The Universim, developed and published by Crytivo, is a colony sim that tries to do many things and succeed in some while testing your god’s patience. It runs well on Linux natively with some minor hiccups.
In this world builder, you play as some creepy god, worshipped by some human-like creatures called Nuggets that, according to the story, are too stupid and would die if left to their own devices.
Your god-like powers range from killing enemies with lightning bolt or meteor strikes, improving the quality of life of your Nuggets or forcing them to mate, to protecting the city and improving the world.
The powers reminded me a bit of the game Black & White without the big pet, but here those powers are very niche - the other civilizations always have a shield that protects them against your spells, most Nugget influence spells are single target, and you need resources to cast them. During my gameplay I alternate mostly between lighting bolts, “grabbing things”, making it rain and forcing your Nuggets to reproduce.
Nuggets worshipping you provide you with points you need to use your powers. Other ways to get those are with sacrifices and expeditions, more on that later.
Besides the god powers, it is also a city builder where you unlock and set different buildings across the world. To provide food, resources and shelter to your Nuggets when a catastrophe happens.
The Nuggets start in a tribal phase, and it is up to you to lead them to the exploration of space. All while fighting against your worst enemy, time. Everything in this game is locked behind waiting the time pass.
Once you start a new game, you need to pick a world, traits of your Nuggets and change how hard this planet will be on you. You can then generate the planet with a random seed or input your own and start playing.
From the tribal start, you will need to force your first two inhabitants to reproduce, and follow some quests you are presented. The Nuggets will build residences for themselves, but everything else is up to you.
You have to make sure they have enough supplies, and that they have a place to eat and drink close enough to their work/living place. It starts simple, with wood and stones being the staple materials, as the game progresses, you will need iron, glass, oil… up to microchip and petrochemicals when you reach the space age. Your Nuggets work gathering resources, moving them around, cooking for other Nuggets, healing, grave digging and many others. Either they find a place to work, or you force them into a building.
You do not have many options for buildings at the start, so you will need to research technologies to unlock other constructions. The research is time-based and the main barrier to your progress.
Each technology research takes an amount of time varying from 5 minutes to 10 minutes. There are also some instantaneous research you unlock by paying some currency you get in the game. You can pick 5 of them to be researched in series, and press fast-forward.
Some research gives you bonuses, others unlock new buildings, that you promptly install while trying not to destroy the pre-generated streets - essential if you want your Nuggets moving fast. Then you go back to add another research to the queue. Rinse and repeat.
You don’t need to worry much about which technologies you unlock because there is no strategy around it, you will need all of it. I tried to rush green energies and terraforming, but eventually I needed gasoline and cars to make some tech work.
The only thing that didn’t make this an idle game for me, but made it creepy, was the constant need of forced incest, so your population can grow. The spell makes two Nuggets fall in love by selecting them individually. It is easier during the beginning when there are only a few Nuggets to select and there are no many traits you want to filter out of your civilization. Sometimes they mate without intervention, but your population most likely will become stagnant or declining if you are not constantly forcing them to mate.
There is a Nugget list menu where you can order and filter them. But there are still missing a few features to make them easy to find or just bulk manage them. You still need to find them physically and cast your spell.
It is even creepier when you realize that camping outside schools makes it easier to force them to mate. As older nuggets are less likely to have offspring, are too fragile for the action and are mostly spread around your civilization.
Besides some god powers, you can control what your Nuggets are doing trough buildings. For a Nugget to farm, you create a farm and assign one there and select a fruit or herb to grow. If you want to attack another civilization you build army structures, like barracks, enlist some Nuggets, and from the barracks you can select other tribes to send an attack.
While the core gameplay became boring fast, I had some fun with the rest.
There is some noticeable attention to detail: your Nuggets sense of fashion and behaviour, the narrator being cheeky with you, the animals you can tame, hunt or be hunted, from your relationship with the nearby lakes with water and fish to your large-scale effect on the planet.
There are some curious things going around that I felt the intrinsic need to explore. A tree nearby the starting camp uprooted and started walking nonchalantly. I keep tabs on that creature just out of curiosity.
Once you unlock farms, there is a quest that introduces you to unlocking new harvest, so you explore the world looking for new fruits and herbs to grab and bring back to one of your farms.
The seasons act as an adversary early game, you need to store food and water for the winter or dry seasons. Once you have a meteorologist tower, you can also predict calamities and prepare better, by stockpiling resources, building bunkers or saving on god powers.
Eventually, some aliens will take notice of your civilization and start kidnapping your Nuggets, you can counter them with some lighting bolts and be rewarded with some resources. If you are low on god power, you can always yeet some of your Nuggets to the sacrificial grinder.
The writing humour is quite nice too. The narrator will be disappointed with some of your choices. There are some of the quests your Nuggets ask you to do, like zapping the mayor to pass a bill. Or the loading screen telling you to use ALT+F4 if you would like to learn more about the game.
You will be done will the sense of wonder quickly, probably in the first 2 hours of the game. Eventually, some new event will trigger and get your curiosity up, but they become more sparse and not as entertaining or repetitive, like sporadic calamities you need to protect your nuggets from with your powers or well-placed buildings.
Some Nuggets will create their own civilization, which god power will be represented with an icon on top of their main base. For example, one had an avatar of the grim reaper, and their power was to reanimate the dead in my cemetery to attack my Nuggets.
You can exchange goods with them and become friends, but it takes a while and more often than not they will attack you with their Nuggets or powers. So it is easier to just get rid of them with your army. You can still kill some of them that are not protected by the dome with your powers.
Another interesting unlock that felt short was the expedition, you send some Nuggets to the core of the earth, and they come back with great rewards, like resources, god power points and research money. But it is another time-based task that lasts depending on how much food you send with them.
The game plays well natively on Linux, with just some minor graphic bugs on earlier menus. There is a problem in the first voice-overs audio, like the actor was too close to the mic and without a pop filter. I experienced some slowdown here and there, mostly during game cutscenes, one of them there was a short freeze. But overall, it was a fine experience without crashes.
It does not support controllers, and might be heavy for the Deck - I could not test because mine is in RMA. You will need to map some buttons if you want to try. Like the F, Ctrl, Shift and mouse clicks and scroll.
This is one of those games I would enjoy a lot if it were not for so many unnecessary time wasters, once you get the gist of it you mostly likely will play with fast-forward on (2x speed).
The game has some hints of repeatability, but I was so exhausted of disrupting people’s bodily autonomy for 10 hours without reaching the endgame that I would probably wait a couple more years of updates.
The Universim is available on steam, just out of Early Access.