The Universim Review | PC

God sims are back, and The Universim is a fantastic, witty, and fun addition to the genre.

By MariDead, Posted 24 Jan 2024

It has been a long time since a new god sim entered the scene, so The Universim has come to the table with the opportunity to reawaken the genre. The Universim allows the player to create a planet that needs to sustain its population and go through the different eras as the world races its way into space. To say that this game is a project of sheer passion would be an understatement. Crytivo, a Californian indie gaming publisher and developer, has been working on The Universim for years and has a well-polished game to show for it. 

After a Kickstarter that began ten years ago in 2014, The Universim went into prerelease in 2018 and had its final 1.0 update in January 2024. Some could assume that this left The Universim in development hell as the team worked on the game for so long. However, the opposite appears to be true, with the ten years spent in development being used to pour care and attention to detail into the game. The team has an active discord that encourages fans to offer their opinions to help improve the game to be the best it can be.

The Universim, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, NoobFeed

The Universim has a very simple story to open with. You are God. And while acting as God, you have to create and evolve a planet along with the residents within it. Now, there are certainly some complexities added along the way; being the God of your own planet is never easy, and The Universim aims to prove this as obstacles are hurled toward the player every step of the way. The planet's inhabitants are a species called Nuggets, named as such because of their small, chicken nuggets-shaped bodies. 

It is the aim of the player to advance the nuggets and their civilization until they have reached the point of space travel, where they will then be able to move to new planets to explore and eventually take over. These planets can vary in size, with smaller ones being easier to take over but holding less natural resources and larger ones having the disadvantage of foreign wildlife that can be hostile towards your Nuggets. You will now be feeling very protective of them.

While the story is very simple on the base level, it has the ability to grow and advance with the player, being determined by how closely you wish to get involved with the personal lives of Nuggets. This happens far more frequently while the population size is small enough for the player to invest in every individual Nugget. An early example of this is naming the children of the first Nuggets to be born on your land, with the mother Nugget even complimenting you on the names. Although, please don't make the mistake of continuing to name every Nugget, my population of 300+ ended up with 3 Nuggets called "Sandwich" as all creativity had left me by then.

Once the population is bigger, there is less emphasis on the individual Nuggets, and the quests are about the bigger population. This includes sending expeditions to the core of the planet, maintaining the happiness of the Nuggets to stop riots, and ensuring there is the appropriate level of worship happening at all times as a Nuget not faithful to you as God can be very dangerous. These smaller quests can be easily ignored, but they add so much fun to the rest of the game that it is well worth investing some time into them. 

The Universim, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Nuggets Looks, Traits

The narrator is an excellent addition that allows for a lot of fun to be added while playing. While the gameplay can certainly stand up on its own, the narrator adds a perfect amount of humor and gives the player a character that you can feel as though you are somewhat playing with throughout the game. It can be a lonely place, ruling over a land of Nuggets; the sarcasm and wit the narrator brings add to the flow of gameplay as he acts as a tutorial as well as criticizing mistakes the player makes throughout. 

The narrator is very reminiscent of games such as The Stanley Parable or Portal 2 in his well-timed wit. He will also mock decisions and give his two cents at every opportunity, managing to always toe the line between funny and just plain mean, staying on the right side of it 99% of the time (Although the mockery I received after accidentally splatting a Nugget into the side of a mountain was definitely kicking me while I was down). An example of this humor can be found while the Nuggets are reproducing; the narrator will accuse the player of voyeurism should you scroll over their hut, by accident, of course.

The Universim is a simulator with a lot of things happening at once. It should be noted that this review is based on an early copy of the game, so there is time to fix the general quality-of-life issues that will be mentioned. It should also be noted that, despite these issues, this game is a huge amount of fun and is massively addictive, particularly once you are close to getting into space and being able to move on to other planets.

