Most humans will instantly grow attached to any inanimate object if you put a face on it (preferably a sad one, as if it needs your help). This is possibly so we won’t immediately hoof any unattended baby into the oven, because using cold logic they are a helpless and easy source of food, but emotions tell us that they are cute and we don’t want the baby to cry at the oven being all hot. Buildings Have Feelings Too!, a puzzle/city management game that’s heavy on the puzzle, is the reason I will never again enjoy a video of Fred Dibnah explaining how to demolish a massive great industrial chimney, because now I know it had little arms and legs, and spoke with a voice like the sound of a heap of bricks shifting around.
It had hopes and dreams, that chimney. It wanted to be useful, it would have changed to a different kind of industry if you’d only given them the chance! Hell, it would have even moved to a different part of the city! But unfortunately doing any of those things in Buildings Have Feelings Too! is way more complicated than the simple process of turn oven on, put baby in oven, close oven door. Thankfully, a hotfix has updated the most annoying control issues so at least I no longer want to pull out my own fingernails while playing.
The city in Buildings Have Feelings Too! is in a time of change. It’s 1900, and the UK is waking up from an Industrial Revolution-sized hangover, like, “Raaaaah, lads, who put all these factories everywhah?! You absolute legends!” In the game, you transition neighbourhoods from purposes that served the previous epoch’s needs, to the new. You change factories from producing cotton to booze, you throw up offices for lawyers and accountants, and cafes so they have somewhere for a hot lunch. You make houses for people to live in and pubs so they have somewhere to go that ain’t home.
All the buildings have little stick arms and legs, and stand around making small talk with each other. This is brilliant, and they even have different bits of ambient chatter depending on what kind of business you put in them. Running past a greengrocer and seeing it yelling “FREEEEESH VEGETABLES!” gave me genuine joy. And you can talk to ’em to find out what they need to level up from a kind of okay one star greengrocer into the best three star greengrocer they could ever be, gosh darn it! Which is where it gets complicated.
To progress to a new neighbourhood, you need to complete some tasks, which are usually requests from an existing building to make the neighbourhood better in some way. An enterprising warehouse in the docks wants to revitalise the area with a two star butchers, fishmonger and bakery, for example. But! Buildings have stats, and some positive and negative areas of influence as well. The butcher and fishmonger will give off a negative penalty for smelling gross, which will affect the bakery.
All three buildings also need access to other resources (like what I think of as People Resource, which is most easily provided by houses). If you move the bakery too far from what it needs, you can’t upgrade it, but if it’s too close to the overlapping stench clouds of the other businesses it might even close down. So your challenge is to juggle everything within the limited space and building options you have, so that everything has enough of what it needs without too much of what it doesn’t. This is really fun, sort of like sudoku or sokoban but with extra bits to keep in mind as well.
But there are just so many extra bits, and navigating through the different menus is a bit of a nightmare of specific commands, none of which I can remember at the time I need them (and are only slightly easier to parse with a controller). This juggling act of needs and wants also means that you find yourself either moving buildings around a lot or constructing new ones, and until very recently you had to select the empty plot you wanted by edging gingerly towards it, cursing when you accidentally went a bit too far and had to turn around and run back the other way.
Thank god, the recent hotfix made it so you can now select spaces by, y’know, clicking on them – that sort of quick and specific control being, as I understand it, the main advantage of using a mouse and keyboard in the first bastard place. Before that update, trying to accomplish this simple, basic thing was so annoying that I couldn’t enjoy any of the fun bits about the game. It would be easier, I thought, to tear all the buildings down, and we can live wild and free on the verdant plains of this country, sheltered by mother nature, rather than have to choose where to build something one more goddamn time.
I am so grateful that I can now use my mouse to select things that it’s almost pathetic. And yet, even with the improvements of the hotfix, Buildings Have Feelings Too! is still a bit of a slog. Once you open up a specific building’s menu, there are a bunch of sub-commands to open up different options, and you still can’t click to select a load of them. I understand that the nesting complexity would make it hard for everything to respond to noodling from the mouse, but I feel that there must be a more streamlined way to present the necessary info. There are large swathes, in fact, that are still obscure to me – like precisely which slew of buildings might provide the certain kind of resources I need.
With the mouse and keyboard control updates (and from the notes on the Steam page I think more may be in development), this is really fun but sometimes frustrating game with controls that are merely annoying. Without them it was diabolical. I guess if you prefer controllers you just kinda have to eat it?