Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.
It’s been far too long since Impressions Games disappeared, and with it, such classics as Pharaoh, Zeus, and Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom. While they might not be the first example that comes to mind when you think of strategy games, there’s a level of tact and awareness required when planning the development of an entire city. Just when I was beginning to lose hope (having realized my copy of Emperor was nowhere to be found last I was at my parents’ house, shedding one solemn man tear knowing it’ll be nigh impossible to find another working copy), I was happy to find Lethis – Path of Progress on Steam, a Victorian Steampunk city-builder that serves as an ample spiritual successor to this pantheon of mighty games.
Lethis kind of snuck up on me on Steam, having been introduced in that handy suggestion queue one evening, trying to deal with the couple extra bucks burning a hole in my wallet. I first stumbled upon Triskell Interactive‘s debut piece a few months back, immediately won over by their attention to detail in all aspects. From the beautiful art style reminiscent of a westernized Hayao Miyazaki (think Spirited Away) to the airy orchestral marches that accompany your reign as imperial city manager, Lethis is a peaceful city-builder whose 26 scenarios are as fun, challenging, and engaging as they are breathtaking to look at–which is quite a bit.
While the game isn’t without its flaws (some minor balancing issues when it comes to prioritization and resource shortages as an example), given that Triskell comprises just a handful of people who are even willing to learn from their mistakes, it should come to no surprise that Lethis is a game made with every bit of love and passion the designers could muster. Incorporating a lot of the fundamentals from Impressions‘ games, Triskell adds a few modern nuances to make planning your settlements even easier with walker path indicators for service buildings and consolidated overlays and department reports menus.
With a couple dozen resources to manage, you must ensure to build your fledgling cities with care, balancing goods and services carefully among the populace. Naturally, if you have a surplus, you can always trade it away for much-needed foodstuffs and other sundry items to make your citizens happy.
Though a game does not need to have warfare in order to be fun, I was a little surprised, however, by the lack of any sort of combat mechanic. I know that the purpose of a city-builder game is to build cities, but in a universe where you’re a citizen of an empire that recently harnessed the power of steam implies there’s a force that defends and fights for the emperor. And beyond the obvious military-oriented gameplay that declaring war on neighboring states brings, it also could add a plethora of economic options to play with–the nobles allow for more officers which, in turn, allow you to field a larger force, industries can be balanced between peace- and war-time priorities, as well as the additional challenge of building a city under threat of enemy raids.
While this is all wishful thinking, the features I’ve outlined aren’t new and their absence seems to be either a design oversight or just not properly justified in the game’s current state. Mind you, this isn’t meant to be damning and Lethis is still very enjoyable as it is, Triskell, in its continued support of the game post-release (note even the Halloween-themed reskinning, could capitalize on this in either an update or clever DLC package, building on the concepts once again left off by their predecessor.
Disregarding my war-oriented bias, Lethis is truly a wonderful addition to any fan of city-builders and Steampunk. For only $19.99, it’s well worth it in exchange for the hours and hours you’ll spend perfecting your metropolis in the name of the empire.