Every so often you play a game that immediately grabs you, throws you into something strange and wonderful, and never lets go. It has been a long time since I played a game that I’m still thinking about even when I’m not playing it. Lying in bed last night after playing a few hours of Golden Gear Games' Fate Tectonics, I was still rotating land pieces in my head to fit in the right order and appease the gods. I have not experienced this same sensation since playing Tetris as a child. This is a puzzle game unlike anything I’ve ever played and solidifies my deep love for the indie gaming scene from which it comes.
First, the pixel art. Just the other day I discussed with a friend how tired I was of pixel art, believing it is overused and a gimmick that mediocre indie developers use to trick you into buying their game. Fate Tectonics has revitalized my love for 16-bit style indie games. The amount of hours the developers must have spent making the art for this game are innumerable. Every pixel is beautifully hand-crafted - it’s absolutely perfect.
The music, too, is beautifully done, and is a 16-bit symphonic soundtrack. The music is gentle as you’re world building and becomes hectic as any "god" gets unhappy (more on this below). It fits well, never gets old, and will get stuck in your head.
Fate Tectonics consists of two major gameplay features: world building and god appeasing. Of the many game modes, I have spent the bulk of my time playing “Serenity”, the most accessible.
Every god has their likes and dislikes and you must find a happy medium for all of them. You start out in Serenity mode by placing down the temple of Penelope, the god of civilization. From there, land masses spring up and you are given land tiles to place down. Your goal with the land tiles is to connect all of the sides to other connecting sides. You’ll have a four by four tile that is sectioned off into four distinct pieces of land (Grass, Water, Mountain, and Trees) and you must find a part of your world where each of those pieces match. Water connects with water, grass connects with grass, and so on.
On top of all the land connecting, you also have to think about the gods who are floating about your screen. Penelope loves towns, boats, and grassy plains, but Barnacles, the god of the ocean, hates boats and loves the sea. You must balance placing boats to appease Penelope with adding ocean tiles to appease Barnacles. Now, throw in about five more gods you have to appease while quickly trying to match tiles of land together, and you have a cornucopia of puzzle game euphoria.
As you successfully place tile pieces and raise the satisfaction levels of your gods you “level up”. When this happens you are given either the ability to unlock a new temple to add to your world, new land tiles, new land swapping abilities, shrines, or other upgrades. This gives you a "carrot on a stick" to chase, as any similar game does with upgrade trees, and enhances an already addictive game.
In addition to Serenity, there are three other modes. The first one you’ll be introduced to is "Tutyr". In this mode, the tutorial god teaches you the information you will need to play the game. I found myself going back to him frequently to make sure I understood the concept for some of the more complex abilities that you unlock.
The "Ragnarosa and Fortuna" mode is for more advanced players and has you attempt gaining Fortuna’s favor while staving off Ragnarosa’s rage as you travel through all the games' ages. If you can’t get enough of trying to please the gods in Serenity mode but want a bit more of a challenge with an ever-swinging axe always looming over your world, this is the game mode for you.
Finally, there is Custom Mode. The god "Travissty" lets you make your own rules for the kind of game you want to play. It is a great mode that I’ve had fun experimenting in, but I prefer Serenity mode.
After a few hours Fate Tectonics becomes repetitive, but just like Tetris you find yourself crawling back to it. I had been playing so many indie games that all of the indie scene began to feel stale, but Fate Tectonics brought my interest back at warp speed. I do not think there is a game out there that can please everyone but Fate Tectonics comes close. I recommend it more so than any other indie game I've played, even as a world-builder game - I adore Sid Meier's Civilization but wouldn’t recommend it to many people I know because it would not be for them. But almost anyone can find something to enjoy in Fate Tectonics.