The game opens with an empty planet, and they can choose where they wish to place their town center. This is the epicenter of the Nuggets community, and they will build residential lots spanning outwards in every direction. It is important to remember that Nuggets will build in every direction, meaning you have to choose carefully when you place it to ensure it is near enough water, trees, and rocks and away from too much danger. 

The Universim, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Population Logs

The Nuggets also build every residential lot themselves as needed. While this can mean they build into an area you did not want them to move into, which can be a little annoying, it does save the player from having to keep an eye on the population and the homeless levels as it is taken care of by the Nuggets themselves, which is very helpful. 

Like many God sims before it, The Universim has a lot going on. The Nuggets have to evolve, learn, and grow, meaning the player has to keep track of everything happening at once. Additionally, the player has to manage a lot of resources in order to keep the Nuggets alive and thriving. This means that the player is being presented with a lot of information all at once, which can be very hard to follow at times.

The Universim starts with a lot of micromanaging; the player will choose what their nuggets look like as well as their traits, such as being particularly faithful to the player as God. From there, the planet is in the Stone Age, with the only resources being stone and planks. They can then move to the medieval era with electricity, choosing the method they wish to have power between wind, using Nuggets to power turbines, or burning the resources on the planet. The modern era is next, with added culture and room for creative spaces among the Nuggets; then, the final era is the space age. 

It is through these ages moving forward that the amount of information the player needs to take in is drip-fed, being added slowly in each age. However, there are moments in which there is a sudden increase in demand for certain resources that could be more clearly indicated to the player. While some may argue that it should be down to the player to check what is in demand, the icons for this are very small. 

The Universim, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Medieval Buildings in the Nuggets

Even a pop-up as the player enters the medieval age informing the player the Nuggets will now have more need for iron would save many from suddenly being unable to build a lot of the structures they could make just a few seconds ago in the Stone Age. This is because, with the change in era, some buildings such as schools or engineer huts suddenly require different materials to build than before. This is a very sudden change and leaves the player unable to make the buildings they once could with seemingly no warning. 

This is the first of a few UI problems that, by no means, make the game unplayable but do create some quality-of-life issues. The Universim actually faced no graphical glitches or bugs during the many, many hours I was playing. Another issue with the UI is again in the size of the icons while playing. Even when playing on a large screen, the icons are very small when the player first loads in. There is a setting available that allows the UI to be made a lot larger, but even at full size, some of the information is very hard to see. 

Similarly, there is also an issue in recognizing many of the buildings from above, particularly in the stone and medieval ages. All the buildings in this era are made up of stone huts that are nearly impossible to recognize from above. They also do not pop up with their name if you hover them, only when you click on the building. The most annoying thing about this is that when a building is still in the process of being built, the name and progress do appear when you simply move the cursor over it.

This means that it would have been possible to have the name pop up above the building without having to click on it, which would have been far more convenient. The buildings can be found through a filter system in the top right corner, although even in this, some of the categories they are under are a little confusing, such as the hospital being under defense rather than a service as the cemetery is. Again, these are not in any way game-breaking issues, just small quality-of-life issues.

The Universim, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Opening Cutscene

Another issue with the UI that is again not game-breaking but is annoying comes in how the mouse allows the player to move around the world. By simply clicking and dragging, the player will pull the world around with the cursor. While right-clicking, the world will be rotated so you can change the angle with which you are looking at the world. However, when right-clicking, the world moves in the opposite direction.

Holding M1 and moving the mouse from left to right will move the screen from right to left, but holding M2 and making the same motion with the mouse moves the screen the other way. It is another issue that is not too big of a deal; rather, it is just very annoying and can pull the player out of the zone when you sling the camera up to the sky when trying to focus in on a building. Even more frustratingly, there is an option to invert the mouse when holding M2. However, it is only the Y axis rather than both X and Y, which would have completely fixed the issue. 

Other small UI problems are in the time control icons. When time is paused, the icon shows the pause symbol rather than the play one, meaning it shows the player what is currently happening rather than the effect that will take place should you hit that button. This is made more confusing because the sound does not pause when time is paused. This can leave the player in a situation where, unless you can see a Nugget frozen in place, you assume that time is moving because of all the general Nugget activity noise that can be heard at all times. 

