I love Dungeon Keeper, with its micro-management and general upkeep of minions, yet I also love Prison Architect for its unique art style and fun building mechanics – if only you could combine the two in a sort-of Frankenstein experiment… Wild Factor also had a similar idea and has made me very happy by bringing us MachiaVillain on PC. MachiaVillain is a management sim where you must build the house of your nightmares as you entice local humans to come and hang out whilst you devour their bodies and cook their brains. It’s super addictive and fun to play, but it feels a little Early Access in some areas even though it’s version 1.0.
MachiaVillain started life as a Kickstarter campaign back in 2016 and was successfully funded by 553 backers for the sum of €24k. The page advises what they hoped would be in the final game and overall, I was pleasantly surprised and happy with the game as It managed to keep a lot of the things they said would be there, as well as a few extras, but there are also a few noticeable cutbacks on certain things.
There was a Kickstarter only minion, which is unfortunate for people like myself who never saw the original campaign yet on the other hand it’s great that they are keeping it Kickstarter only as I’ve seen a lot of devs instantly put things like this up for sale day-one.
The story of MachiaVillain is a nice simple one, you were once a minion yourself who worked for an evil boss who used you as his slave that killed for him – you were even forced to even clean up after yourself! You strived for more, YOU wanted to be the boss and you knew you had the skills to become better than an entry-level evil minion. One night, an owl flew into your window carrying a letter address to you! What could this be? Upon killing the adorable owl, you realise that you have been summoned to the Department of Evil Domains, from the League of Machiavellian Villains, in order to receive a plot of evil land to erect your own evil mansion upon. This is a nightmare come true! You grab your things, and the last toilet roll from your ex-bosses toilet, and head off to claim your land!
You arrive at the Department and thus begins your wait, a wait that will take many, many years as you watch all of the others before you crumble into dust and rot away. Eventually, you are finally in possession of your own Deed! You are given a plot of land and three minions, to begin with, and the Evil Machiavellian League of Villans gives you a probation period to pass a few specific quests (basically the tutorial).
That’s about it for the story and the narrative as the game is now all up to you. It’s basically an endless open sandbox where you must see how far you can go until all of your minions are defeated and you have nobody left to serve you. This is all whilst appeasing the League by completing their ‘rank’ quests in order to obtain new minions and bonus payments. I don’t usually play open-ended games as I much prefer games with a set narrative and goals, yet MachiaVillains has something about it which had me addicted for just over 12 hours straight! Plus I haven’t even really got to the in-depth parts of the game yet!
If you have ever played Prison Architect before, imagine that but with mummies, zombies, killer clowns and vampires instead of guards, and the food delivery trucks as regular human beings. If you haven’t played or seen that game before, this game is a building and resource management sim with very precise micro-management options so that you can plan out and ensure everything is working exactly how you want it to.
Let’s begin with your minions, as you were once one so you know how to command them right? Well, kind of. The minions you will be getting aren’t full of free will like you, they are braindead and empty on the inside. They won’t do anything at all unless you tell them to, which can be both a good and a bad thing. You can initially pick up to three to join your team, all of which have different ‘skills’ yet they can all level these up in-game anyway so the traits are the important part. Some of them are lazy and move slower, some are more resistant to various status effects, and some are faster at working. Once you’ve grabbed your initial motley crew, you must assign them roles…
Even though they are braindead, your minions will act on their own once given a task. For example, if you pick the role of ‘supply gatherer’ then that minion will run around picking up any logs, rocks, dead bodies etc and placing them in any storage chambers you build. However, if you tell someone to chop wood or mine stone, they won’t do anything unless you have first plotted out which area to mine or chop. You can also allocate minions to certain rooms – so you may have a chef/butcher who chops up the bodies yet also has the task of cleaning up so that he washes the floor afterwards.
One thing to take in here is that you can’t select an infinite amount of tasks, each minion is different and can have from 2-5 tasks selected at a time, so you need to ensure you have everything covered. You can also change the priority of each task with each person as well – did I mention there is a lot of micro-management?
Once your little guys and gals are defined, it’s on to the fun part – building your mansion. Okay, so looking at images online of other peoples buildings, I’ve gone for the minimalist style and I’ve not really embraced everything you can do yet, as mine looks more like a collection of porta-cabins rather than a mansion! But that’s the fun of it, you play, learn, then start again – only this time you make it better. The building is simple though, each room must have four walls and a floor plus at least one door – that’s it. Then, you place various ‘room specific’ items within a room in order to give it its role. For example, if you drop a bed into a room then it becomes a bedroom, a table will be a kitchen and a TV will become a victims room. You do have a few non-specific items as well such as the storage containers which can go anywhere you want them to be – I tended to put them near the room/item which needed those resources the most.
You initially have the ability to build pretty much every room type, providing you have the right amount of resources, but you won’t be able to build the ‘advanced’ parts of these rooms until you have done some research. By ‘advanced’ parts I mean a secondary crafting table or extra accessories. For example, you can research and build a fridge and a smoker in order to preserve the food longer in the kitchen (otherwise it rots after a few days), the factory gets a new unit which can make other resources for building, and the office can gain a PC or printing press for bigger victim enticements.
