Launching into early access in February 2019, Foundation is:
“a gridless, laid-back medieval city-building game with a focus on organic development, monument construction, and resource management.”
Foundation places you in the role of Lord or Lady of an empty parcel of land. Full of resources, you are then tasked with building a rich and thriving settlement. Throughout this, you will have to cope with a growing population, requests and missions from the King, a growing demand for access to religious buildings, increased pressure on resources, and rising demand for new resources.
Evolution over time
I purchased this direct from the developers, Polymorph Games, way back in Oct 2018 – even before it landed in early access on Stream. I have seen it evolve massively over the years. From its very simple and minimal beginning, with the seismic change in UI in version 1.8, to the even more seismic change in the economy in 1.9. Foundation is a game that is still in active development and improving graphically, despite already having a high standard with every update.
Updates 1.8 and 1.9 have rung the biggest changes to date. Version 1.8 saw a huge new User Interface introduced, which to be frank is gorgeous, while 1.9 brought a complete overhaul to large parts of the game. Indeed, the onset of 1.9 has taken away from the sandbox nature of previous versions. While the development of Foundation has taken several years, the game and its modding communities have evolved massively.
We can see this evolution over time in, at the time of writing, one of the most recent updates. The experimental tavern taxation build has added new taxation features and a new demand for entertainment need for commoners and citizens. This can be fulfilled with wine and beer for a new building, the Berry Brew, which can be added to your tavern. Traders carry more goods, and a new trade route has been added. Furthermore, you can levy money from your villagers when the Treasury is empty, which certainly helps the early game. You can now even build a meat production chain for Boars to meat for the markets. Something similar has been available within the game mods for a while.
The staple and core of Foundation………
Obviously, we are talking about the great unwashed masses, otherwise known as villagers.
Come on now, you are the ruler of a medieval settlement, so referring to the villagers with any form of polite language is just not how the society of the time worked! Furthermore, if PC gaming had smell-o-vision, then roses it certainly wouldn’t be!
The villagers of course are the heart of the settlement. Without them, your settlement will simply not function. Every facet of both your own and your Village’s existence revolves around providing this great unwashed mass of people with everything they need and want. Quite simply, if you keep this festering mob happy, then your village will thrive. If you fail to keep them happy by satisfying their ‘needs’, then this pitchfork-wielding rabble will simply down tools. They will stop working and, believe it or not, leave your medieval version of Utopia. Yes – they can really be ungrateful wretches (no pitchforks are wielded in this game, as far as I know….unless there is a mod and there are a lot of mods, but more on that later).
Providing for these ‘needs’ allows you to promote your villagers to a higher status. Once you have then promoted a certain number of the peasantry at a certain level, there are new buildings can be unlocked that can further develop your economy.
Each level has an increasing number of needs:
- 1 Food type
- 2 Food type
- Access to a church
- Access to Housing
- 2 Food types
- Access to a church
- Access to Housing
- Access to Entertainment
- 2 Food types
- Luxury goods
- Access to a church
- Access to Housing
- Access to Entertainment
If the villagers become unhappy, then your settlement will be in real danger of collapse. Unhappy peasants, a stance they to take if their needs are not met, will simply leave. Early in the game, this is simply something you cannot afford to let happen, as it will leave you critically short of workers.
New villagers may travel to your village every 7 days, dependent on your immigration ratings. This rating is based on three factors: happiness amongst your existing villagers, employment in the village, and residential space. If you keep these elements in a healthy state, then you will get a regular influx of new residents.
Progression, the economy, and the estates
The onset of update 1.9 on Oct ’22 saw Foundation overhaul how you progress through the game. For existing, long-time players of the game, this has brought fundamental changes to how the game is played and how one should now be able to approach it. It should be noted that this is being constantly updated.
The Estates and technologies
Foundation is split into three distinct Estates, representing three different groups:
- Labor – the common people
- Kingdom – the King and military
- Clergy – religion and the church.
Each of these Estates now offers unique and estate-specific paths to progress in the game. While there is a technology branch, or common path available to all Estates, this comes as a result of the different estate-specific technologies that are locked to each of these groups.
Prosperity, Splendour, Influence, and Rating
This provides the driving force behind how you will progress through the game. This is a score-based system, which is influenced by a variety of mechanics within the game: population, commerce, territorial extent, splendor, and beautification. Focusing on different mechanics will allow you to increase the prosperity of a particular estate. As you increase the Prosperity score, you will open up new buildings and policies to drive your village forward. Prosperity is the basic requirement for unlocking the level of technology in any of the three estates mentioned above. The common path is unaffected by what estate you choose to run. This contains the tech you need to get your village up and running throughout the different levels of the game.
