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Socratic Gaming: Estate Agent Simulator, An Early Access Oddity With Some Rough Edges
A diamond in the rough….rough rough though.
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this product from the developer.
Update 11/13/23: The developers updated the game prior to release to remove some of the rough edges around various glitches and dialog. They also have removed various potentially copywritten sound effects with more generic sounds likely no longer infringing.
Real Estate Agent Simulator is the debut PC game from Turkish developers KiKi Games. Prior to this, they were primarily making casual mobile games of varying degrees of popularity. according to their LinkedIn page, they are a small developer with 12 employees.
This game, on the outside, seems like it fits right at home with titles like “House Flipper,” “Power Washing Simulator,” and other “Simulator” titles of this same vein. It is the kind of game where you can escape your daily life in some other profession and spend time instead pretending to have another job entirely. Don’t get me wrong, there is a considerable appeal to these types of games. You feel a satisfying level of calm painting, decorating, and cleaning dirty homes with the click of a mouse.
These types of games generally come with a quirkiness that is not easily described unless you have played enough of them. The specific styling of their, often unity-based, engine gives the same templatized variation on the same functions: Highlighted aura around selectable objects, uncanny animations, clunky square opaque menus, and the infamous circular quick menu for changing items, tools, accessing tablets, or gestures. However, this game's quirkiness level, in particular, seems to come from a lack of polish rather than a genre standard, which is fair; it’s not pretending or claiming to launch as a finished product; it’s purporting to be an early access indefinitely on its Steam Store page. But as these titles continue to be marketed and sold at, sometimes full price, it’s important not to let those lacks of polish go unmentioned—excused possibly, but not brushed aside; they are important considerations when making a purchase.
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The Game How I Saw It
For starters, the settings for this game are, unfortunately, abysmal. There are few graphics controls, limited resolution options, and no gameplay options. That would have been severely helpful, considering the game has this strange sway when you strafe left and right, making me feel a level of motion sick I haven’t felt outside of VR in a long time. Perhaps an FOV slider would help this if there isn’t a way for them to turn off the sway.
The opening menu has you choose your player character first; this is standard enough with various faces to choose from and set your desired name. Then, very similarly, you choose your wife. Initially, this is a bizarre choice, but it seems to have a gameplay element. A section of the top UI always shows your “relationship” level with your wife. Further playing reveals you can attempt to sleep with your wife or even have children at the right relationship levels. Why this is here might be to add extra layers to the “simulator” aspect of the game.
Looking deeper at the UI, you’ll also notice there is a food meter or hunger meter. Checking your inventory, you’ll find some food items from the start to keep your hunger level up.
The dialog is also super weird, but that is likely because the game developers are located in Turkey.
Update 11/13/23: They have updated the dialog options to be less jarring and offensive when talking with your spouse.
Then you get to the meat and potatoes of the game: buying homes, then cleaning and furnishing them to sell/rent for a profit. Aside from some fixable bugs, this aspect seems nearly there; the cleaning mechanics are mostly picking up trash, washing dirt and blood off walls, using pesticides to deal with roaches, and then decorating to your heart’s desires.
Update 11/13/23: At the time of release, they replaced the Xbox 360 Sound effect with something else that is no longer potentially infringing.
please note, as you clean up you will clearly hear the Xbox 360 Achievement sound effect:
Buying a home is pretty easy; you just drive/take a bus to the region of the small map you want to explore, then look for homes with a “realtor wanted” banner presented.
This brought me to another recurring bug: if you try to talk to someone when objects are too close to the player character, it will clip the camera through the object or wall, obscuring the subjects. If it works, you can talk to the seller and either buy at the list price or attempt to haggle with them for a lower price. There seems to be some sort of cost percentage threshold to allow a chance for success; the higher you go above the list price, the lower the chance for success. Dialog is a little jarring with statements like “I’ll have to think about it. Okay deal” without a pause between statements.
You can purchase furniture from a nearby store and drive there with your pickup truck, then drive it back to your purchased home. As you clean and decorate, you get an indicator of the cleanliness and the estimated value of the unit. Except don’t save and leave. If you do that, due to a bug in the game, the dirtiness of the home returns, and you spend the first few moments upon reloading your saves, recleaning the home to get it back to its full cleanliness level and potential list/rent value.
The game has you often checking your tablet to list the homes you own and check your email. Poking around, you will also find a functioning cryptocurrency market where you can invest your money in various crypto types to act as a pseudo-stock market. There is another similar betting mechanic in the form of the casino found in the game; a few mini-games like craps/roulette exist, as well as slot machines.
You can even buy and ride a horse!
The variety of things to do outside of the main selling point is rather impressive for the size of the game but indicates a broad scope for development, which might explain some of the other shortcomings. You can see things around the town that imply that they will eventually expand functionality to allow you to buy and sell guns, purchase better vehicles to drive around, and continue to expand your belongings and give you something to do with all of the money you end up making from your real estate empire.
I’m not sure if I will be coming back to this game or not; its lack of finish in the core elements of the game makes it feel far more scattershot feature-wise than what we have come to expect from games in this genre, even in early access. Early access games generally have a completed main gameplay loop, and the continued development is around finishing other aspects or improving that main gameplay function via feedback from the community. The community, by the way, seems to be located entirely in their Discord. Looking at the Steam community forums, the team seems uninterested in participating in requests from the community; instead, they are asking them to join the Discord server to provide feedback. I understand this to an extent; they are a small team, and monitoring multiple channels can be very challenging with limited resources.
I understand I might be overly critical of a game not even claiming to be finished, “But it’s in Early Access Stewie!!” I hear your sob. And yes, it is in early access; however, they provided “early access” to content creators to advertise their upcoming game. This means they feel the game is in a state fit to be showcased. Perhaps the closed beta version of the game I played has been severely changed from the upcoming release. In this case, I have a new problem: it would be impossible for me to talk about this game without bringing up its various flaws.
In fairness, I reached out to the devs before the release of this review, asking them if the game intends to change in any significant capacity before release or if the review copy I received was indicative of what players could expect on November 13th. I was told that the version of the game I played is the most up-to-date version, however this morning right before the release of the game they have pushed a day 1 patch that seems to resolve the presence of potential copywritten sound effects and cleaned up some of the dialog and various bugs posted to their community, they have not resolved bugs mentioned in this review however. I’ll be interested to see how this game grows and develops over time. It seems the developers want to provide a lot of functions in their game and provide their players with various options outside of just buying and selling property.
If you are still interested, you can wishlist the game today via the Steam Store page: https://store.steampowered.com/app/2553050/Estate_Agent_Simulator/