News Tower Early Access Review – Hot Off The Press

Sparrow Night’s media mogul management sim, News Tower, has just launched into Early Access, though aside from a few pieces of locked content here and there, it’s well-polished enough in its current state to believe this is the full release.

News Tower puts you in the shoes of a founder of a newspaper in 1930s New York. As a tycoon game, News Tower not only puts you in charge of arranging the content that your publication sends out, but also the building itself. From hiring janitors to ensuring the rooms are comfortable enough for people to work in, you have full control over the building.

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You’re not only in charge of running the paper, but also the daily runnings of the building.

When ensuring the building is comfortable to work in, you must take into consideration surrounding noise, heat and cleanliness. You have a comfort view which highlights which areas of the building are uncomfortable to work in using a green, amber and red system. Unfortunately, it doesn’t highlight what exactly is wrong, so you need to mess around with certain items to determine if the room is too noisy, too hot, too smelly or too dark.

The main objective of News Tower is to meet your printing deadline every Sunday. You need to hire telegraphers to receive news reports from across the city, reporters to go out and write reports on these stories, and typesetters and assemblers to produce the final product. And that’s not including the various other employees that you will need to hire and manage in order to prevent issues from cropping up, such as a lawyer to help file lawsuits, a salesperson to find advertisements, an editor to prevent sloppy reporting, a janitor to clean the place, a mechanic to keep the machines in the building in working order, and more – every employee is valuable in some way.

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Unfortunately the comfort view metre doesn’t give you much insight into what exactly is wrong with the environment.

When growing and expanding the newspaper, you’ll work your way through each district in New York, master its audience, and unlock access to certain buildings which can provide upgraded equipment and buff and comfort items to boost your employees’ skills and comfort. To do this, you must match the reading criteria of each district and ensure each desired story type is printed.

But certain actions will also have their consequences. Printing ads can boost your income but also lower your reputation with certain audiences. Some stories even come at risks of injury to your reporters, protesters, the mafia turning up at the door, fines and even lawsuits. You’ll also have the option to dig deeper into certain stories, taking it down one path or another, which can also come with its own rewards. This all comes under the pressure of ensuring you have enough coverage to fill your newspaper by the deadline, and that week runs by faster than you think!

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Do you cover the political side of this story, or the social side? Will this story suit the audience of the district you’re aiming to print in?

News Tower also brings in three influential figures from different factions in the city (with more to come later on), who you can work with to earn influence points to purchase items from unlocked buildings around the map. However, this does come at the cost of printing biased news by avoiding certain topics that they don’t want you to talk about or covering ones that they do want you to cover. I do hope that there is a wider variety of characters coming up because, as of now, the NPCs are from high society, the mafia and the government, each of which feel corrupt and wasn’t something I was overly keen on partaking in – however it’s strongly encouraged by the game as every time you move to start a new week and pick a new district to cover, the game will prompt you to pick up an NPC quest too.

My main complaint about News Tower is actually concerning the tutorial, which made a bad first impression when I initially booted up the game. For a tycoon game that puts a lot on your plate, the tutorial is far too much information at once. It doesn’t take a break or give you a breather to try out the tool or mechanic it’s just introduced to you before jumping onto the next one. On top of this, it falls victim to “tutorial debt” where it consistently tells you to buy more equipment within the first few minutes of playing before you’ve had a chance to raise money or even get a rough idea of how to raise money. In fact, the tutorial was so poor for News Tower that once I got the gist of the basic mechanics (on my own, once the tutorial had finished bombarding me with messages), I had to create a new save so that I could restart the game without being in debt.

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Some districts require you to have a certain number of pages to begin publishing there – but this comes at the risk of not having the capacity to run enough stories to fill these extra pages.

Another downside of the tutorial is that you can’t look back on any of the information given, I got to a point where sloppy reports were being consistently written and I had no idea why as my reporters seemed to be happy – only to realise that it was because my production line were uncomfortable and their concentration was suffering as a result, but there was no indication on the ‘sloppy report’ stamp of who was responsible for the sloppy report – so I had assumed it was the reporters. In fact, at some points sloppy reports continued to be produced by certain journalists whose work space seemed comfortable enough, yet their status showed no indication of why their concentration was suffering so much and I had no choice but to simply fire them.

I also noticed that a lot of your paper’s survival depends on pre-determining what you’ll potentially need in the future and then working towards that on the map, which is impossible when first starting out the game unless you’re looking through every building’s contents before you try unlocking it – which the game also doesn’t warn you about. I got to a point where lawsuits were turning up at my door and I had no way of dealing with them because I didn’t realise that I needed to unlock a certain building on the map to make hiring lawyers available – thus dooming my publication to bankruptcy. The same situation occurs if you haven’t worked towards the police station to purchase security when mobsters start showing up. Personally, I find these as important as other aspects of the office that you can just purchase outright from the store without needing to unlock them first.

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The developers have hinted towards worldwide publishing in the game’s road map.

Another quality of life addition that News Tower would benefit from is some form of notification when a journalist becomes free again. I had news stories that required certain reporters, and I found myself having to keep them open on the screen so that I could quickly assign the correct reporter once they had completed their current story.

News Tower is very aesthetically pleasing, with a soft colour palette and simplistic 2D animation. I also liked seeing my printed paper each time I finished a week to see the headlines I had selected in action. One point I would make is that I wish we weren’t dragged into a cutscene every time a car shows up to drop off lawsuit files, mobsters or protestors. These are only short cut scenes but they pull you in regardless of what you were doing at the time.

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All in a week’s worth.

Music-wise, News Tower uses upbeat 1930s-style tunes. These are energetic and uplifting at core moments and die down while you’re working through the week which means they don’t get too repetitive or noisy while you’re trying to concentrate.

Aside from these few criticisms, News Tower is fun to play in its current state and has a clear roadmap showing more complex systems to better reflect the experience of running a publication, such as worldwide reporting. In its Early Access state, players are limited to 36 in-game weeks – but I can see this being very addictive once it fully launches as I found myself in the habit of telling myself “just one more week” before logging off for the night.

Jess reviewed News Tower on PC in Early Access with a review code.

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