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Lakeside – By Massive Galaxy Studios

A review by Max Tittle

So I attended EGX London this year and I was delighted to finally show up to an event in person. Like many others my first stop was the leftfield collection. An old EGX favourite, the collection celebrates the incredible diversity of the videogames industry. They highlight new indie titles, some of which are in the very first stages of development.

One such game caught my eye. I love city builders, medieval or modern, fantastical or factual. There is just something immensely satisfying about watching your little buildings grow skywards. So when I saw Lakeside, it immediately stood out to me!

The title screen of Lakeside depicting a bustling city on a hill by the side of a lake. There is a large bridge and a huge statue of a goddess at the entrance to the city.

Massive Galaxy Studios’ Lakeside is a 2D city builder that takes place on the titular side of the titular lake. While many city builders situate themselves in grand locations with mountain ranges and rivers, Lakeside stands out from the crowd. With a tiered slope upon which you position your buildings, the game offers a picturesque perspective where the silhouette of your skyline against the painterly background becomes a key aspect of your enjoyment.

“It was just a case of taking the plunge”

Massive Galaxy Studios

  • Gonçalo Monteiro – in charge of coding and game design
  • Gerardo Quiroz (aka Kirokaze) – responsible for the incredible pixel art
  • Martyn Stonehouse – creator of the gorgeous soundtrack

I spoke to Martyn Stonehouse while convention goers experienced the game next to us. Picking his brain it was clear to see that the core aspect of the game was its narrative. The immersive music and detailed animations made your city feel alive, despite the citizens being three pixels tall they had a purpose and a place while moving about the map. The developers want every aspect to engage you in this role. As chief you must decide what to build, make judgments on your city’s future, and complete the quests your citizens ask of you.

When asked about inspirations for the game, Martyn explained Gonçalo’s love of 90s strategy games such as Civilisation and Pharoah. We discussed their early projects, and what it meant for their journey as a game dev studio to be completely self-funded but also to have complete creative freedom. “It was just a case of taking the plunge really and getting on board with it,” Martyn said when discussing their decision to come together as a studio. Martyn himself ran a recording studio for 12 years, while Gonçalo was a programmer for an IT company. “There isn’t one way [into the industry], I think you make your own path really”.

An image showing the early game of Lakeside. There are 5 buildings so far will areas of trees and stone that haven't yet been collected
An image showing the reqard system in Lakeside. There are a selection of 3 different buildings to unlock.

“We really want to push the feel and the pace of the game and how players react to that”

Lakeside Review

I bought a copy to experience the game myself and, in early access, it wouldn’t be fair to judge Lakeside harshly. As a part of their roadmap plan, Massive Galaxy Studios wanted to use the next 6 months for player feedback. Nevertheless, I wanted to see what Lakeside excelled at and what they would need to work on.

The Good

With its unique style and visual emphasis, it’s easy to see what they got right. In the early game, you feel responsible for your citizens: making sure there’s enough housing, gathering and preserving food, and trying to collect the other resources available. You also get a taste of making your city your own. By selecting a house, you can drag upwards or outwards to build in that direction. You increase its capacity and add a customisable element to your village. Once in a while, a citizen’s request or an event will pop up, granting a little extra flavour to immerse you in your role, and various decisions can give you game-lasting bonuses.

By the time I reached the mid-game, I was right where the game wanted me. I had finally saved up for my first large buildings and soon fishing huts and waterwheels lined the shores of the lake. My city was generating gold and iron, and at that point I felt myself step out of the role of Chief, and into that of a city architect with far too many resources on his hands.

What can be improved

Gold soon became expendable and the economy felt underutilised. The only obstacle in my path was time. I never saw a reason to hold back and soon the late game became a cycle of replacing structures with their upgrades. They came so frequently that an entire stage of housing buildings was skipped by accident.

An image showing Lakeside later on in the game, there are many buildings but there is a grand temple structure with columns that dominates over the city.

In the late game, you couldn’t gear your city towards different strategies. Instead you rely on what had the biggest number in its description. No matter my choice the city would still expand. The one holdout in the late game was that the aesthetic was very much still a reason to play.

Some minor gripes: navigating your city felt clunky and certain functions didn’t always work so intuitively. One time I lost a building hidden behind the sprite of the colosseum I built and couldn’t replace it. I only mention these flaws so late in the review because this is exactly what will be worked on in the coming months.

The Future of Lakeside

We’ve already seen this and more in the patches they’ve rolled out. We’ve got improvements to the UI, smaller balances like maintenance costs, and larger game features such as new events and an architectural style matching mechanic.

There are decisions you make in the early game that feel important and impactful. I get the impression that these events and challenges you face will become the norm.

All in all, Lakeside is taking steps to shake up the formula, and they do! The game stands out from the crowd with its unique setting. With new mechanics, scenarios, and patches coming out monthly the care and the attention that the devs are investing into their game is apparent. I can’t wait to return to the game and see what I can build.

Get your hands on Lakeside here if you want to check out all those updates they’ve released.

If you like what you read I will be posting more reviews and discussions on the gaming industry soon.

And finally if you’d like to have a look at my craetive portfolio for game writing and narrative design please click here

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