, where the genre has an extremely small presence. I also found the lack of a “Sandbox” mode pretty disappointing. I like to build stuff without any limits, and the lack of a sandbox mode meant that I wasn’t able to properly enjoy this simulation game as well as I normally would.
Like other city-builders, the main aim of The Bonfire 2 is to build a thriving settlement. The main difference is the addition of multiple elements of strategy to ensure the players stay glued to the screen. You start every game with four settlers who have to lay the foundation of their settlement by building a bonfire. The bonfire is the center of most activity in the settlement – justifying the name for the game. You keep constructing buildings and assigning your settlers to work there – that’s the main concept of the game. It sounds pretty dull at first, but once the first couple of hours goes by, you realize you’ve developed an addiction for the game and can’t take your eyes off the screen.
The main reason the game manages to keep you hooked is its progression system. You do not have access to all buildings at once. Once you construct a few specific buildings, other buildings can be built from the build menu. For example, you do not have access to the coal mine and the clay pit until you build a bridge over one of the rivers surrounding your settlement. Construction of buildings takes a while – the settlers need to gather enough resources at the construction site and then build it. Many hands make light work they say, and it’s true whether your settlers are constructing a building or gathering resources. As the game progresses, you get access to more resources for gathering – which are unlocked when you build the corresponding building.
What’s really cool is that The Bonfire 2 uses a Tropico-like system for ensuring every settler is a living entity and not just another NPC doing its rounds. You can check out each settler to see their needs as well as customize their tools, weapons, and armor. Note that all settlers need food and sleep if they are to be productive in their work, so it is always important to build multiple sources of food as well as shelter. You can craft tools, weapons, and armor for the settlers from special buildings like the carpenter’s workshop. These special buildings convert raw resources into tools, weapons, and armor all settlers can use. It’s good that when you equip a weapon like a wooden spear on a settler, they use it immediately instead of being forced to pick it up from these buildings. However, this seems slightly counter-intuitive since it backpedals what the game set out to do – offer a simulation with strategy elements like no other.
The biggest feature which The Bonfire 2 uses to market itself is the day-night cycle – one of the features which distinguish it from other games of the same genre. A day-night cycle here isn’t a mere graphical change – it changes how your settlers function entirely. Settlers work only from dawn to dusk, and then have a hearty meal and go to sleep. No work is done at night. Moreover, night time poses a variety of threats in the form of “monster attacks”. If not killed, these monsters will wreak havoc in your settlement, damaging your buildings and pillaging your resources. Before you get access to the pasture, monster carcasses are the only source of skins for your settlement. If monsters aren’t enough, barbarian attacks are also a thing. Barbarians have a chance of dropping valuable drops like gems, so killing those critters is always worth it. To ensure Rome doesn’t fall in a day, do the needful and appoint a few guards by assigning them to work on the bonfire. (Also, don’t get ideas about naming your settlement Rome and making all guards fall asleep.)
Sadly, the game’s progression is really badly paced – possibly the biggest thing that ruined my experience. In the beginning, most constructions are completed almost immediately, and you can get your settlers to work as you wish. The cracks appear when there are a ton of buildings and settlers to manage – it becomes a gigantic pot of hotch-potch. There is no way you can assign priorities to get buildings constructed – a feature that might have changed the face of the game completely. Currently, the settlers only construct buildings in the order in which they were ordered to do it. There’s little to no consistency in this construction which reduces the pace of the game drastically after a while. If you feel like you’re better off watching soft boiled eggs harden, be reassured that I felt the same thing by playing it. Also, there is only one fast forward option that makes time go doubly fast – my recommendation is certainly to add another option that makes time go thrice as fast. This will ensure one can skip the boring sections of the game quickly. Oh, and some way to tweak the construction queue would be helpful.
Sound and Music
The game doesn’t have ambient music playing during gameplay for a majority of the time – it plays occasionally with breaks. This makes the flow feel very disconnected in general. You hear the game music trigger, see settlers working – when all of a sudden the music stops and you hear the sounds of tools being crafted in the workshops and smelters, the pickaxes striking away for coal or iron in the mines, the axes felling trees for collecting wood, or wild boar or deer being hunted for food. The music itself isn’t something which you would remember the game for.
The sounds for the game are a bit more realistic, but there seems to be a delay between an event happening and the related sound triggering. This also hampers the gameplay experience big time and needs a fix.
Visuals and Performance
The Bonfire 2 isn’t a game you play for graphics. The game uses 2D sprites for all items, and it certainly looks weird when you look at the camera in a different way. Just pan around the camera a bit, and you’ll see that the sprites seem like stickers on a white surface. If that feels weird, it certainly is. The animations are also a bit too basic – there’s little to no hand movement from settlers when they are doing their daily jobs. Also, once the settlement grows, selecting a citizen or a building becomes quite difficult due to the clutter on the screen – you almost always end up selecting something else.
The game runs fine till you have quite a population and have a lot of buildings on the screen. I thought this issue to be more pronounced for the mobile edition of the game, but it seems to manifest in the PC version too. I’m no technical expert, but it might be a memory leak. While the issue remains restricted to minor hiccups only, I don’t think it should make a presence in a game that does not really boast about being “graphically impressive”.
The Bonfire 2: Uncharted Shores is a pretty fun simulation game that one can use to kill time and it’s available on a budget. It makes a decent presence on the list of “games you play to kill time” beside titles like Slay the Spire and Into the Breach. There are a few hiccups in the experience here and there – but I expect the devs to fix them with patches before long (especially a few tweaks to speed up gameplay).
You can purchase The Bonfire 2: Uncharted Shores here: