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The Promised Land Review

The Promised Land is a light-hearted, casual strategy game in which you lead a group of colonists who have just arrived in a new and unsettled land. Guide your workers and farmers as they build, farm, and protect your thriving new colony.

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by on 07-28-2012     
The Promised Land is a light-hearted, casual strategy game in which you lead a group of colonists who have just arrived in a new and unsettled land. Guide your workers and farmers as they build, farm, and protect your thriving new colony.

You ever play a game that sends you right back to some of the best times of your childhood? For me, The Promised Land was such an experience.

When I was little, I had a game called Creatures, in which you were in charge of taking care of these little wrinkled things called Norns. I both loved and hated that game, because parts of it were so awesome and parts of it were so frustrating. But in The Promised Land, I found a little gem that gave me all the things I loved about that childhood entertainment with none of the obnoxiousness. Memory lane, here I come.

For The Promised Land you are the leader of a group of fresh arrivals to a new land. It’s your job to lead the colonists though building a town, planting and harvesting crops, managing an iron mine, and trading with the capitol, and that’s just to start.

There are also pirate attacks (a’la Angry Birds), hungry villagers, and hidden treasure. But the best part for me, and the part that got me thinking about those creepy little Norns, was how you managed the colonists: by picking them up and dragging them around. Ah, youth.

The design of the game is bright and cartoony, and I loved the simple charm of it. The Promised Land is not trying to take itself seriously, and I really appreciated that. It is, in the most liberal sense of the word, a strategy game, but if you forget about the mine and run out of the materials you need to make nails... it is just not that big a deal. You can make it up and move on.

At this point in my life, most of the way though a summer semester where I bit off a teensy bit more than I can comfortably chew, I do not need a beat the clock, make one mistake and you have to start over again kind of strategy game. I need the kind of game where you can realize half way through repairing a ship that you were supposed to get the project done quickly, and even though you’re most of the way through your time it’s going to be ok. You can just throw every villager you have at it and the problem will get fixed.

I often avoid strategy games because I’m mostly convinced that I’m already flirting with an ulcer; I don’t need a high stakes timed adventure game pushing me over the edge. But The Promised Land offered me a strategy and management game with virtually no stress. I could just putter around in my little developing town and enjoy dragging my colonists around, and when I run into a road block? I can just throw more villagers at it.

That’s not to say it was a perfect romp through my happy place. There were a few annoyances here and there, most notably the colonists themselves (it figures). Making sure to keep everyone full and happy was a bit of an ordeal, especially since each of the villagers had a task they loved doing and one that they hated. So to keep them happy (and, therefore, productive) you have to remember that Michelle likes gathering food, but hates fishing; Elizabeth loves “shearing fluffers” (what?), but detests mining stone; Harry likes mining stone but not mining iron; and so on.

You start out with five colonists and begin adding on almost immediately, so it gets a big wacky. Luckily there are some management tools (such as the villagers themselves), and I guess you can’t escape all parts of real life. Annoying people are everywhere, but at least here I can drag them over to a food table when they get too cranky. Still, it was a pain to worry about, and I kind of hated having to sacrifice two of my minions- er, townsfolk every time one of them started feeling lonely and like they needed a chat. Not on my time, ladies.

The only other complaint I had was the help options. I have no issues admitting that I’m not what one would consider a “capable” gamer. I like playing, and I’m pretty good at figuring things out, but when I get stuck I’m stuck. For example, I was supposed to trade things from my colony for this cannon from the Old Country, and I knew I was missing some step (obviously, since I couldn’t get the trade to go through), but I just couldn’t figure out which one.

If you have even an iota of gaming knowledge or skills, I’m sure you’ll be fine. But if you’re like me, and you’re playing mostly to relax, then you might find yourself building random things and poking around your quazi-finished town for a while, trying to find that missing step. Curse you, you stupid cannon.

For the vast majority of the game, though, I was having nothing but fun. I loved the town lay out, I loved how easy it was to check out the map, I loved the background music, I loved dragging the little people around. The Promised Land was a light-hearted stroll through a lush new world, where everything was manageable and fun. Even the music and in-game sounds were entertaining (The little people make surprised sounds when you pick them up. How can you not love that?).

If you’re looking for a game that pushes you, that makes you think and puzzle things out quickly, that forces you into fight-or-flight mode, this is most defiantly not your game. But if you sit down at the end of the day, and you need a nice relaxing way to unwind (especially if you get a kick out of dragging little minions around) then be sure to give The Promised Land a try. It might be just what you’re looking for.