Is it a management sim? Is it a builder? Is it a survival game?
I've always had trouble with pinpointing the exact genre of games like Dungeon Keeper, Oxygen Not Included, Prison Architect, and Rimworld. I've played all these games and more of the same genre to death -- but I still have trouble putting my finger on what exactly to call it in conversation. Wikipedia often says it's "construction and management simulation", but I'd rather refer to it as "my favorite".
It doesn't feel right to strictly compare a game like MachiaVillain to other games within the same genre just because there are always some similarities that hold them together, like worker management and building to your needs and tastes; but each game always has a different focus. Each one has different priorities you need to focus on -- and different ways to approach the whole problem of staying afloat.
Nonetheless, I do have to compare these because MachiaVillain has taken some obvious cues from other recent popular entries in the genre. That in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing. Despite its similarities to the aforementioned games, MachiaVillain does stand on its own as a competent construction and management simulation game. Though it is not without its own set of problems.
The Day to Day Life of a Murderous Villain
You have two primary tasks as you push through the game: To increase your rank in the League of Villains and to make sure your minions are well-fed and happy.
To carry out these tasks, you need a mansion as diabolical as you are. You need a spooky home office, a disgusting kitchen, a diabolical laboratory, a well-planned kill room, and... organized stockpiles? Yeah, a lot of those.
Being the boss in MachiaVillain is hard work. You must plan your mansion's layout, make sure your minions have efficient job priorities, and manage crafting tasks to make sure everything is running smoothly.
All of your hard work pays off when it comes time to wrangle and slay some victims, which you can handle the old fashioned way with the good ol' gnashing teeth of your zombies or go the clever route and lure them into traps and kill rooms to get the work done with none of the fuss.
Much of what you come across in MachiaVillain is an homage to classic horror movie tropes or characters. Heck, even the League of Villains follows the horror movie code and requests you kill victims alone, kill the virgin last, and don't slay victims' dogs. Whether you follow that code is up to you.
This tongue-in-cheek humor that invades the very bones of the game's progression is present throughout. For example, minions have some pretty interesting descriptions.
It's a fun, light-hearted take on something that really isn't light-hearted at all. You are here to leave a trail of bodies in your wake, after all.
With this all said, the controls leave a lot to be desired. The Escape key doesn't open the settings menu, keybindings have to be set via the launcher (and the defaults aren't great), and using minions' skills is troublesome. Though that in itself is something we'll get into in a bit.
Killing in the Name of [Brains]
The real meat here lies in the delicious blood and guts stew you inevitably make when you kill victims.
As you progress and lure increasingly large numbers of victims to your home, you have to get creative with the killing. Well-placed distractions and trap doors to rooms filled with lethal traps are must-haves, and their placement is key to your success.
Should you somehow scare victims off before they even come into the house or they slip through your onslaught and out the front door, suspicion about what's going on in your mansion will rise. At critical levels, this can bring heroes to your doorstep who are hellbent on wiping you and your minions out.
Planning and building a good set of kill rooms is my favorite part of the game, and likely will be for most players because it's MachiaVillain's big, unique feature. Draw them in and kill them. Do it up. It's crazy fun to watch your traps work as intended, and you get the bonus of more food for your minions. It's a win-win.
What makes building in this game special is how easy it is to dismantle and build things again. Dismantling a wall or an object is a simple two-click process, and you don't lose any resources you used when you initially built the object.
Though actually building something takes some time, the quick dismantling and retainment of resources makes it so you can easily expand, remodel, and change up the layout of your mansion without much fuss. It gives you plenty of opportunity for trial and error, which is especially helpful when building your first kill rooms.
The big detractor from all of this is that, at the time of writing, there are not all that many things you can build. There are only a few room types with a handful of furniture/devices you can install in your mansion. You can get creative but you can only do so much.
There are Some Bones Crunching, All Right
For all its good, MachiaVillain is not a perfect game. As mentioned above, the controls leave a lot to be desired and there are not a ton of things to build in your mansion.
I can accept that there aren't a lot of things to build; developer Wild Factor seems keen on adding more content to the game and I am personally looking forward to seeing where the game is going to go content-wise. It's fun as it stands and can only get more so.
But I can't accept the controls being as cumbersome as they are in their current state. Having to click twice (once for the object, once for the deconstruct icon) to dismantle furniture and structures is tiresome. Not being able to press the Escape key to open the settings menu and save is annoying. There are a number of other instances where the lack of hotkeys is just the opposite of ideal.
Please give a dedicated tool or hotkey for this!
These two issues can be fixed and, with luck, they will be with further patches. I've also run into a few bugs, though none have been huge interference to my gameplay.
These aren't things I would say to actively avoid the game over, but these are two facets of the game in its current state you should know about to make an informed purchase. In some ways this feels more like a beta than a full release.
MachiaVillain brings its own favors to the construction and management sim party, and those favors are a little less enticing -- maybe a little stinkier with all those brains laying around -- than those the big boys brought, but it certainly can party with the rest of them, even if it's not for as long.
As it stands, MachiaVillain is a decent game within my favorite genre. It could be a really great game within my favorite genre, and it could still get there.
Fans of construction and management sims will feel right at home with all it has to offer, but may not be too keen with its lack of relative depth when compared with titans like Prison Architect and Oxygen Not Included. Not me, though. I had and am still having a hard time putting MachiaVillain down. There's something to be said about the combination of blood and guts mixed with management that's keeping me going.
You can purchase Machiavillain on Steam for $19.99.
(Note: The developer provided a copy of Machiavillain for review.)