A Paladin’s Steam Review: The Oil Blue. Intensive Drilling Micromanagement That Requires Almost as Much Work as the Real Thing.

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Today I’m going to take a look at The Oil Blue. Where the oil isn’t actually blue.

  • Genre: Micromanagement Multi-tasking Strategy Game.
  • Developed & Published by: Vertigo Gaming Inc.
  • Platform: Windows only
  • Business Model: Single Purchase.
  • Copy Purchased by Myself.

Overall Gameplay Thoughts

Meet The Oil Blue, a game published in 2010 by the developers of Cook, Serve, Delicious. It’s a game about micromanaging up to four oil drilling machines in an ever continuing quest to make max profits from previously used drilling islands. Set in the near future, the world has become even more dependent on oil and corporations are racing to meet the staggering demand. One of the largest corporations, the United Oil of Oceana, has tasked the player to reclaim previously drilled islands and find enough oil within a certain time period. All the while, the player is able to race up the corporate ladder gaining more upgrades and features to make the job easier. Failure to drill enough oil in time means you get booted off the island with no continuing reward for your hard work. It’s a paper thin narrative and is largely unimportant to playing the game. It’s enough to give some atmosphere as to why you’re doing all of this.

There are two shifts to TOB: the early morning shift and the regular day shift. In the early morning shift, the player has a limited amount of time to repair and upgrade equipment. As equipment is used during the regular work hours, stress will accumulate and damage the machines. This early shift gives you the chance to repair that damage through different mini-games and QTEs. The challenge of these mini-games increases depending on how much damage the machine sustained. Once the day officially begins, the player is able to sell oil and manage the drilling machines. The player has approximately 15 minutes real-world time to drill as much oil as possible. However, the player can only store so many barrels at one time. So, a watchful eye must be kept to prevent overfilling the storage and losing oil. In order to reach the quest goal, you’ll need to use as many machines possible as long as possible, making sure none of them build up too much stress at the same time. It all creates a pretty intense micromanagement system that will require the player to develop a rhythm and keep ahead of any problems. Which can be really fun or too much stress that a potential player may not be looking for. There really isn’t a “conclusion” to this game, it just keeps on going. 

Gameplay Examination

TOB has four types of oil drilling machines that will be randomly assigned to the player on each new island. Eventually the player can unlock an ability to influence what machines will appear but until then, they’re stuck with what they get. Groundwells are set-and-forget machines that passively drill oil while consuming battery power. The only management is setting how quickly they drill and which batteries are being used. The faster the drilling, the more battery power is consumed. If it runs out of battery power, it will lose whatever oil it has temporarily gained over a period of time. Generally how I used them was to set half the batteries to use and then swap between them when they get close to zero. I would set the speed at around half so I could maximize how long the machine was running. Another machine is the oil derrick, the most micro intensive one. On the panel will be a display of where the drill is going and there will be pockets of oil that will come up as it goes further into the earth. The drill has to be in the right position (out of five positions) and then slowed down, activated to drill the pocket and de-stressed while drilling it. You can potentially get a lot of oil through this machine but it requires the most attention, making it hard to use with the other machines. I generally didn’t use it during my playthrough unless I didn’t have any others to manage. Generally because it was far too much work for what I felt was a limited amount of gain.

Pumpjacks are somewhat less passive drillers than Groundwells. Each time they drill into the earth, a display will appear where the player must select the pockets of oil out of a list of pockets and do it in a short amount of time. This happens twice per cycle. Select the wrong pocket and you’ll lose oil. Select no pockets and you’ll gain nothing but additional stress. With this machine, I would cycle it just right so their timers would end when I had a break and was able to quickly click all the pockets and not let the other machines overflow. It’s a bit tricky to pull off but I’ve had the most luck with them than any other machine I used. Drill rigs are the most advanced machines. They use a “touch” display that lets you select where the drill goes in real time. All the while, they build up stress that needs to be managed. On the display, pockets of oil will show up as circles and the drill should pass back and forth through the pocket till it’s mined out. As you can only set two destination points at any one time (three when it’s high enough level), you’ll need to manage the drill pretty regularly.

All of the drills have levels that gain xp for operating and drilling oil. These are pretty much straight upgrades that improve every aspect of the machine from reducing stress generated to increasing the speed of oil drilled. When moving to a new island, all of these upgrades are reset though you are rewarded for it through finances. If the player manages to complete the quest given to them within the time limit, they’ll get a continuing daily bonus. The quests are generally doable but it will require keeping up a good “work ethic” to accomplish them. There is room for error but you can’t slack off every day and expect to get it. Money is only used for upgrading drilling rigs (when you’re a high enough level) and feeding workers. Feeding workers eventually becomes a non-issue after a while and more like a minor tax because it doesn’t scale every island. Really, collecting money is just to advance your rank and not much else. The only thing that keeps a player going is pushing themselves to accomplish all of the quests. Otherwise, the gameplay “hook” is pretty monotone. I wish there was something more that I could do with the money other than watch it climb up and up and up. 

PC Settings and Audio/Video

Game Options What Users Can Configure
Resolutions: Not Configurable. Fullscreen on/off. Art will stretch, creating black bars.
Graphical Options Included: V-Sync, AA, Rendering Quality. All options are on/off toggles. Rendering is if you need more performance but you should be fine.  
Colorblind Supported. Console lights can be changed from green to blue.
Audio sliders: not included. Music is on/off switch. SFX can go from 0-100%. Music should have an audio slider.  
Steam Cloud: Not available. Saves can potentially be deleted by the achievements app, it’s a random bug.

TOB is built on an older, now corrupted Game Maker 7 Engine. As such, that means that features unique to Steam such as achievements, overlay and cloud aren’t available. TOB has worked for me during the 12 hours that I’ve played it but I’ve had a few problems with it. First, after opening the achievement app that’s included with TOB, my saves vanished, costing me several hours worth of gameplay. Secondly, I’ve had a couple of occasions where the music and SFX wouldn’t work properly. A Windows restart and a few days away from TOB seemed to get it to work again. Finally, despite getting a single achievement for running the separate app, I never got any additional achievements. I’m not sure why. I would rate this app as slightly buggy and potentially unstable in the future if Windows makes any significant changes. Since the developers are unable to make any significant fixes to the game’s code, for now, it raises a question about how long it’ll continue to run. For the time being, it runs. Just be prepared.

Graphically, The Oil Blue goes for a realistic yet slightly stylized look that, despite its age, still looks pretty good. The machine control panels are fun to look at and control. The game in general pulls off the aesthetic well. It cements the idea that you really are drilling for oil on all of these islands and doing “hard” work. Even if it is largely about pressing buttons a lot. The soundtrack is pretty decent, going for an atmospheric electronic sound. The tracks play a little too often though so you may end up playing your own music instead at some point. But the game does a good job for itself.

Final Thoughts

The Oil Blue is an interesting first outing for Vertigo Gaming and gives players an approachable, enjoyable yet still intense micromanagement game. If this genre appeals to you, TOB is worth considering picking up. It’s still got good game mechanics, if some aspects of its management such as workers is limited. It looks good and sounds good. It’s intense if you really want to be good at it too. Of course, there are the concerns about its stability and some of the bugs I ran into. Its too bad the story is paper thin and you can’t spend your money on anything. But, all in all, The Oil Blue is a fun game that I enjoyed for the 12 or so hours I put into it.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to read my other reviews or share this one if you really enjoyed it.

-KingIsaacLinksr

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