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Turmoil Review

Turmoil is a commerce-sim style game about the exciting world of oil drilling in the late 1800s.

Turmoil on PC

There are a lot of exciting times throughout history that games have explored, from globe-spanning wars to periods of industrialization and expansion. Turmoil has chosen to focus on a slice of American history: the oil boom. Putting players in the role of one of four would-be barons, Turmoil is a real-time strategy plus commerce simulator style game that has players competing for oil-rich lands, drilling to their heart’s content and seeking that sweet black gold deep beneath the earth.

On the surface, Turmoil is very simple. Most of the gameplay takes place out on the fields, with players hiring dowsers to find the sweet spots, building rigs to pump oil to the surface, and ensuring there are plenty of wagons to transport the stuff. On either side of the screen, two creatively named buyers — Left, Inc. and Right, Inc. — stand ready to purchase the bounty at constantly-fluctuating prices. Players need to keep an eye on their rigs, horses, and prices to maximize profit and gain their riches.

When you’re not out drilling for Texas Tea, Turmoil lets players take out bank loans, upgrade their equipment, or add new tools to their repertoire. These can be anything from a speed boost to your wagon-pulling horses, an increase to your dowser’s accuracy, or even the almost-cheating “scanner” that reveals what lies under a patch of ground. Since you’re not getting anything done without finding the hidden deposits beneath you, upgrades to your oil-finding tech are a necessary tool for any manner of success. Bank loans can help get things in line, of course, but remember that you’ll be paying interest for a while yet, cutting into your profits.

The problems that Turmoil experiences come down to a few relatively simple things. First and foremost, perhaps, is that it turns out there’s not a lot of excitement in the world of two-dimensional oil drilling. While the strategy aspect of drilling, storing, and selling is pretty solid, it gets repetitive fast. The upgrade system, while offering a broad range of things to explore, is costly and cumbersome. Since players are in a constant struggle against their AI-controlled opponents, shelling out big bucks on the hope that it pays off can leave you lagging behind as others pile up the profits. Also, aside from a bit of back story, there’s no differentiation from one character to the next.

To say that Turmoil is boring might be slightly too far. It does feel a bit bland, and there’s not a lot of variation from one play to the next. The game’s campaign mode tries to ramp up a competitive feel, but falls a bit short, since players really only have any sway over their own operation. The graphics, sound, and overall design are functional enough, but lacking in anything to make it stand out. All told, Turmoil might be a fun diversion for commerce sim fans looking for something a little lighter, but is likely lacking appeal outside of that niche. If you’re interested, you can pick it up on Steam for $9.99.

Score: 2/5

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