Do ya'll think you have what it takes to live the life of a moonshiner,
right in the heart of the American South?
Klabater is a Polish company that started their journey in publishing before expanding to establish their own video game development studio.
Moonshine Inc. is the latest game to join their collection, launching on December 1st, 2022 and accessible on a variety of platforms including Steam, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox stores.
You may know them from their other popular titles, including their strategic deck-builder, The Amazing American Circus, or maybe their historical choices matter adventure, We. The Revolution.
Another Simulation Game?
We all need to escape the stresses of everyday life from time to time, and with the growing popularity of simulation games, you're able to do just that with a plethora of titles that explore some of the most obscure occupations and hobbies.
Some of the most popular simulation games include themes of Farming, Fishing and Flying, extending to other more particular activities such as PC Building and Power Washing. Hell, you even have the option to live the life of a goat or rock, if you so wish to!
With this in mind, it almost comes to no surprise that a Moonshining simulator would emerge at some point, although the extraordinarily detailed levels of realism were certainly unexpected.
What In The World?
Moonshine Inc. is a realistic story-driven simulation game with elements of in-depth resource management, complex crafting mechanics and secret base building. In Moonshine Inc. you'll be taking over your grandpop's old moonshinin' base, with the help of your instructive younger sister and wacky gruncle (grand-uncle), right in the heart of the Appalachia.
Players will learn the art of liquor production as they develop their distillery, but make sure to be careful! You'll have to dodge the law enforcement's vigilant surveillance as you build your enterprise to distribute illicit alcohol. You'll find them knocking on your shack's door to shut you down if you deliver to the same locations and purchase hot ticket items from the local store, leading to a big ol' GAME OVER because, well... what you're doing is illegal!
At the start of the campaign, the game presents an incredibly thorough tutorial, which might seem a little overwhelming owing to the massive amount of information being thrown at you, but is truly indispensable to have as it teaches and explains each adjustable feature in extensive detail. This provides the player with a fantastic foundation for further exploration, thanks to the strong base in knowing the fundamentals.
My immediate thoughts after finishing the rather lengthy tutorial were nothing short of admiration at the level of research and effort the developer must have put into creating such a highly elaborate, immersive experience. There is certainly an addictive element to the game, as I found myself almost compulsively exploring and trying to find every recipe in the game.
Furthermore, there's also an added pressure from the global police alert levels, in the form of a red light system; there's very little you can do if this rises to the maximum level, which I think may be a slight oversight as it's one of the key gameplay mechanics that determines whether your empire collapses or grows.
Fixin' To Make Them There Benjamins!
The crafting process is split up into a few different stages; Planning > Fermentation > Distillation > Bottling > Delivery. In the planning stage of your newest batch, you have the option of combining up to three ingredients which you have the opportunity to experiment with, thanks to the broad range of available ingredients, which include Sugars, Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains.
With over 50 ingredients at your disposal, you can find and follow over 70 recipes to create four different types of alcohol, ranging from Moonshine and Whisky to Vodka and Brandy.
Did you think these were the only variables? You also have access to more than 35 apparatuses to use, 26 fermentation and distillation technologies in the skill tree and 5 environmental regions to explore as well!
Moonshine Inc. undoubtedly provides you with all of the tools you need to make and tailor your drinks in tremendous detail, allowing you to forge your own path as the game doesn't regiment how you accomplish tasks or discover new recipes.
In the planning phase, you will choose which ingredients and apparatus you'd like to use for the batch you're making; different ingredients will need different equipment which you can craft as you level up your technologies. Each recipe has a different flavour profile you will need to match, found in the form of a pentagonal chart with the following flavours: Bitter, Sweet, Sour, Salty and Acrid.
There are varying ways to reach certain flavour profiles for your spirits, with each recipe having the option to choose from a range of ingredients to create it and other variables you can change throughout the processes.
Fermentation is the natural first step after mashing your ingredients. Here, you will select the ratio of Sugar to Water in your booze, change the temperature and how long you'd like to ferment the alcohol for.