This is driven by the construction of estate-specific buildings. This also plays a major role in calculating the overall prosperity of your village. It is this score, alongside the Prosperity score, that will determine whether you can unlock new levels in a technology tree.
This is the calculation that is driven by your Splendour rating, minus a penalty that is based on the number of buildings that exist from the other estate paths. However, buildings from the common path have no influence over the score.
This is the last component of the technology tree. This is gained through the completion of missions, mandates, and quests for any of the Estates. It is a requirement for unlocking technology within each technology tier.
However, as you increase your score across these areas for one estate, you will see it decrease in other estates. Very quickly, you are forced to choose which estate you will choose for your game.
The economy and taxes
In version 1.8 and those before, as leading statesperson of the Manor, you collected money both through trade and directly from every business in your village. Update 1.9 has introduced by far the biggest change to Foundation: Taxes. While trade remains unchanged, the gathering of taxes now becomes your major income source. Once you get your initial village up and running, the focus switches to a race of who can construct the right building that will produce the right resources to build your first tax office. Once this has been built, you will instantly be able to see how many villagers are covered by the office versus your population. Having the ability to adjust the amount of tax your villagers pay will contribute to treasury assets and raise much-needed funds in dire times. It should be noted that the level of taxation greatly affects happiness, which in turn affects how attractive your village will be to newcomers. As you promote villagers to higher levels of status, they, in turn, accept and will pay higher taxes.
You can go down this route – build a fort and barrack, raise a military force by recruiting villagers, and then send them out on missions for the king. This is done behind the scenes. The harder the mission, the greater the risk that you will lose your soldiers. However, the opportunity for a greater reward, if successful, may encourage you to take this risk.
You can also supplement your income. This can be done by completing missions and tasks as they appear. These normally require the construction of something, or the hosting of visitors that require certain food types to be happy, therefore completing your quest.
This system of trade, taxation, and military victories provides a unique challenge to Foundation. In the early game stages in particular, there is a real struggle to try to build the infrastructure needed to push the village forward whilst not running out of money.
To further strengthen and enhance your economy, you will have to expand across the map by buying more zones to reach mineral and other resource spots. This will cost both an upfront and a weekly fee.
Further game updates have introduced more detailed data to assist you in understanding your economy better. A detailed breakdown tells you exactly where hard-earned money is going and what is generating your income. You can also see where your taxes are coming from, allowing you to target any gaps with tax collectors.
Religion provides its own set of challenges. Simply put, the great unwashed masses are god-fearing souls. If they have nowhere to worship, then they become unhappy. The bigger the population becomes, the more church space has to be provided. At times, you will often find yourself with multiple churches of varying sizes spread across the village. It is easy for them to dominate the skyline.
Another great feature of Foundation is the huge modding community that exists around the game. Actively supported by the game developers, there are over 250 mods covering all aspects of the game on https://foundation.old.mod.io/. You can find mods that introduce new production chain buildings, such as pastry production, cider brewery, salt production, and furniture. There are several that introduce more balance to aspects of gameplay across a variety of game features. Some of my favorites are those that simply allow you to add more decorations. Mods, such as ”Fantasy Decorations”, provide things like armor and weapon racks, which allow you to really make your fort look like a military camp.
The genuine beauty of working with these mods is the simplicity of how they are installed. As the Developers fully support them, it’s simply a case of adding them in-game.
Foundation is a city-building game like no other I have played. The organic nature of how the settlement grows means that no single playthrough will be the same. This is a game that is changing all the time as it approaches full release. Indeed, as we have seen, updates released during the writing of this article have meant that certain parts have needed to be rewritten. Long-time players will testify to how much it has changed, particularly with the seismic shift from update 1.7 to 1.8 to 1.9. Updates are released regularly, with any major issues addressed as and when needed.
Supported by a very talented and active modding community that the developers have embraced, Foundation provides a unique and beautiful-looking city builder. It continues to grow as it marches towards its full release. With over 180 hours already played, I don’t think I will walk away from this anytime soon.
I am a typical gamer, & member of the Indie game collective, with years of experience trying to make the most of the limited time that work and family life presents me with. I mainly play Strategy and City Building games such as Foundation and Suzerian. I also like to try and cover/play indie games such as Ambition: A minuet in Power and Kainga: Seeds of Civilization. My Trouserman Tries series sees me try to cover less well-known indie, in the main strategy, simulation and RPG games.