Golftopia Review (Early Access)
Create your dream golf course... but throw some bumpers and rings of fire in for good measure
Taking inspiration from Sid Meier’s Simgolf, Golftopia is a futuristic golf tycoon game currently in early access, where your aim is to make a course that is both challenging but satisfying for 200 golfers. The emphasis really is on the course rather than the things around it, which makes for a focused game where you can really delve into building the best course possible.
From the get go, you have good control of customising the initial terrain you’ll start off with. You can generate maps and tweak sliders for different levels of water, hills, foliage and more. You really can modify the terrain to whatever you want, and there’s additionally an option to set custom seeds. I’ve tended to put the hills and water to a minimum just so I can modify this myself when getting into the game, as raising and lowering the ground comes at no charge (unless you turn the setting on).
The course designing is the core element of the gameplay and I’m glad that it’s a wonderful experience and very easy to pick up. You only start off with 1 tile of land out of 9 available, and only 3 holes available to build until you upgrade your clubhouse. This means you can first get a feel for what the golfers do and don’t like, without having to build a sprawling course of 18 holes from the very start. Regarding the course design mechanics themselves, you can paint the ground with typical course features such as bunkers and fairways, raise and lower the ground with ease and put varying types of foliage and rocks down where you please. Also available at your disposal are an array of futuristic elements to spice up your golf course. Bumpers, rings of fire and temporary skill boosts are a few of the things you can put into your course to entertain the golfers and improve their play. These objects can both inspire you to make holes based around them, or simply just add some extra excitement to a more simplistic golf hole, such as the placement of a ring of fire to go through on the tee shot.
An important mechanic in the game to manage is the eternal fight against weeds that spawn on your course. Even though they look quite pretty in my opinion, these purple weeds can spawn anywhere on the map and cause your golfers moods to go down. There are options to turn the number of weeds that spawn up or down, but on normal weed difficulty I never really had any trouble with them. This, along with the building of hubs that deploy drones to maintain your course, are the only real elements of groundskeeping rather than course designing that appear in the game, both of which are very simple and uninvolved.
These are the "weeds". They just look like cool colourful bushes?
The graphics and sounds of the game are pretty cartoon-y, which complements the overall wacky nature of the game. The simple graphics also mean that the game runs ultra-smooth: I had no real issue with performance at all. The soundtrack for the game is an eclectic mix of genres which I really enjoyed. Even though the music tracks didn’t really fit in with each other, each track somehow felt like it fit with the game as a whole: my big disappointment is that the soundtrack isn’t available on YouTube!
You can also play the course yourself as the manager, who can also give opinions on the course and improve his own skill at golf.
My main frustration of the game, which is an expected frustration and not a complaint, is the skill levels of the golfers who actually come to play. Just as I might get annoyed with myself for hitting a bad shot on a real-life golf course, it’s frustrating to make holes with wide open fairways and still have your patrons end up in the hazards on either side. I try very hard to not virtually backseat these AI golfers but sometimes it’s just too difficult. These frustrations turn into complaints with the needs of the golfers, which seem to jump all over the place and get neglected by the golfers themselves. Golfers will state that they’re hungry, or thirsty or need the toilet but then go and play more holes of golf and skip my conveniently placed stalls just because they’re 2 steps further from the default path to the next hole. This in turn leads to lower mood, which leads to fewer upgrades in membership, which just artificially slows down progression in the game when you’ve really done nothing wrong.
Aside from this one minor complaint I really don’t have any issues with the game. Constant replay value might be a bit of a challenge but this is the kind of game you’d more so want to play in bursts, rather than sink big hours into. Since its release as an early access game back in July, the game has had one major update at the time of writing. Along with a few new contraptions, this update primarily added some big improvements to the golfers themselves, allowing curved shots as well as greater difference in approach, with less skilled golfers playing safer and more skilled golfers taking risky shots. The game is meant to be having its full release in around five to six months, so if there’s big content updates every month or so I imagine the finished product will be a very polished game.
Despite being in early access Golftopia has much going for it, enough so that I’d recommend picking it up now for £15/$20 if you’re in any way interested in the idea of a golf tycoon game, or if you ever played Simgolf. It’s been good to play and I’m looking forward to any future updates MinMax Games have in store.