Buildings Have Feelings Too! Review: A Shaky Foundation (XB1)

Buildings Have Feelings Too! is a kooky new management sim game that stars buildings as the protagonists. But what is it like to play? This review traverses the intricacies of the mechanics and movement, and gets to the bottom of whether or not this game is worth a purchase.

Buildings Have Feelings Too! Review: A Shaky Foundation (Xbox One) Cover

Watching the trailer for Buildings Have Feelings Too! was a decidedly odd experience; it felt like I was watching someone else’s fever dream, but a really grounded one. Everything seemed so normal except for the fact that you know, the buildings could talk and move around. There’s something creepy about usually inanimate objects coming to life, but I enjoy management sims, so I was curious to see what it would be like to play.

At first, I was impressed with the simple design of the game and the way that the structures interacted with each other. However, as the quests became more complex, the gameplay stopped being interesting and started becoming more of a grind. The controls aren’t the smoothest either, and so after a while, it felt like a chore rather than something I was playing for fun. It’s a shame because, with a few tweaks, I feel like it could have some real potential, but as it is, there are just too many better offerings on the market.

Buildings Have Feelings Too! was developed by Blackstaff Games and published by Merge Games and Maple Whispering, and is available for PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PS4.

Story – A Surprisingly Observant Social Commentary

The story in this is actually rather moving once you realise the commentary that it’s making on society. The buildings all have their own hopes and dreams for the future, and the premise is that you go around and help them to improve the appeal of their neighbourhood. You let them change and evolve, becoming new businesses, and the past is slowly overtaken by the present. Whether intentional or not, Buildings Have Feelings Too! highlights how everything eventually becomes obsolete and how things that were once great are now left behind, replaced by new and shiny fascinations.

I found it rather touching watching the ‘characters’ have to abandon their livelihoods and forget everything they’d ever known. It felt a little too close to home, as the world is changing, and lots of people have had to abandon their professions and start anew, just to stay relevant. Seeing the living properties struggle with their existential crises actually hits pretty hard.

The dialogue in this is pretty decent, although nothing to write home about. There are some weak attempts at humour. It was so poor that I didn’t laugh at all, even though sometimes it felt like the game wanted me to. However, I really like how the structures all have their own personalities (some are sweet and excitable, others are gruff and cynical). There were a couple of small typos in the dialogue, but for the most part, it was all well-written.

The buildings sometimes say random phrases when you walk past, it's rather adorable.

The buildings sometimes say random phrases when you walk past, it’s rather adorable.

The game is very linear, and you help one neighbourhood at a time, completing quests in a strict order. Whilst this diminishes the gameplay experience, it does mean that the story is clear and chronological. Building Have Feelings Too! creates a poignant narrative, showing buildings growing and thriving in their new professions. They have friendships with each other, and they all seem to genuinely want the best for each other. They plan together to decide which infrastructure will be best for the area as a whole, and so whilst basic, the story is easy to follow.

Gameplay – A Slow Spiral Into Boredom

As with any game that’s overly linear, this one suffers from longevity. At first, I didn’t mind being told what to do and where to go, but once the tutorial part was over, it started to irk me. I disliked how I was given only one quest at a time because there was no room for creativity. The best part of management sims is creating your own vision, and the title just doesn’t allow for that. You can’t progress unless you build the neighbourhood exactly the way that the game has planned for you. You gain access to new areas by completing all the quests in the old one.

Learning all the different types of buildings was fun, and I really like how they interact with each other. Your job is to build new infrastructure and to move existing structures to improve the appeal. Appeal is increased by upgrading the personable properties and fulfilling specific requirements. Certain professions will score higher when near others, and so placement is vital for increasing your overall appeal.

This building sure hates being near that poor factory!

This building sure hates being near that poor factory!

Unfortunately, fulfilling those appeal requirements soon becomes a bit of a drag. The movement is very finicky, and it’s really frustrating to try and select spaces. The controls are overly sensitive, and your character continues a tiny bit even after you’ve stopped moving him. This can mean a lot of tiny back and forth motions to try and select a particular space. This can be particularly problematic if you’ve got time pressure, as sometimes, after an upgrade, you’ll need to quickly fulfill an appeal requirement, or your building will be shut down.

Progression – A Well Planned Out Structure

Much as the nature of the game does devolve into a bit of a grind; the mechanics are really decent. This world uses bricks as currency, and these can be used to unlock new areas or erect new buildings. You can earn bricks by upgrading existing ones or completing story quests.

