Big Pharma Preview | MOUSE n JOYPAD

Big Pharma Preview



Big Pharma is a complex game. Much more so than some of its screenshots might suggest at first. Its graphics makes it look similar to, say, Game Dev Tycoon, which is a fairly simplistic title, especially when compared to Big Pharma. The truth is that it’s a very intricate title that shares some of its DNA with the now-ancient Theme Hospital.


It’s not as compl… oh hell, it IS as complex as it seems.

There are two prominent facets to this game. First there’s the management sim where players will have to come up with the best and cheapest way to run their pharmaceutical companies. This includes buying just the right amount of machinery and hiring just the right amount of workers to keep the company profitable. It’s not an easy task, especially on higher difficulties and with more complex medicines being necessary to keep your head above the water, but it is a fulfilling one. Managing to complete high-ranking missions feels good and rewarding, which is -as you will surely agree- the most important thing anyway. The second facet of the gameplay is that of a puzzle game, as players have to keep coming up with intelligent solutions to their production lines’ ever-so-complicated necessities. Each particular medicine demands a particular production line you’ll have to engineer and maintain, and these in return take up space. How much space depends up to the players’ puzzle-solving skills and intelligence, which is a nice change of pace from all the numbering the game likes to throw you in.

A typical gameplay match consists of the player hiring explorers to find new ingredients from around the world, investigating into them to uncover potential cures and ailments, then hiring researchers to figure out what machinery is necessary to produce the actual medicine. Once that’s all done, you’ll want to start thinking about the whole manufacturing process and begin building the “assembly” line. This will test your puzzling skills since you’ve got limited room to manoeuvre in, but is fairly rewarding once you see the product slowly evolving from one stage into another as it reaches the end of the line.

It’s equally important to keep both aspects in line at all times, as your company is only as good as its latest product is. The gameplay is in that regard well-versed and comprehensive, as there’s always something new to research, find or improve upon. Big Pharma keeps you pushing for more, in essence, and the fact that it keeps you engaged while doing so is quite telling. I dived right into the game’s nicely drawn visual style in hopes of getting another semi-sim where I’d lead my company to the top of the financial mountain, but instead got a hybrid of a sim and a puzzle game that keeps ramping up in difficulty non-stop.

Big Pharma is a game of systems, in essence, and the sooner players get a grip on those systems the better. Thankfully, the game already has a deep and overarching series of tutorial missions that nicely explain virtually every aspect of the title. The problem, however, lies in the fact that it does so by making you read a massive amount of text and repeating what’s been written. It does work, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also quite boring, which shouldn’t be the case when it comes to learning how a game works. That’s the only real fault I’ve got with the preview build of the game. My other gripe concerns content itself.

Big Pharma is a game that caters to the people who like complex sim titles with multiple layers of gameplay. Thus, I was surprised that the game in its current build offers no freeplay mode whatsoever. Instead, players can play through a multitude of different (and increasingly more pressing) scenarios and test their mettle against other AI competitors. This makes Big Pharma seem much more like a proper puzzle game than might be obvious at first, but also perhaps limits its potential. We’ll see what happens through the development though; fingers crossed.

I’m happy to say that Big Pharma is a visually engaging, yet soothing and pretty title. The animations are intriguing enough to keep you interested in what’s going on while none of them are bothersome when zooming out to see the whole manufacturing plant. The detail I found myself appreciating the most is the slow visual process of the end-product getting formed into what it’s supposed to be; from raw materials into actual pills – it’s an interesting process to take note of. There’s also a fair amount of additional pictures and similar graphical stuff that makes the game less of an eyesore than it could have been. That’s a major plus if you ask me. On the audio side of things, there’s not much to speak of, however. I haven’t noticed any particular soundtrack, and the sound effects themselves fit in well enough not to bug you during extended gaming sessions. And trust me, with the gameplay that’s on offer in Big Pharma, those who appreciate similar games will enjoy playing it a lot.

Interestingly, the game comes with somewhat high system requirements – 4 gigs of RAM, a graphics processor with 512 MB or VRAM and an i5 are recommended, which I find curious since one such system has no problems running the now-old Crysis on low-medium settings. Either way, from my experience, these requirements are too high anyway, and the game may very well work on a week-old pie since it seemingly scales nicely to a wide variety of computer hardware. Not that framerate matters much in one such game anway…

All in all, I’m quite happy with where Big Pharma is right now. Even in this preview build, the game masterfully handles both aspects of its gameplay and delivers a very enjoyable experience, all in all. Even though it requires a fair amount of time and effort from its players to get the gist of how it all works, I feel that it’s worth it in the end, and it’ll only get better than it is right now.