Starting out in the basement of your uncle’s old garage, you are the head of a new drug-dealing operation in town, hoping to make enough money from your drug empire to fund your dream video game project.
Developed and published by Belarus-based company Halfbus, Basement is a drug dealing strategy simulation game released on Nov. 10, 2019. Basement’s core gameplay focuses on managing what kinds of rooms you have in your building and managing the kinds of employees you have according to the situation at hand.
Basement does a good job of teaching you the basics, such as employee management and how to maximize the efficiency of your business. The strategy mechanics in the game have you balancing which employees to hire for which job as each one has different strengths and weaknesses. For example, some employees are better suited for producing, others are better at selling or fighting. All of these are necessary to grow and develop your drug empire.
Aside from this, Basement has an interesting enough storyline to keep you invested in the life of the main character, Gunther and his next crime simulation riddled with dark humor. Plus, the game’s great soundtrack is more than enough to help you settle into its atmosphere and keep you playing for hours.
What is possibly Basement’s greatest weakness is the unforgiving difficulty of its campaign mode, which ends up having the strategy element overshadow the management aspect of gameplay. Each level gives players all-too-specific win conditions, such as compiling a certain amount of money before a certain day, defeating rival gangs from specific buildings on the map or needing to discover a new kind of drug to produce while on a deadline.
While these objectives are attainable, the game places these win conditions on narrow paths, meaning you have to manage your businesses and flow of production precisely as the developers intended it to. Otherwise, you’ll fail the level. This can get increasingly frustrating and turns your focus away from managing your drug-dealing business and more toward trial-and-error. It makes the game much more about strategically min-maxing (minimizing and maximizing your losses and gains, respectively), unless a randomly-generated event comes along and ruins your last 30 minutes of progress, forcing you to restart the level.
Aside from its story mode, Basement includes a sandbox mode where players can tweak the difficulty and customize settings like how many rival factions there are as they please. This game mode is a little more relaxed and forgiving than the main story in campaign mode, which makes it a good time sink if you need a break.
Basement is definitely one of those “easy to learn, hard to master” kind of games, which may be enticing to some, but can be a great hurdle for others, especially if they aren’t familiar with the genre. Sitting at a base price of $20, fans of the genre who like a challenge or might be attracted to the game’s gloomy soundtrack and pixel graphics should definitely look into it.