Kapital: Sparks of Revolution Review – Communist City-Building?
Kapital: Sparks of Revolution28th April, 2022
Kapital: Sparks of Revolution is purportedly a game about class struggle, set in the backdrop of a ruined capital city in an unnamed country after a war. A great war, one could say. I'd say it's meant to be Belarus - or some other eastern-European country - post World War One. I wouldn't be surprised either since the developer, Lapovich Team, is Belarusian. It's also possible the game has told me what the setting is, and while I couldn't swear to it, my subconscious could be yelling out the correct answer.
Either way, it's not important. You're starting from the beginning, just with the advantage of knowing where the technology will go. The aim is a simple one, keep your resources balanced and keep the three social classes happy. These three classes are the Workers, the Bourgeois, and the Nobles. So far, so 1917 Russia.
Let's talk about classes. The sad reality is that even in a supposed communist state, class systems still exist. Communism, if it worked as it is on paper, would no doubt be the ideal way to live. Everybody would be equal, and nobody would be left wanting. Universal healthcare and social welfare is, factually, a good thing. The states to have claimed themselves as communists never were, and the current "Communist" state, run by the Chinese Communist Party, is not communist. No country has ever been communist, and no country ever will be. This is something that Kapital: Sparks of Revolution sort of gets across, or I saw this while playing the game.
The name isn't missed on me, clearly pointing toward Karl Marx's work, Capital (Das Kapital, in his native tongue). This blunt nature is visible throughout the campaign, which is essentially the sandbox but gives you some specific orders on the way and forces you down particular paths. For example, having your the train - your source of grain - getting hijacked, pushing you to research a specific technology and then sending folks off to rescue it.
Another difference is the text-based dialogue with these specific missions and progression beats. You've got a character representing each of the three classes, with extra characters representing the healthcare system, the secret police, etc. Most of the time, you find the working-class representative having a go at the nobles, with some quips at the Bourgeois. Other times, you'll find a former soldier pushing you to take as many authoritarian choices as possible. It's all but showing you, possibly without meaning to, why Communism will never work and why humanity is screwed: people are self-serving and have far too many vested interests.
So why have I spoken about all that, only loosely linking it into Kapital: Sparks of Revolution? I've already dropped you that hint; the campaign and the sandbox are essentially the same. They use the same map; it's just that you get to change a few starting aspects on the sandbox and have a bit more freedom in which direction you want to go in the progression of your city, all while managing the balance of your people.
Managing this balance will not be new to people who have played other city-building simulators before. You've been balancing population happiness repeatedly in the past, just with different labels (Residential, Commercial and Industrial in Cities: Skylines, for example). Here in Kapital: Sparks of Revolution, you're doing the same, and for the most part - if you've got the resources - you'll not struggle. Then again, I'm saying that, but one of my games ended in a mass riot. The nobles were the ones rioting; the bunch of needy gits that they are, wanted me to clear up the hundreds of corpses on the street, having all died of starvation.
My capital sounds more like a Belarusian city the more I talk about it. I've got the great famine of Russia of 1920-21 (Belarus was a part of it back then) on my mind. You have some tools for improving happiness, such as places for drink, ones for food and some shops. The workers go to one particular type; the bourgeois and nobles got to the other. Then it's just a case of making sure you have the resources. You can use the printing press and spend a great deal of money for a +10 boost, a bit of propaganda.
Also, make sure to have an efficient police force to solve crimes. You can interfere and determine which investigations they'll focus on, too. Maybe I should have focused on the case of the dead Noble? Possibly not, because you're also competing with corruption in every single government building, even the bloody hospital. It's an interesting tweak that reduces the efficiency of the particular facility based on the corruption level. You can only go on a corruption purge for one building, and it's got a fair cooldown. That and I often forget to go on a corruption purge.
You've always got more on top of your need to balance an ever-growing population, one growing even when people are dropping like flies and their corpses littering the street. You've also got to keep up with your research of more advanced buildings, ensure your workers are in the warehouses building up your resources and remember to enact new acts. It's in line with other city-builders, just not as detailed as the more extensive ones.
I can't say that aesthetically, admittedly. Kapital: Sparks of revolution is a good looking game, having that bit of extra colour that makes it pop when the populous lob Molotov Cocktails at your palace window. The designs of structures show good attention to detail, but the little things such as the people add to the effect.
The best I can honestly say about Kapital: Sparks of Revolution is that it's got the features you'd find in any good city builder. It's even got something extra thanks to the corruption system, but it doesn't have that depth to propel it to greatness. It doesn't help that there's only one map. The on-the-nose dialogue in the campaign is just that, but understandable if only to push the setting, not that it has as much impact as I think it would like to have.
All things considered, I can recommend Kapital: Sparks of Revolution as a perfectly serviceable city builder. If you like that sort of game, you'll have a decent amount of time with it, and sometimes that's more than enough.
Kapital: Sparks of Revolution is a perfectly serviceable city building game that attempts to add class struggle and other aspects such as state corruption and intervention into the mix. While it doesn't achieve everything it set out to do, the ideas are there and offer something interesting to play. Where it added some of these interesting ideas, it has also sadly skimped on other core areas; there is only one map, and the balance isn't great with the game constantly threatening to overwhelm you. All things considered, I'd still recommend it for fans of the genre, just with the knowledge that it isn't the most detailed and better options exist.
- Strong visual design
- Interesting mechanics around corruption and police control...
- ... these additions aren't implemented as good as they could be
- Only one map for both the campaign and sandbox
- It isn't the most balanced, constantly throwing people at you when you've got no scope for growth (though this can be eased through a later building)