Even though the options here aren’t quite as diverse as I would have hoped, with only a few room types on offer, I never grew bored in my entire 12 hours of playing as I was constantly moving things around and making myself more efficient and better at what I was doing. This brings me to the main aspect of the game…
It’s so much fun killing men, women, fathers, mothers, children and virgins (who isn’t always the child, surprisingly). At first, you don’t really have any means to kill other than jumping out and beating the crap out of everyone who steps foot into your mansion and then serving their head on a platter. You can’t risk the humans seeing you though, so just before they arrive, you must stop your current jobs (via a handy button) and move everyone out of sight into a hidden room or behind trees. If you are spotted, they may try and make a run for it or call for help
However, as you gain more resources and become more comfortable with the game, you can make murder rooms. These are called ‘victim’ rooms and are there for you to entice the civilians to stay and ignore all the death going on around them. From having a TV for them to watch so they don’t see you taking out their friends behind them, to a jacuzzi for them to relax in and call their friends in order to lower the suspicion of the venue before you kill them. It’s all fun.
Later on, you can also get more advanced traps set up, such as paintings on the wall which rotate as someone is looking at them in order to push the unsuspecting viewer to their death on a custom-built conveyor belt inside the walls. Again, the variety is limited in what you can and can’t do, but there is enough to have fun with it and see what works best for you. I would love it if they either added more items or even allowed Steam Workshop so that the community could provide their own traps and accessories. You also receive more experience points if you follow the simple horror story rules, such as killing them on their own, don’t let anyone live, killing the virgin last, and never killing the dog. So, if you have Virgin Detectors and a fire hydrant for the dog, then you can skillfully plan all of your deaths in order to get the best possible score.
The game can basically be as complicated and deep, or easy and basic, as you want it to be.
There are two things I’ve not really touched on yet and that’s the resources and how to get more. There are six resources you can collect from the moderately sized map, Wood, Evil Wood, Stone, Gold, Metal, and fruit/mushrooms. The wood is from trees that grow back over time, even inside of your mansion for some reason, the Evil Wood comes from Evil Trees which come back at a much slower rate, the Stone, Gold and Metal comes from non-respawning rocks, and the fruit is randomly re-spawning. So, the question is, what do you do when you have exhausted the map of all of its stone and metal? There isn’t a role to plant/create more and there isn’t an item that offers infinite amounts of mining. At the moment, you have two options. Either start a new game (which would be annoying) or buy them from a merchant.
The merchants will randomly show up, or you can call them on your phone to come at any time. They sell things for almost rip-off prices, but if you need them then it’s the only option. Plus, by the time you get to the stage where you have nothing to mine, you should be rolling in gold! These merchants will not only sell resources, but some will sell food (such as brains and blood) as well as new minions and captured humans. One even sells you up to 20 rotting corpses, although he always seems to drive over the ones he drops off, thus auto-destroying about 10-13 of them every single time!
As you progress and begin to go up through the ranks of the League, you will also unlock new minion slots. I made the mistake and instantly filled them all up every single time I got one – that’s great if you have a constant flow of fresh humans to slaughter, but if not then they just end up eating all your food, so you have to be strategic. If you don’t have enough food then your minions get upset and start smashing up your rooms and the items within – and you don’t want that to happen!
Finally, I just want to touch on the technical aspects. The game runs at a locked 60fps and it ran fine on my dated PC at 1080p, even whilst recording footage at a full 1080/60 via OBS at the same time. The graphics are a cool design which appears to be a mix of Prison Architect crossed with Don’t Starve with the same race of characters having a few slight variations in-game and in their avatars. The music is a nice fit for the game and is easy to listen to whilst playing for long periods. The voice-over actor is also great for the role and easy to understand.
Also, the reason my review is a bit late, as I originally had one planned to go live for release, is because in its pre-release state last week I ended up with a corrupted save. All my walls vanished and my minions wouldn’t listen to me. This was fixed by the developer and by me loading a previous autosave, but I decided to wipe the save and start again upon version 1.0, which I’ve had no issues with. However, some people are saying they have also encountered the issue of the vanishing wall, so it may still be present but the devs are aware of it.
There are also a few spelling/translation errors in the game as well, but I have also provided the developers with the ones I have spotted – these don’t impact gameplay though.
All in all, I had a great time playing the game and I really lost track whilst focused on my mansion. I wish it had a few extra room types, more creatures, purchasable land, a demolish tool (rather than one thing at a time), and more of a story about it, but as a sandbox jump-in, jump-out game, it’s really fun.
MachiaVillain is a fun sandbox-style open-ended building and resource management game that can get as complicated as you want it to. There isn’t a massive amount of variety but what it does have, it does really well. Micro-management is the key here, if you would rather set a task and ignore your minion from then on, then this probably isn’t for you. You must always stay on top of what’s happening if you wish to run a successful dead-and-breakfast venue. There are a few bugs and glitches present in the game at the moment, but the developers are focused on resolving them as soon as possible. If you like management sims and/or classic horror movies, then this is a game you will really enjoy.
- Cute minions with their own stories
- Great music for long sessions
- The building mechanics are solid and very familiar
- The micro-management gives you full control over everything
- Super addictive
- Not much variety in terms of rooms and items
- Finite resources in terms of stones and minerals - plus trees grow in your house
- Steep learning curve if you want to get the most out of it
- Currently has a few bugs and glitches which could affect you (although being looked at)