50 Years is a speedy, turn based strategy game from developer Aleksandr Golovkin. In 50 years, the player chooses a Nation that they must lead to victory over the course of, you guessed it, 50 Years. 50 Years is at heart a resource management strategy game; using Gold, Faith, Food, and Wood, the player must construct buildings and hire citizens and armed forces in order to survive as long as possible. Every turn is one year, and with each turn you earn new resources from your citizens and any bonuses you may have. Along the way you earn rewards from battle encounters, are granted unique powers through blessings, and must fight to survive against frequent waves of invaders.
As promised, 50 years is truly a fast paced strategy game. Every playthrough is brief, but this doesn’t mean that the entire gameplay experience is short. 50 Years has a fairly high replay value, as playing through the game with different nations awards you different bonuses that modify your gameplay and encourage you to try different playstyles. Some of these tactics are less feasible than others, which is perhaps the result of some balancing issues that may be worked out during the early access process, but it’s still enjoyable when the game leads you to try a different tactic than you might have considered. Playing the game on different difficulties also allows the player to challenge themselves and earn different achievements with each nation. Achievement hunters will be pleased to learn that 50 Years boasts 54 achievements, and they aren’t all just variant win conditions.
Similar to games like Civilization and Northgard, combat in 50 years is automatic and does not require the player to battle on the front lines themselves. Once you hire various soldiers, you possess an army that will automatically position itself to attack invaders. The game’s AI is at times frustrating, because some of your best fighters can get stuck behind a line of weaker ones, but for the most part your army will at least try to position themselves to succeed. As a result, the outcome of a battle depends largely on what forces you go into it with, which ties neatly back in to how well the player has managed their resources. If you find yourself in a pinch, the game gives you the option to bring in citizens as militia members at the cost of whatever resource they would have produced that year, and often their life. These battles come in waves every few years, but you are also occasionally presented with the opportunity to fight in an encounter that has been discovered on the map in exchange for a reward that can benefit your growing nation.
The beliefs that you gain as you progress through the game provide unique benefits that can sometimes make or break a battle. Beliefs range from Beliefs are divided into the five rough categories of industry, forestry, military, faith, and… chicken. Indeed, this is where the developer’s sense of humor comes into play, as zombie chickens, chicken beliefs, and the Chicken Devil weave their way into the fabric of an otherwise quite sober game. 50 Years is obviously quite fantastical, this much becomes clear when you realize that Unicorns, Angels, Minotaurs, Hydras, and more can be counted among the ranks of your army, so the chickens aren’t world-breaking, even if they are a bit out of step with the game’s general tone and help to contribute to a larger issue in the game’s lack of differentiation between nations. The game’s nations themselves are not fantastical, after all, but instead historical. At the start, players have a chance to recognize themselves in some of the nationalities, which include: American, Greek, British, French, Roman, Byzantine, Egyptian, Russian, Celtic, and Japanese. Because these nationalities differ so widely, it is disappointing that their citizenry classes are all the same. Instead of the Japanese having Samurai, they fight with the same Paladins and Minotaurs as any other nation, which seems thematically inconsistent and weakens the idea that the game’s playthroughs are unique enough for 50 Years to feel fresh each time.
The game’s art and sound help to contribute to the game’s muted fantasy feeling, but fails to help differentiate nationalities beyond the nation selection screen, and is at odds with the game’s rather utilitarian UI. 50 Years illustrates its nations with soft lines and colors, which helps to accentuate the idea that the game is a casual and low key. 50 Years is not stressful, and the art is there to gently introduce you to its world. Unfortunately, while the game is beautifully illustrated, the art is underutilized, and seems an oversight that your choice of nation isn’t integrated into the game’s art a bit more. For example, one would expect the background of your city to be tailored to whatever nation you have chosen. Little touches that included the monuments each nation was famous for in the background, or different uniforms for your soldiers, would go a long way in making 50 Years’ playthroughs feel more distinct.
Though you can vary gameplay with your choice of difficulty, nation, and beliefs, 50 Years’ lack of differentiation results in a sense of repetition. Its casual gameplay can at times border on the edge of boring. Because encounters are repeated every game and many of the game’s systems are automated, 50 Years requires minimal involvement from the player for the game to progress, which did at times leave me wanting more. For creators, the battle editor could perhaps serve to fill this hole. 50 Years’ battle editor allows the player to create a custom game by determining what enemies appear with each wave. These can then be uploaded to the steam workshop and shared with other players, allowing you to access and contribute to the entire community’s gallery of creation.
50 years’ multiple difficulty levels and automatic combat system make it accessible to players at all levels, even gamers who are new to strategy. Combined with the game’s short playtime and casual mechanics, these aspects of gameplay make 50 Years an ideal choice for beginner strategists, and it’s a great game to introduce people to the genre. Veteran strategists may find the game to be a bit repetitive, but they find the game challenging on higher difficulty levels, and they will also have the option to tailor the game to their liking with 50 years’ battle editor. Overall, 50 Years is a balanced casual strategy game that lives up to expectations and delivers a pleasant strategy experience to the gamer.
50 Years is developed by Aleksandr Golovkin and is available for $4.99 on Steam Early Access (PC.)