I’ve had my eyes on Lakeburg Legacies for a while – the promise of a city builder-cum-dating sim is incredibly intriguing, it looks adorable, and Ishtar Games has already impressed me with The Last Spell. After recently playing a demo, which consists of around an hour of gameplay, it continues to look promising.
The first thing you’ll notice about the game is its art style. Lakeburg Legacies is awash with muted pastels and soft linework. It’s a lovely aesthetic and perfectly captures the mood it’s going for – calming, laidback, and cute. Every character and scene could have been lifted straight out of a storybook, they’re all so beautifully illustrated.
Gameplay is pretty basic, for the most part. You get villagers to come live in Lakeburg, assign them jobs, and use the resources they gather to build new businesses and sustain their needs, which grow loftier as time goes on. The twist comes from the dating system, whereby you can find a partner for your villagers and play through a short date before marriage. There’s some strategy at play in picking a good partner, as you need someone to be a good fit for your resident and someone who can satisfy the village’s needs, but the game isn’t complex enough to make thinking about such a thing worth it at the moment. The dates are very cute sequences in which you decide what the couple does, hoping to exploit their shared interests to form a spark of attraction, though I will never not roll my eyes at the prompt to have the prospective lovebirds “D-d-d-d-d-duel”.
Once you have some couples living in your town, they’ll start developing relationships with the other townsfolk, making friends and enemies at the drop of a hat, and even having babies. Even same-gender couples can have children together, which is a nice detail. This all happens in the background, though, and you’d have to pay attention to the event log in the bottom right to see everything that happens. When the town gets bigger, trying to keep track of everything is an effort in futility, which is a shame. It was only when I was alerted to the presence of a homeless mother and child that I learned that one of the first couples I played matchmaker for had gotten divorced – which was a pretty big shock. I’d love it if there were more obvious notifications for the bigger relationship developments – you get a handy popup for new births, but not much in the way of groundbreaking relationship changes or when a child reaches the age they can take on an apprenticeship. Even an option to mend these rifts between your inhabitants would have been welcome, certainly going a long way in making me more emotionally attached to each of them. When it happens out of sight, it’s out of mind.
Resource management, at least early on, is easy to get the hang of. Your villagers have different proficiencies, so allocating them to jobs they’re good at is important. Buildings can be upgraded, too, though the most functional upgrades require gold, which you only really get from a randomly appearing merchant for the first section of the game – this leads to a lot of waiting around if you accidentally spent all your money on the wrong upgrades in the wrong place. One of the early buildings requires wheat to build, but your farm will only produce this if you purchase a particular upgrade – guess what I didn’t have enough money for? Praise be to the speedup buttons.
I encountered only a few small bugs during my short time with Lakeburg Legacies. The most noticeable was one where time would stop entirely and I had to fiddle with the pause and play buttons to get it started again, but overall, the game runs very well. The demo throws a lot at you, but there’s no real way to fail in the first few years as you learn the various systems. My poor villagers spent the first year of their life in Lakeburg homeless because I simply could not find the button that would allow me to build houses, and they turned out fine. Well, apart from the one who ended up a homeless, single mother.
The demo ended right as it started to throw some really interesting mechanics at you. Once you’ve built your town up enough, you get to construct a castle and choose your own monarch. It looks like managing a treasury, taxes, and inheritance will be quite complicated parts of the full game, and the demo is full of ‘WIP’ signs that promise even more new features. This demo has been a nice taste of what Lakeburg Legacies has to offer, and I’m eager to get to the main course.
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