A unique entry into the world of tycoon games, Soda Story finds your business tycoon skills being tested in a reality TV show called Prisoneers. You are fighting against five other characters in a battle for long time off your prison sentence, each one running a food business. You’ve struck the unlucky draw of making a soda business. Can you outwit your opponents and be the best?
I love the premise of Soda Story – Brewing Tycoon and its set up reminds me of the late 90’s property game Constructor. This is because like Constructor, you’ll be able to interact with your AI opponents to sabotage their business, steal their resources but also erect security measures to ensure your business doesn’t get attacked either. Indeed, the story requires all this although wisely you can trigger the story beats as and when you want to by selecting characters to progress as they come and talk to you. This means you can go at your own pace and set up your factories for success before you head into battle with your opponents.
Soda Story breaks down making soda into three distinct sections. Firstly you’ll need flavour cubes to grow the flavours in your garden. You’ll buy plots, water the cubes with a can and then harvest them into your backpack and then into storage. Secondly, you’ll have brewing machines which you’ll need to select recipes for in order for them to brew your soda. You can mix and match between one and three ingredients on the fly, or more wisely use a flavour machine to discover good combinations of flavours. Better flavours sell more. One the soda is brewed the third part is packing and shipping with your loading bay. Initially you’ll be doing all this yourself as you get to learn all the intricacies of the development of soda but quickly, bots will arrive.
Key to success in Soda Story is buying and programming bots. Gardenbots will water, plant and harvest flavour cubes (of which there’s over 100) and then store them where you need them. Stockbots move things from storage to machines and Sodabots move soda crates to the packing bay for shipping. Much later on other bots are available too but these three are the bread and butter of the game. Program them correctly, balance their patterns efficiently and you’ll have a well ran unit. Overburden a bot in the process and the system breaks down. For me, this was also in the storage of flavour cubes and the quick collection of them as the other machines ran dry. I never truly had perfection but after 12 hours of playing, I was getting closer. Bots can also be upgraded with modules too for better storage, cleaning as they go or faster speed. Again, balance is key.
Soda Story is a lot of busy work. I really mean, a lot. The reason for this is that you are constantly discovering new recipes via mini game puzzles of connecting pipes, dots or 2048 games. You can pay to automate this too and I did when I was turning a good profit. Alongside the constant discovery and tweaking, there is a market of ever changing popularity for certain demographics. Battles with other opponents or tasks to clear to advance the story revolve around satisfying audiences so recipes need switching out. That then means reprogramming bots to look in new areas or harvest something different. Lots of tweaking but I found it extremely engrossing.
Once you beat an opponent, you take over their factory on top of your own ones and so Soda Story gets increasingly bigger, wider, more complicated and you feel like a juggernaut as the game progresses. Upgrades to your garden, bots, deliveries and attributes unlock fast too so progress is always drip fed to you. Don’t expect to be clear of the story mode in under 15 hours unless you are extremely proficient.
Only a few quirks irked me during my 12 hours played to date and they all centre around programming bots and the UI involved. You use the mouse to move around the screen for programming bots and if you have objects next to each other the game does a poor job of selecting the correct thing you want to program. This led to wasted space and also me moving things just to program a command and then moving it back in place again. That aside though, the game runs smoothly and I ran into no bugs either.
A genuinely engrossing game that gives you plenty of busy work but progress alongside it, Soda Story – Brewing Tycoon is a gem and a great addition to the tycoon genre. Oh… and did I mention you can drink your concoctions and get lots of special powers and effects as a result? Let the chaos commence!
Review copy provided by publisher.