There are some things in life that really feel like they won’t convert over to games particularly well. If you’d told me about a winemaking game a few years back then I’d probably have confidently slid that toward that space. Surprisingly then, Hundred Days is probably one of the most poignant and engaging games I’ve played all year.
Hundred Days story
The biggest concern with playing a game about a process as slow and scientific as winemaking is the onboarding process. Hundred Days alleviates that with its story mode, which later blends seamlessly into a sandbox-style of play. The story starts with the protagonist, a young city-dweller, finding out that they’ve just inherited a vineyard – that’s you. Even though you’ve been set up with the daunting task of running a vineyard with zero knowledge of how it works, you’re provided with a few experts who act as a very natural, conversational tutorial.
In fact, the story that comes as part of the tutorial, and bleeds through into the main game, is absolutely standout – so much so that once the main story resolved itself a handful of hours in, the absence was notable. However, even once it’s faded away the careful pace that it instils in you persists.
Winemaking sounds simple right?
You see, winemaking is a series of consecutive procedures each performed at exactly the right time, in sequence. Do you barrel age the wine once crushed, or do you just send it to be bottled? How hard do you crush the grapes? Do you use different yeasts or add sugar? Did you pick the right grapes for the right soil?
There’s a lot of choices, and sliders and tasks to be done, but there’s also a whole string of upgrades, new facilities, tools and techniques to unlock. Hundred Days’ greatest strength is how it introduces what could be an incredibly stressful process to you and then lets you define the pace you unlock more options.
Hundred Days gameplay
Take away all of those sliders and buttons that I mentioned before, and bring the game down to its simple form though, and it becomes a simple case of dropping shapes (which represent the tasks) into a 3×3 grid. Each task is a different size, and certain tasks take more than one turn to clear. As you add more fields, yields and processes to your set up then you’ll find yourself squeezed for space, but you can upgrade your workspace to include more room.
That certainly doesn’t sound interesting, but that’s because there’s a deeper level of play hidden between the buttons and sliders. Much like deeper strategy, or grand strategy games, there are more than a few ways to measure success. Hundred Days isn’t simply about making wine. You’re running the whole business. That means that most things cost money, and so you need to be making wine good enough to sell and get the money from it into the bank.
There’s more than enough ways to spend money in the game, in fact, it’s really easy to bankrupt yourself if you rush ahead, but ways to make money are decidedly more limited. You’ll want to make GOOD wine, and there are perfect elements to each of those wines. As you learn more ways to ferment or treat the wine you’ll learn how to manage things like Body and Sweetness, it’s only through mastering these that you can learn how to make the wine that sells for the most… because otherwise, you risk having your storage filled with wine that nobody wants to buy.
Striving to make the best wine is the real grip
It’s the drive to learn the best techniques for each type of grape that kept me playing Hundred Days, after a point, it didn’t even matter to me that it was a game about wine, I simply had to figure out how to tweak the final statistics to have my journal reveal the perfect wine. It was the year 2050, 2060, 2070, the setting no longer mattered, I simply had to keep refining the formula until I got it right.
There’s plenty to unlock, and considering the pace of play, for you to do it safely will probably take over a dozen hours. It’s perhaps a bit sad that a lot of the upgrades end up pushing you towards mass production and automation – two things the villains are depicted as doing – although I do have to admit that I forgot to sell wine on more than a few turns, and so things like the shop are welcome. There is, admittedly, almost no chance that anybody would be able to handle the whole nine tracts of land without workers, but I also don’t know if there’s much beyond the drive to perfect all six of the grape varieties that would keep me pushing through that much process.
Hundred Days is a fantastic example of how clever design and smart tutorials can make even the most obtuse-seeming subject into a fantastic game.