Dang, that's a lot of bricks saved up!

Dang, that’s a lot of bricks saved up!

The style of progression also leads to some clever tactics. To upgrade buildings, you need to fulfill appeal goals, and that can be seemingly impossible within the limited number of spaces in an area. Thus, you sometimes need to move structures between areas to upgrade them before returning them to their initial area. Whilst I love this as a concept, it would be much better if you could do this from some sort of overhead menu, rather than actively having to walk between areas. It causes a lot of unnecessary boredom for something which would otherwise be a cool feature.

The game menu has several features, including a summary of the tutorial. You can reread all the tips that you’ve received so far so as to refresh yourself on anything you’ve forgotten. There’s also an overview of the professions that you can build, and this is quite a cool feature. You start off with a limited number of building types, but when you max out their appeal goals, you unlock others in the same career type.

So, for example, when you upgrade an accountant to 3 stars with all the appeal goals met, you unlock lawyers. The infrastructure tree is useful as you can see which buildings you need to max out in order to unlock your desired profession. Some quests require you to erect a particular property, and so it’s important to know how to unlock it.

It feels really rewarding to unlock the new kinds of buildings as you go along.

It feels really rewarding to unlock the new kinds of buildings as you go along.

You can also see your quests from the menu, but the issue with this is that you usually only have one quest at a time, as you can’t unlock new quests until you complete the previous one. This makes it almost useless to have a list of all your quests, as they’re nearly all completed. It is nice to see everything you’ve accomplished thus far, though. One gripe that I have with the menu is that you can’t auto-scroll by holding the stick down. You have to manually move down every single space, and that’s time-consuming and frustrating.

Audio and Graphics – Exactly What They Should Be, No More, No Less

The graphics and music in this management simulator are perfectly acceptable. They don’t wow you, but nor do they leave you feeling disappointed. The developers put in exactly the amount of effort required to make the audio-visual aspects decent, and not an ounce more. So whilst I have no complaints on this front, it’s also not enough to win back my favour.

The graphics simultaneously look detailed and basic at the same time. There’s nothing mind-blowing about them, but you can clearly see the bricks in the architecture, and they all have their own design. It almost looks like they’ve taken 3D assets and rendered them in a 2D world. However, the textures on the foreground and background interests often lack the same detail as the buildings. The water in the dockyard, for example, looks very static, although it doesn’t necessarily feel out of place.

It would have been nice to see more variation in the grass or the sky.

It would have been nice to see more variation in the grass or the sky.

The design for the menu is great. Instead of creating a complex mess of information, all the areas are neatly split up. You can scroll through one at a time and view extra details by clicking on them. Each detail page contains only a small amount of succinct information, so it’s not visually overwhelming. The style stays the same across upgrade and menu screens, creating a consistent feel. The font used is also clear and easy to read.

The audio is relaxing without quite crossing the border into the realm of boring. It toes a fine line and certainly isn’t exciting, but you don’t expect anything upbeat from a management sim. The music also sounds like it’s coming from real instruments, rather than a computer, which is a nice touch. You could almost imagine that there’s a small band playing their instruments on the street. It’s pretty rhythmic and helps with the immersion.

The only issue is that the music in cutscenes doesn’t last very long. The cutscenes involve you having to click through dialogue, so if you take a short break, the music will run out before the scene is finished. However, I really like the sound effect they chose for the dialogue coming on the screen. It sounds almost like someone doing a drumroll on a brick and would work well in an ASMR video. It’s a very satisfying noise that really fits in a game about buildings.

Buildings Have Feelings Too! was reviewed on Xbox One using a game key provided by Evolve PR.

Summary
Buildings Have Feelings Too! is a unique concept for a management sim game, but unfortunately falls rather flat when it comes to delivery. Whilst the initial tutorial stage is very helpful, it feels like we never progress past the tutorial stage because the whole game is just too linear. The amount of back and forth to fulfil quest requirements is pretty exhausting, and so unfortunately the gameplay just doesn't live up to the fun you'd want a game to deliver. All in all, it's an okay game, but it quickly devolves into boredom.
Good
  • Clever management system
  • Music fits the genre
  • Buildings interact with each other
Bad
  • Gameplay is far too linear
  • Movement isn't smooth enough
  • Feels like a grind
6.8
Fair

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