Each change greatly effects the flavour profile and amount of ethanol that will eventually be the alcohol percentage, so it's important to bare this in mind! I found that more often than not, it was important to keep the ethanol levels at a higher percentage because you can always alter it within the following stages.
Phew! We're about half way there with our batch now, and from here on out it's mostly down to quality control in the Distillation process. Here you will balance your ethanol percentage; the higher the ethanol, the more room you have for adjustment in crafting the perfect recipe match. You can choose to distill on a high or low heat, which effects the time it takes for the batch to complete.
The final stage is Bottling your fresh batch of booze! Here you are able to dilute your alcohol to match the required ethanol percentage (the more exact this is, the higher the quality will be). In addition to this, you're also able to set the price that you're selling the batch for and customise the name of your brew!
Now that you've made up your newest concoction, you're able to deliver it to the locals so they can get absolutely hammered! For this, you will need to choose a worker to deliver the goods, select a car and which batch you want to deliver, select your destination and it's out into the world (isn't it so bittersweet to watch them grow up?).
So, you're done with brewing your batch... what now? Make sure you clean and repair your apparatus, because any unmaintained equipment will negatively effect your next brew's quality. With so many variables throughout the processes of planning, fermentation, distillation and bottling, it's very easy to make the slightest move which can either make or break the success of your batch.
Well, I Do Declare!
After some time playing both the campaign and sandbox modes of Moonshine Inc., I swiftly realised that the perfectionist side of me was quickly becoming frustrated in not being able to 100% each flavour profile to fit the recipes, in turn creating lower quality brews than I would have liked.
Due to the game's realism and open-ended possibilities, perfection isn't always a feasible choice, and you'll just need to settle for a fairly okay spirit that matches the recipes, instead of tinkering too much which can ultimately ruin your batch.
Although this process becomes slightly easier with the more you unlock in the technology tree, some of the recipes also become more difficult to craft as you'll need special ingredients and specific equipment in order to produce them.
Overall, I would say that this is a fairly balanced difficulty progression for the game, and the missions and side quests will kindly reward you with extra recipes and income for all your hard work.
Later in the game, as you unlock more and brew larger batches, you'll find yourself waiting a significant amount of real time for them to finish, as the game speed only goes as far as eight times the standard pace of the game, and the batches can take a few in-game days to fully complete.
I particularly liked the element of road events occurring every so often when you're out delivering to the hideouts and special customers. As someone who enjoys the Choices Matter genre within games, I would have liked to see more events like this appear throughout the game, as well as additional options to choose from. This would heighten the excitement of potentially having a negative impact, depending on your decisions.
I believe that the game holds a fair amount of potential in regards to its replayability, as you can tackle missions in a variety of ways which keeps the gameplay fresh. Furthermore, I believe the game has the potential to add fresh elements in the form of DLC (downloadable content) or future updates. This added content could include new areas to explore in the Appalachian Mountains, more recipes to discover, and further narrative material.
Music and graphics are generally combined to create a well-rounded, immersive experience. Moonshine Inc.'s utilisation of the upbeat instrumental americana genre produces a very cosy atmosphere, which only serves to make a relaxing experience that helps you concentrate on the complex gameplay mechanics, whilst maintaining the game's overall tone and themes. In addition to this, the game's ambient sounds present an additional layer of authenticity, from your workers crafting at the workshop to the delivery truck trudging along to the various hideouts.
The graphics are sharp and blend well with the overall realism that the game aspires to, which I find to be incredibly captivating. With an implemented night and day cycle, you can observe the environment change around you through its usage of various colour palettes within every location you explore. Moreover, the images of the various apparatus, materials and ingredients are quite clear, and it is simple to discern each item's intention with a high level of detail.
Moonshine Inc. is overflowing with history and provides you with all the knowledge and tools you'll need if you ever want to take this out into the real world, however I'd highly encourage you to acquire a distiller's licence if you don't want to get locked up! With all joking aside, I thoroughly enjoyed playing this game and can't wait to see more from Klabater in the future.