Sid Meier’s SimGolf is a classic. Released in 2002, the game effectively blended two genres – sports and tycoon – to create, at least as my six-year-old mind recalls, a masterpiece. In recent years, I’ve spent hours trying to get that old Windows XP game to work on Windows 10 to no avail. Just when I thought I’d never play a game like that again, I stumbled upon GolfTopia.
GolfTopia, from MinMax Games Ltd., is basically SimGolf on steroids.
Like SimGolf, GolfTopia allows you to design your dream golf course hole-by-hole, cater to visiting golfers, and compete in tournaments. You are encouraged to create the most appealing golf course you can while also making sure you aren’t falling into debt. However, GolfTopia takes this basic concept and ramps it up ten notches.
The Future is Here
The game, which was in Early Access for nine months before fully releasing on Steam in March, 2021, takes place in the distant (or not so distant?) future where golfers arrive via rocket ship and make their way around the course on hovercraft. Given the setting, GolfTopia gives you some futuristic tools to use as well – jump pads, rings of fire, speed boosts and teleporters to name a few. These features can breed some interesting creations. Ever heard of a 1,000-yard Par 3?
Despite its complexity, GolfTopia is very accessible. After an hour or so of playing, I gained a solid grip on how to design courses with ease, whether that was creating tee boxes 100 feet above sea level, a huge winding river that spans my entire course, or a tiny green surrounded by seemingly infinite hazards. The creation tools give you roughly a dozen surfaces to choose from (greens, fairways, rough, bunkers, water, trees, etc.), allowing every hole you design to play and look completely different from the rest.
However, don’t get caught up in all the futuristic elements that you forget that your visitors are human too. They need benches to relax on, bars to keep them entertained, restrooms to relieve themselves and vending machines to keep them refreshed while they’re waiting for the group in front of them to finish up your bizarre Par 9 hole.
While the futuristic elements, such as the jump pads and teleporters, are fun to play with, what if you wanted to create something more reminiscent of a modern-day golf course? Well, if you can ignore the drones that act as your employees and your visitors zooming around on hovercraft, you can. While bumpers and ball launchers are an easy way to make your seemingly simple holes more exciting (and thus appealing to your visitors) you can still create exhilarating and challenging courses without them.
In the Weeds
If you’re a SimGolf fan reading this, you’re probably asking “What about the weeds?” And, if you weren’t asking that, I’m going to tell you anyway.
In SimGolf, weeds embodied an enemy for you to combat – they messed with the beauty and playability of your courses, and who likes that? GolfTopia mixes in this same premise but, like everything else, brings it to a new level.
In SimGolf, you hired employees to take out those pesky weeds, but why hire someone when you can install laser turrets and howitzers to take them out instead?
Although GolfTopia is a great game, it did just recently release which means there is some room for improvement.
In order to rank up your golf course (which unlocks more items and allows you to create more holes) you need a certain number of members at a certain tier. For instance, to get to a 5-Star course, you need 10 Platinum members. Even with 40 Gold members, it can take some time for these golfers to upgrade their membership, so in the latter stages of the game, it feels as though you’re just staring at the screen waiting for them to play your course enough times to make it seem worth their while.
Another criticism I have is the lack of employees. Golftopia does take place in the future so having drones do your bidding makes sense. However, that means there is no mechanic that challenges you to keep human employees happy, no ability to budget their wages nor debate whether you need more greenskeepers or maintenance workers at a given time – the drones do it all.
With some of these autonomous mechanics, I find that passing the time playing my course – both in practice rounds and tournaments – is entertaining. However, after playing it so many times, my golfer tends to get very good. So good, in fact, that my accuracy has gotten to the point where that hole with a very narrow fairway that used to challenge me gets to be pretty autonomous in its own right. Of course, I could make the holes more challenging, but then that leaves them inaccessible to some of my less-skilled visitors.
At the end of the day, these flaws aren’t enough to discourage me from playing. With all of the creation tools at your fingertips, it’s easy to just create a completely different kind of course once you complete or get bored of the one you’ve been working on. And restarting doesn’t feel like a penalty, it feels like you have a blank canvas to create another piece of golfing art.
If you were a fan of Sid Meier’s SimGolf, or simply enjoy games that blend management with sports, GolfTopia guarantees you tens of hours of fun and is definitely worth the current 20-dollar price tag.