It is also not possible to use God's powers in The Universim while on pause. While some of these make perfect sense, it is very annoying that powers can't be selected and take effect once the time has resumed. For example, the player could call in a rain cloud while on pause, and it would only take effect once they have pressed play. 

The Universim, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Nuggets Expedition

Another example would be in the "procreation" of God's power. To enable this, the player has to click on two different Nuggets. The problem is that they are very small, and once you have upgraded them, they move very fast. If it were possible to pause and freeze them in place, use the power, and then have it take effect once they are moving again. This would be a lot easier, but unfortunately, this is just not possible. Again, this is by no means game-breaking, and a player can still have so much fun playing The Universim; it is just a small quality of life-issue. 

While these issues are annoying, they by no means outweigh the positives that go into The Universim. Many issues can be easily patched out, and the devs are very responsive in their discord, taking part in lively discussions and willing to take on constructive criticism to improve the game. At its core, the gameplay is amazingly developed. 

Not only is there a great deal of Nugget management that has to take place, but there is also a skill tree that relies on research taking place. You do not need Nuggets to walk over to a research center and read a lot of books. Instead, the research takes place in a non-diegetic way. The research happens in the world but is entirely controlled by the player, although it is possible for Nuggets to vote for a leader who can improve the research speed. If the Nuggets are faithful and feel enough love for their God, the player, then they will vote in the way you tell them to.

There are other events that form the gameplay of The Universim. These add another huge amount of variety to gameplay. After an unfortunate loss of my first planet (there was a whole situation with a dead body causing disease and me accidentally shooting down a spaceship and squishing half my Nuggets). I started a new game and found that I met very few of the same events. There was one in which a child was lost in the woods and surrounded by wolves, another where a UFO could come along and abduct one of your Nuggets, or another where neighboring towns on the planet could offer a trade or threaten an attack on your Nuggets.

The Universim, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Skill Tree

The graphics in The Universim are very good, with a fun art style that suits the whimsical tone the narrator also adds to the game. There is no clipping and no graphical errors when zooming in and out of the buildings. The issue of them being difficult to tell apart from above is also mostly limited to the Stone Age as they are far easier to tell apart in the later eras. The icons demonstrating the different meters and resources that need to be managed are very clear in what they are telling the player and once scaled up to max, they are fairly easy to read, although it would be better if they could be scaled up still further.

The only voice acting in The Universim comes from the narrator and the yells and sounds from the Nuggets. The narrator is voiced excellently, his dry wit is so much fun, and his sarcasm is an absolutely joyful addition. The voices of the Nuggets make the planet feel more alive. They can also yell and cry when they are upset and even perform riots with a voice yelling and screaming as they parade through the world. 

There are also sound effects from the local wildlife, such as wolves howling and birds crying. Along with this, there are also the sounds of trees being felled and stones being mined. When the civilization became more advanced, there were sounds of infrastructure, gas mining, and metal clanging as larger projects were being completed. The sound design is really good and adds a lot of fun to the game, especially with the addition of the narrator, and adds to the immersion while playing.

The Universim, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Stone Age

The Universim is an amazing god sim that adds wit and humor into the genre, creating an addictive game that is so much fun. There are some teething issues that have mild quality of life problems, but with a team being so willing to listen to fans and work with them to make improvements and tweaks where needed.

Beyond this, however, The Universim is an amazing game. The progression between eras feels natural and strong, the skill tree for the world is fun to move through, and each research section takes the perfect amount of time to not be too long and boring. It is 100% worth checking out to those who are fans of simulators.


Mariella Deadman (@MariellaDead)
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

The Universim


Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher(s): Crytivo
Developer(s): Crytivo
Genres: Simulation
Themes: God Game, Strategy, Life Simulation
Release Date: 2024-01-22

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